Red Sox starter Jon Lester rebounded from a career-worst performance in his last outing to completely dominate the Rays en route to a 3-1 victory. The southpaw worked seven innings and allowed one unearned run on two hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts. He also tossed three wild pitches and hit a batter, and finished with 106 pitches (58 strikes).
“This was a big one for us and we needed it,” said Lester. “We had some good at-bats and we battled. That’s what we’ve been doing all season long, and if we continue to do that, it’ll put us in a good position hopefully at the end of the year.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: The Red Sox held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Lester allowed a leadoff walk to the Rays’ B.J. Upton. Tampa’s speedster notched his 37th stolen base of the season when he swiped second. Teammate Jason Bartlett then lined a shot to center field and it appeared the Rays would tie the game.
Upton actually eased up around third a bit as Red Sox center fielder Darnell McDonald made a perfect one-hop throw home to Martinez, who blocked the plate and applied the tag for the out. Martinez whipped off his mask and pumped his fist.
“That was a great throw,” Lester said. “It changed the momentum of that inning. These guys play off momentum and I think that helped get it back on our side.”
GOING YARD: Martinez had been held to only one home run since he was activated from the disabled list (fractured left thumb) on July 26. He produced a pair of solo homers Friday night off Rays’ starter David Price. It was Martinez’s fifth career multi-homer game and his second this season.
He gave Boston a spark in the top of the first inning Friday when he took Price deep to left field for a solo shot. The homer was Martinez’s 11th of the season and only his second since Aug. 7 at New York. V-Mart crushed his second of the night in the top of the seventh with two outs and deposited it into the left-field seats to give Boston a 3-1 lead.
“I got two good pitches to hit,” Martinez said. “Obviously, David Price has some great stuff and I have a lot of respect for him. Whenever he gives you a pitch to hit, you’ve got to make sure you don’t miss it because you don’t know if you’re going to get another one.”
SAVED: Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 33rd save of the season.
BILLIONS SERVED: The last time the Red Sox visited Tropicana Field in early July, McDonald had been designated for assignment and didn’t know what his future held. He was quickly reinstated before the official paperwork was sent to the league. D-Mac has been a major contributor this season. He posted his third triple of the season Friday night. Then, of course, he assisted on the play of the game when he threw out Upton.
STRIKES: Lester got himself in a little bit of a jam in the bottom of the fourth when the Rays’ Jason Bartlett and Carlos Pena reached base to lead off the inning by way of an error and a base hit, respectively. Even though Lester tossed a pair of wild pitches, allowing Tampa to score its first run of the game, the southpaw posted two big strikeouts, getting Evan Longoria and Willy Aybar to end the threat.
Lester accomplished the feat again the sixth inning when he struck out Longoria and got Aybar to ground out, stranding two runners.
Lester finished the game with 10 strikeouts.
“He was able to use his off-speed pitches when he was behind in the count and he was able to keep them off-balance,” Martinez said of Lester. “He did a great job tonight."
NOW THAT’S HUSTLE: With the Red Sox clinging onto a 2-1 lead to begin the fifth inning, Boston leadoff man Marco Scutaro hit a chopper up the middle that was snared by Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who quickly made the accurate throw to first. Scutaro, however, never let up out of the box and slid head first to beat the throw. Unfortunately, he was left stranded.
SHIFTED: If it weren’t for the dreaded, yet successful, infield shift on David Ortiz, the Sox’s slugger would finish each season with many more hits. He’s been able to go to the opposite field more this season, but Friday was the perfect example how the shift can be successful.
With Boston leading 2-1 with two on and two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Ortiz lined a shot to shallow right field -- and if it had fallen, the Sox would have pushed across another run. However, due to the shift, Rays’ second baseman Sean Rodriguez was positioned perfectly and made the easy catch. Ortiz was disgusted.
PICKED: Lester has one of the best pickoff moves in the AL and he showcased it again Friday night. With two outs and the potential tying run on second base, the Rays’ Sean Rodriguez attempted to swipe third, but Lester stepped off the rubber and picked the runner off to end the threat and the inning. It was Lester’s sixth pickoff of the season.