BALTIMORE -- Many at the game will remember the sight of both dugouts emptying, players charging in from the bullpen and a livid Daniel Cabrera being restrained by his teammates and umpires.
Lester allowed four hits in seven innings to win his third straight start, and the Red Sox handed Cabrera his 15th loss of the season, barely avoiding a brawl Friday night in a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Both teams converged around the mound and plate in the fourth inning after Cabrera threw a fastball behind the ear of Dustin Pedroia. The pitch came immediately after a balk produced a run to put the Red Sox up 3-0.
"The ball slipped out of my hand," Cabrera said.
As plate umpire Mike DiMuro issued a warning to both teams, the Red Sox collectively emerged from the dugout, led by Francona. After being restrained by his teammates, Cabrera waved his arms at the Red Sox, challenging them.
"They say bad (things). That's something I don't like," Cabrera said.
"I don't think we escalated anything. I don't know. I've got my hands full trying to de-escalate," Francona said. "We're in the middle of a pennant race here. We've got more important things to worry about. You can ask them. It wasn't the focal point of our night; the focal point was the win."
The Orioles haven't done much winning lately, so much of the postgame comments focused on the fracas.
"I think he lost his cool," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said of Cabrera. "I can tell you very honestly it's going to be addressed. I'm just glad Pedroia didn't get hurt. He didn't do anything."
Boston's Mike Lowell said: "Guys throw as hard as he does, you've got to be careful. If he hits (Pedroia) in the head, he could split him in two. It's not our fault he balked the run in."
Cabrera's uncontrolled rage caused tempers to escalate. The Orioles charged from their dugout while relievers from both teams ran in from the bullpen, at least two of them scaling the 7-foot wall. No punches were thrown, however, and Cabrera (9-15) and Boston's Kevin Cash -- who wasn't even in the game -- were ejected before order was finally restored.
Wally Bell, the crew chief, said, "The ejection occurred for what Cabrera did during the incident after the pitch."
Lester (4-0), meanwhile, was outstanding in his eighth start since returning to the majors following a bout with lymphoma. The left-hander struck out four, walked two and allowed only one runner past second base.
"As he gets removed from what he went through, and he's able to take the mound and take his five days, his stuff is coming back and his knowledge is getting better," Francona said. "That was good stuff tonight."
Lester said, "It ranks up there. It felt pretty good. Command-wise, it was a lot better this time. I just attacked hitters."
Not in the sense that Cabrera did, of course.
"What (Lester) did was exactly what he was supposed to do: pitch his rear end off and win a game," Francona said. "That's why we showed up."
Eight different players had one hit for the Red Sox, who have won six of seven to move 30 games over .500 (86-56) for the first time since 2004, the year they won the World Series.
Boston is 11-5 against Baltimore this season and 26-8 since the start of the 2006 season.
Cabrera's outburst reflected the frustration the Orioles have experienced over their toughest stretch of the season. Baltimore has lost 15 of 17, and its 11-game skid at home is the team's longest since coming from St. Louis before the 1954 season.
Baltimore had gone 133 games this season without being shut out before Boston did it twice in seven days, beginning with the no-hitter by Clay Buchholz on Saturday.
Cabrera allowed three runs, six hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings, his shortest start in 54 games since April 7, 2006. The right-hander's ejection was argued heatedly by Trembley, to no avail.
Crisp singled and worked his way to third with two outs in the fourth before Cabrera was called for a balk and threw his ill-fated pitch to Pedroia.
Youkilis hit an RBI single in the seventh.
- Youkilis set an AL record with his 179th consecutive errorless game at first base, breaking the mark held by Mike Hegan.
- The Orioles purchased the contract of RHP Victor Santos from Cincinnati. He is expected to join the team Saturday.
- Baltimore's Kevin Millar got four plate appearances to reach 475, triggering the vesting option in his contract that assures him a contract for 2008.