Left-hander Jon Lester picked up right where he left off before the All-Star break with a sterling effort against the Royals at Fenway Park Sunday afternoon as the Red Sox completed a three-game sweep with a 6-0 win.
Lester went eight innings, giving up four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts, improving to 10-7, while his ERA went from 2.65 to 2.50.
Meanwhile, Red Sox batters battered Royals starter Yordano Ventura, who gave up a career-high six runs and nine hits over 4 1/3 innings, with four walks, a home run and a wild pitch. It was the only start of his career in which he has not recorded a strikeout. He took the loss, falling to 7-8.
Brock Holt opened the game with a single off a 100-mph offering from Ventura, taking third on Daniel Nava’s single and scored on a fielder’s choice by Dustin Pedroia.
That would be all the runs the Sox would need, as Lester stymied the Royals. But, the Sox continued to pad their lead. In the third Nava’s ground-rule double scored David Ross, who opened the inning with a walk, and Jackie Bradley, who followed with a single.
The Sox added three in fourth on Ross’ sixth home run of the season, scoring Shane Victorino, who led off with a double. After consecutive singles by Bradley and Holt put runners on the corners, Nava’s sacrifice fly gave the Red Sox a six-run lead.
The Sox loaded the bases against Ventura with no outs in the fifth, but couldn’t score. Mike Carp opened the inning with a walk, followed by a Victorino single and a walk to Stephen Drew. After Ross was out on foul pop, Ventura’s day was done with left-hander Francisley Bueno entering. He got Bradley to strike out on three pitches before Holt flied out to end the inning.
At that point, though, it didn’t matter, as the Sox were on their way to a sweep.
Junichi Tazawa and Edward Mujica combined for a scoreless ninth. Manager John Farrell said he would have had Mujica begin the inning, but the right-hander could not get loose in time. He wanted to get Mujica, who had not pitched since July 11, into the game. So, rather than have Tazawa finish the game, the pair split the ninth.
MVP: Jon Lester
Lester went eight innings, giving up four hits and two walk with eight strikeouts, improving to 10-7, while his ERA went from 2.65 to 2.50. He has allowed just one earned run over his last 31 innings for a 0.29 ERA in that span, and has held opponents to two or fewer earned runs in each of his last seven starts, matching a career-long streak for the second time, along with June 16-July 18, 2006. He is 4-0 with a0.85 ERA in that stretch.
Earning his 10th win of the season, his sixth such season, Lester is now tied with Bruce Hurst and Mel Parnell for the most double-digit win seasons by a left-hander in Sox history.
GOAT: Yordano Ventura
Ventura gave up a his career-high six runs and nine hits over 4 1/3 innings, with four walks, a home run and a wild pitch. It was the only start of his career in which he has not recorded a strikeout.
Shortstop Stephen Drew started a nifty double play in the eighth, robbing Omar Infante of a basehit. Diving to his left, Drew snagged the ball that as almost behind him, flipping to Dustin Pedroia to start the double play.
QUOTE/TWEET OF THE GAME:
“There’s a lot of confidence going on right now.” – Manager John Farrell
NUMBERS TO KNOW:
The home runs was Ross’ sixth of the season, and fourth in his last 10 games, after hitting just two in his first 26 games this season. Of his 20 hits this season, 11 have been for extra bases…Nava went 2-for-3 with a double and a season-high three RBI. He has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games with an at-bat. In that stretch he is hitting .382, going 13-for-34. Since being called up on June 2, he has hit .337, going 33-for-98, with a .421 OBP…Holt went 2-for-5, extending his hit streak to six games in which his is batting .500, going 14-for-28, with multiple hits in four of those games. He now has a team-high four hit streaks of six or more games this season…Jackie Bradley has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games, batting .372, going 16-for-43, and has scored 10 runs in that time…Shane Victorino went 2-for-4 with a double, his first multi-hit game since May 13 at Minnesota. His last double came in the second game of the May 1 doubleheader against the Rays…Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz combined to go a combined 0-for-9 with one walk and one RBI. In the three games against the Royals they were a combined 2-for-25.
WHAT IT MEANS:
The sweep was the sixth of the season for the Sox, giving them a four-game win streak, and wins in seven of their last eight. They are hitting .291, going 78-for-268 in that stretch, with pitchers posting a 2.25 ERA, allowing 18 earned runs in 72 innings.
Now, they start a stretch of 13 games against division opponents, with the next seven at Toronto (four) and Tampa Bay (three). The next two weeks could determine the rest of their season.
The Red Sox open a four-game series at Toronto on Monday. Right-hander John Lackey (10-6, 3.79) is scheduled to start, opposed by right-hander Drew Hutchison (6-8, 4.16)
This will be Lackey’s 20th start of the season, his first against the Blue Jays. In his last five starts, he is 2-2, with a 5.59 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs over 29 innings. It will be his first outing against the Blue Jays. In his last outing at Rogers Centre, on April 6, 2013, he went 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts.
Hutchison took the loss in his last outing, allowing six runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Rays. He left the game with the bases loaded, with all the runners eventually scoring.