Lester is onboard; is Beckett?

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox starters Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard and Jon Lester have all done a solid job in each of their most recent outings, helping Boston to a four-game winning streak.

Lester was the latest winner when he worked a complete game en route to a 6-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night at Fenway Park.

Some believe that good pitching is contagious. The Red Sox will test that theory on Tuesday, when Josh Beckett takes the mound. Beckett has struggled this season and enters his seventh start of the year with a 2-4 record and 5.97 ERA.

After Lester held the Mariners to only one run on eight hits with six strikeouts and zero walks, he said he believes Beckett will build off his fellow starters' recent success.

"When you watch the other guys on your staff, and we're pretty prideful in what we try to do, and when you start seeing guys succeed, making pitches and getting out of jams, then the offense comes in and picks our guys up if we give up a run, everybody talks about confidence and feeling good and it keeps on building," Lester said. "You feel like if you buy into what we're doing and execute pitches, everything will take care of itself. That's been our mindset the last four nights."

If history is on Beckett's side, he should have a good outing. Overall, he's 6-2 with a 3.39 ERA in nine starts against Seattle in his career, and has struck out five or more batters in each of those nine starts. Since he's been with the Red Sox, Beckett is 6-1 in eight starts.

However, Beckett lasted only 2 1/3 innings his most recent start in Cleveland, on Thursday, after he allowed seven runs on seven hits with two walks against them.

But the starting rotation has been on a roll since then. On Monday, it was Lester's turn to keep the successful streak intact.

Lester said he wanted to attack the opposing hitters more and work both sides of the plate, which he was able to do Monday. The southpaw said he was able to find a rhythm and was feeling comfortable early and often with some quick outs.

"There's a lot to talk about," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "He went out and looked like he had a mission to accomplish and he accomplished it. He was throwing all of his pitches early in the game, throwing them all for strikes, had a very confident look about himself. And just for you younger reporters out there, that's called a complete game -- when a starter starts it and finishes it."

The complete game was the eighth of Lester's career and second this season after he worked an eight-inning complete game on April 11 against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was his first nine-inning complete game since June 27, 2010 at San Francisco, and the first time he did not allow a walk since Aug. 14, 2010 at Texas.

Lester retired the first 11 batters he faced, including three strikeouts, but with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki hit a hard grounder up the middle.

Lester got a glove on the come-backer but the ball trickled away and out of reach of both the pitcher and third baseman Will Middlebrooks before a play could be made.

The lost bid on a perfect game, or even a no-hitter, did not faze Lester.

"I think it's everybody's goal when they go out there to throw a no-hitter or a perfect game," Lester admitted. "I just ended up giving up a base hit a little later than normal. I was able to keep the ball down. It's obviously in the back of your mind, but I don't think it really becomes significant until the sixth or the seventh inning."

Boston's southpaw retired the next four Seattle batters before allowing a leadoff single to the Mariners' Michael Saunders in the top of the sixth. Lester allowed one other hit in that inning but was able to get out of it unscathed as Boston led 5-0.

Lester surrendered a total of three hits in the seventh, but a double play helped his case and he again finished with a zero on the board. He retired the side in order in the top of the eighth inning with his pitch count at 97.

At that point, there was no one warming in the Red Sox bullpen. And in Lester's mind, there was no way he was leaving the game.

"I wasn't coming out of that game unless we scored 10 runs," he said. "For me, that was my game and Bobby was going to have to fight me for the ball if he came down the end of the dugout."

Lester allowed a leadoff single to Suzuki in the top of the ninth inning before the Mariners' Jesus Montero struck out swinging. Seattle's Justin Smoak followed with a double to put a pair of runners in scoring position. Kyle Seager then grounded out to second as Suzuki scored the Mariners' lone run.

With two outs and Lester's pitch count increasing, Seattle's Alex Liddi stepped into the box. No matter the end result of that at-bat, Valentine had already decided that would be Lester's last batter of the night.

Fortunately, he was able to record the strikeout and end the game. Lester's complete game was complete and he pumped his fist to celebrate.

"A win's a win, regardless if you go five innings or you go nine," Lester said. "Obviously, you want to go nine every time you go out there. That's your goal."

A starting rotation consists of five pitchers. The last four for Boston have won. It'll be interesting to see what kind of start Beckett provides on Tuesday.

"We're building a foundation, a base of confidence in each other and confidence in the group," Valentine said.