Lester calls stellar outing 'confidence boost'

CLEVELAND -- Despite all his struggles this season, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester said his confidence has never wavered.

Lester struck out a season-high 12 batters on Sunday, as Boston ran roughshod over the Indians, 14-1, before 27,488 at Progressive Field to earn a split of the teams' four-game series.

“I was trying to get into a little bit of a rhythm and attack the zone,” Lester said. “Any time we score early, it takes the pressure off me to have to be perfect. I tried to get as many quick outs as I could.”

Lester (6-10, 5.20 ERA) allowed three hits, one earned run and two walks. He hadn’t won a game since June 27 against Toronto, taking five losses and two no-decisions in seven starts since then.

“It sounds bad, but there comes a time where you have to forget about your stats and try to keep us in the game as best as I can,” he said. “It’s easier said than done. You just can’t worry about it. You just have to go out and pitch.

“My confidence level never strayed. I know what kind of pitcher I am. My game plan was there. My thought process was there. I just have to execute.”

Lester fanned 10 batters in the first five innings. In one stretch, he struck out 10 of 14 batters he faced.

The Red Sox compiled 16 hits, including one home run and seven doubles. Left fielder Carl Crawford had three doubles in his first four at-bats before taking a breather. The Sox broke open the game with an eight-run fifth inning.

“(Lester) started throwing the curveball in the third inning and he thought it made all the difference in the world,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “He had a chance at the major-league strikeout record if I had left him in.

“He’s been pitching so well and not getting the wins. This is something that can get him on a roll.”

Lester is now eighth on the Red Sox’s all-time strikeout list with 1,023. He trails Bruce Hurst, who has the most strikeouts by a left-hander in Red Sox history, by 20.

He said his curveball was his out pitch on Sunday.

“I would have liked to have gone another inning or two instead of having 12 Ks,” he said. “It’s a confidence boost.”

Lester said holding the Indians to one run in the first inning was the most important part of the game.

“I limited the damage,” he said. “I minimized it to one run. That’s what I’ve been missing, maybe conceding one run or two. For the most part this year, it’s been three, four or five.”

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez belted a two-run homer in the first, his 13th homer on the season. The 352-foot clout came on a 0-2 pitch from losing pitcher Corey Kluber.

Gonzalez was 2-for-3 with a double, homer and four RBIs. He now has 35 RBIs since the All-Star break, second in the American League. He came into the game leading the majors with a .409 batting average with runners in scoring position.

“When things are clicking, you are making contact with the pitches you make contact with and you feel good about it,” Gonzalez said.

Even relief pitcher Clayton Mortensen batted in the ninth. Of course, he struck out. He also pitched a scoreless eighth inning.

“I told him that he lowered his ERA and had a chance to lower his batting average,” Valentine joked.