"He was coming out," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I told him that was the first time I've ever rooted against him. The only way you're going to see something like that, it would've had to have been a group effort."
Lester held Cleveland hitless through five before finishing with six innings of two-hit ball on Thursday night, leading Boston to a 6-1 victory. Making his final tuneup start before the playoffs, Lester was working on a pitch limit of about 85 pitches; he lasted 86 before leaving to the cheers of the crowd and the handshakes of his teammates.
"If it happens, it's nice. But we've got to get ready for the playoffs," said Lester, who no-hit Kansas City on May 19 for the first complete game of his career. "If it ended up working out where I could have done it with not a lot of pitches, then great. If not, then no big deal."
Kevin Youkilis was 2-for-3 with his 28th homer for the Red Sox, who retained a mathematical chance of winning the AL East -- if they win their last three games of the season and Tampa Bay loses its last three. The Rays lost to the Detroit Tigers 7-5 on Thursday and hold a two-game lead and the tiebreaker in the division.
To Boston, that was more important than whether Lester (16-6) became the fifth pitcher in history with two no-hitters in a season. Francona was spared an uncomfortable situation when Josh Barfield lined a clean double into left field to lead off the sixth; Lester also gave up Jamey Carroll's RBI single before leaving with a 5-1 lead.
Lester said he wasn't worrying about where he fit into the playoff rotation. Instead, he's just happy to know he has a spot after going into last year's postseason as a mopup man before eventually getting the start in Game 4 of the World Series when Boston clinched its second title in four years.
"I'm not worried about Game 1, 2, 4, 8," he said. "Whatever it is, give me the ball and I'll go pitch."
Three Red Sox relievers threw a perfect inning apiece to finish off the two-hitter, with Jonathan Papelbon pitching the ninth in a non-save situation to get ready for next week's playoffs. First comes a weekend series against the rival New York Yankees that is uncharacteristically meaningless.
"That's OK," Francona said. "It's fine with us."
Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie, the top two hitters in the Boston order, hit back-to-back singles in the first and back-to-back doubles in the second as the Red Sox opened a 5-0 lead after two against Jeremy Sowers (4-9).
Lester allowed just one baserunner in the first five innings, hitting Grady Sizemore with a pitch in the third. The Indians didn't get a hit off the 24-year-old lefty until Barfield, the No. 9 hitter who entered the game batting .160, led off the sixth.
Barfield took third on a balk and scored when Carroll singled under second baseman Dustin Pedroia's glove. But Lester retired Ben Francisco on a weak flyball to right and struck on Johnny Peralta to end his outing.
"He was as good a left-hander as we've seen all season," said Indians manager Eric Wedge, who said he wasn't thinking about being no-hit -- yet. "He has to get a little deeper than that. But he had that kind of stuff."
Youkilis homered in the seventh to make it 6-1.
After spending the last five days at or above .500, Cleveland dropped to 79-80.
The Indians, who were eliminated from the playoffs by Boston last year after taking a 3-1 lead in the AL Championship Series, will finish the season with another chance to play spoiler. Cleveland has three games against the White Sox, who are fighting with the Minnesota Twins for the last playoff spot in the AL.
- Sizemore was the 101st Indians hit batsman this season, breaking the major league record set by the Houston Astros in 1997.
- Boston purchased the contract of INF Gil Velazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket and moved RHP Bartolo Colon from the suspended to the restricted list. Velazquez made his major league debut as a pinch runner after Alex Cora was hit by a pitch in the sixth. Cora had a right hip bruise.
- Indians RHP Fausto Carmona (five games) and C Victor Martinez (two) began serving suspensions for a bench-clearing brawl against the Tigers after reaching an agreement with Major League Baseball that reduced their penalties by one game apiece.
- Nolan Ryan (1973) was the last pitcher to throw two no-hitters in a season. Johnny Vander Meer pitched back-to-back no-hitters in 1938; Virgil Trucks (1952) and Allie Reynolds (1951) also pitched a pair of no-nos in the same year.