Not only are the Baltimore Orioles closing in on their first postseason appearance since 1997, they also finally figured out how to beat Jon Lester.
The lefthander took his first career loss against Baltimore Friday night as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 4-2, before an announced crowd of 37,731 at Fenway Park.
Lester was 14-0 with a 2.49 earned run average in 20 previous starts against the Orioles. It was the longest active streak by a pitcher against one team.
“It was bound to happen sometime. They’re playing good this year,” Lester said. “They’ve always had a good offense. They’re just putting everything else together. It was bound to happen.”
Lester (9-13) did not pitch poorly, giving up four runs on eight hits over seven innings. But the Red Sox provided him little support.
Baltimore has won five straight and eight of 10. The Orioles remain a game behind the Yankees in the American League East, but have a commanding lead in the wild-card race.
Matt Wieters had a two-run single for the Orioles in the fourth inning and an RBI double in the sixth. He then advanced on wild pitch and scored on a single by Mark Reynolds.
“John was good, actually, tonight,” Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “Wieters hit a couple of balls, one down the right-field line, one down the left-field line, that barely stayed fair . . . His pitches were crisp. He battled the whole way.”
Former Red Sox minor leaguer Miguel Gonzalez, a 28-year-old rookie, allowed two runs on seven hits over 6⅓ innings. He improved to 7-4.
Daniel Nava doubled and scored on a double by Pedro Ciriaco in the third inning. Singles by Ciriaco, Scott Podsednik, and Dustin Pedroia produced another run in the fifth inning.
The Sox otherwise did not threaten against Gonzalez and two relievers. Jim Johnson got the final three outs for his 46th save, a team record.
The Orioles are 9-4 against the Sox this season and 17-14 the last two seasons under Buck Showalter.
“I think Buck’s done a good job over there as far as trying to change the mentality of the players,” Lester said. “They lacked a little pitching, whether it was the starting or the back end of the bullpen. They’ve done a good job of filling those pieces and it’s finally coming together for them.”
The Sox fell to 33-44 at Fenway Park, their most losses at home since going 36-45 in 1980. The Sox have four more games at Fenway.
Jacoby Ellsbury missed the game with an injury that Valentine did not disclose.
“He has a little situation that we’re making sure it’s nothing more than a little situation,” Valentine said. “He really shouldn’t have played [on Thursday].”
Ellsbury was not in the lineup Thursday but came into the game in the fourth inning after Ciriaco missed two balls he should have caught in center field.
Indications are that Ellsbury has a sore lat muscle.
Lin not added
The Sox called up righthanders Zach Stewart and Pedro Beato and infielder Danny Valencia from Triple A Pawtucket.
Stewart is being lined up to start against the Orioles on Sept. 30. He faced the Angels Aug. 29 and allowed nine runs on 10 hits over three innings.
Stewart, 25, was obtained from the White Sox when Kevin Youkilis was traded in June.
The Red Sox did not call up Pawtucket outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, who is on the 40-man roster. Given the team’s lack of depth in the outfield, that seemed unusual.
General manager Ben Cherington said the feeling was that Lin would not get much playing time. He was sent to the team facility in Fort Myers, Fla., to continue working out in case a need arises.
One more time
Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68 ERA) will be skipped in the next turn through the rotation. But Valentine said the righthander, a pending free agent, would get one more start before the season ends . . . Former Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson, who was fired after last season, is with the Orioles coaching staff. He was their Triple A manager this season . . . The Sox added Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler and pitching coach Rich Sauveur to the coaching staff. “It gets a little crowded in that coaches’ room,” Valentine said. “I even offered my office if anybody wanted to dress there. But you know what the coaches think of me.” . . . The Red Sox recognized Fenway Park’s past by having professional wrestling legend George “The Animal” Steele throw out a first pitch. Steele, now 75, wrestled at Fenway in 1969. James Roosevelt Jr. also threw out a first pitch. His grandfather, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, gave his final campaign speech at Fenway on Nov. 4, 1944. James Roosevelt is the president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan . . . Fans attending Saturday’s game can line up on the warning track from 11:20 a.m. to noon to get photos with the players.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.