BOSTON -- A sore-kneed David Ortiz chugged around third base, with home plate and the end of a scoreless pitching duel in sight.
Third-base coach DeMarlo Hale energetically waved the 230-pound designated hitter on and Ortiz scored easily when Vernon Wells picked up and then dropped Kevin Youkilis' ninth-inning single to center field.
It was Halladay's fourth straight complete game. He's lost the last three.
"DeMarlo said in the sixth inning, 'it's going to come down to us sending somebody,' " Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I said, 'go ahead and send him.' The way Halladay was pitching, take your chance with one because that might be all we had."
Lester allowed just one hit in eight innings, a clean single on Lyle Overbay's liner in the fifth over second baseman Pedroia's head. But Pedroia kept the game scoreless in the ninth when he dove to his right and nabbed Wells' grounder after Scott Rolen had doubled off Jonathan Papelbon (1-0) with two outs.
Pedroia gloved the ball and threw out Wells.
"Anybody's diving for any balls in that situation," Pedroia said. "It definitely got the crowd involved. It's a little bit of momentum. They could have had a run and it gets taken away."
Wells wanted to hit the ball up the middle.
"'I saw it get by the mound," he said, "and I saw Superman at second base."
Lester struck out six and recorded 16 outs on grounders as he pounded the plate rather than try to nibble at the corners. He matched his career high of eight innings. He allowed just one hit in that game also, a 1-0 win over Kansas City on July 18, 2006.
"Any time you go up against a pitcher like Halladay, you know it's going to be a long night," he said. "It seems like the further I get into games the more comfortable I feel with my stuff and what we're trying to do."
For Halladay, it was another hard-luck loss. He allowed just three hits in the first eight innings before giving up two to the last two hitters. He also retired 16 batters on grounders.
It was Toronto's 10th loss in its last 13 games.
Halladay set down the first two batters in the ninth, then walked Ortiz, who had missed the previous two games with a bruised right knee. Big Papi moved to second when Manny Ramirez looped a single to center before Youkilis' winning hit.
"It's just a tough part of the lineup. Ortiz and Ramirez. They can beat you with one pitch. You want to be aggressive," Halladay said quietly. "It's a tough way to lose. You never get used to it."
The ball took a big hop on Wells that made it tough to catch.
"He didn't have a chance," Youkilis said. "Even though Papi is probably not running that well right now, he put it into second gear."
Boston's only fly ball in the first seven innings was Ramirez's long out to Wells in the fourth. Toronto waited much longer for its only fly to the outfield on Overbay's drive in the seventh.
The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes by rain but it lasted just two hours, 18 minutes, Boston's shortest game of the year.
"Great pitching on both sides is what it came down to," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
The Red Sox had two singles through six innings -- a grounder through the middle by Youkilis in the second and a dribbler to the left of the plate by Brandon Moss in the fifth. Moss entered the game in right field in the fourth after J.D. Drew suffered tightness in his left thigh running to first base.
Jason Varitek singled with two outs in the eighth.
Mike Lowell played his first game since spraining his left thumb on April 9. He got a big ovation before each at bat but went 0-for-3.
- Tuesday was the 22nd anniversary of the game in which Roger Clemens set the major league record with 20 strikeouts against Seattle. He did it again in 1996 at Detroit.
- Boston OF Jacoby Ellsbury missed the game with a sore groin.
- Armando Benitez plans to throw an extended spring training game Saturday in Dunedin, Fla. Benitez, with 289 saves in 18 seasons, signed a minor league contract with Toronto on March 11 and strained a leg muscle in a minor league game April 12.
- Boston designated for assignment RHP Bryan Corey to make room on the roster for Lowell.