|Boston (74-55) «||1||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||3||11||1|
|Tampa Bay (78-50)||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||0|
Lester allowed two hits over seven innings and Victor Martinez homered twice off All-Star David Price, pacing a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay that also enabled the Red Sox to nudge closer to the Rays and New York Yankees in the AL East standings.
|More on Red Sox at Rays|
"A big win for us. We just battled, and that's what we've been doing all season long," Lester said after Boston trimmed its deficit in the wild-card race -- as well as the division -- to 4½ games. "If we continue to do that, then that will put us in a good position, hopefully, at the end of the year."
With New York losing 9-4 to the Chicago White Sox, the Rays remained tied with the defending World Series champions for first place. This is as close as the Red Sox have been to the top since July 7, when they also trailed by 4½ games.
"We are the three teams that are fighting for first place and the wild card," Boston's David Ortiz said. "Every game is important from now on."
Lester (14-8) won for the third time in four starts. The All-Star left-hander walked five and uncorked three wild pitches, but also struck out 10 while limiting the Rays to two hits and an unearned run.
Martinez hit two-out solo homers off Price (15-6) in the first and seventh. Ortiz doubled and scored on Jed Lowrie's two-out single to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
"With Price, we'll take any runs we can get any time we can," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "He throws a lot of strikes, he's got velocity, he's got angle on his fastball. That's why he's one of the best in the game."
Lester allowed nine runs in two innings of a 16-2 loss to Toronto at Fenway Park last Friday. Despite the wildness that helped the Rays score their only run, he retained control of the game by holding the division co-leaders to singles by Carlos Pena in the fourth and Jason Bartlett in the sixth.
"Once they got baserunnners on, he made some unbelievable pitches," Francona said. "He got some double plays, he got some strikeouts."
Center fielder Darnell McDonald preserved a 2-1 lead, hustling in to field Bartlett's single and throwing out B.J. Upton, who was trying to score the tying run from second base. Bartlett also had Tampa Bay's third hit, a single off reliever Daniel Bard with two outs in the eighth.
Upton didn't get a good jump off second because Bartlett's hit was a line drive and the runner had to make sure it fell in. Nevertheless, he thought he had a good chance to score.
"It could have gone either way," Upton said. "It had to be a perfect throw."
The Rays got plenty of help to score their run, benefiting from an error and two wild pitches bunched around Pena's single.
Lester had thrown one wild pitch in 25 starts before unleashing them on consecutive pitches to allow Bartlett, who had reached on shortstop Marco Scutaro's throwing error, to cross the plate.
Price, who struck out eight and walked none, tied a career high by allowing 10 hits in seven innings. The switch-hitting Martinez has been tough on the young lefty, going 5 for 12 with three homers lifetime.
"He's a good hitter," Price said, shrugging his shoulders. "It's frustrating, but it's part of it. You move on."
|Victor Martinez shows some gratitude during his two-homer performance off David Price. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Boston Red Sox|
|Marco Scutaro, SS||5||0||1||0||0||1||0||.275|
|Darnell McDonald, CF-LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.273|
|Victor Martinez, C||4||2||3||2||0||0||1||.285|
|Adrian Beltre, 3B||4||0||1||0||0||0||3||.324|
|David Ortiz, DH||4||1||1||0||0||1||3||.262|
|Mike Lowell, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.233|
|J.D. Drew, RF||4||0||2||0||0||1||2||.261|
|Jed Lowrie, 2B||4||0||1||1||0||2||2||.280|
|Bill Hall, LF||3||0||0||0||0||3||3||.241|
|Ryan Kalish, CF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.230|
|2B - David Ortiz (28, Price)|
|3B - Darnell McDonald (3, Price)|
|HR - Victor Martinez 2 (12, Price, Price)|
|RBI - Victor Martinez 2 (53), Jed Lowrie (9)|
|2-OUT RBI - Victor Martinez 2 (14), Jed Lowrie (6)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|Outfield Assists - Darnell McDonald 1|
|DP - Scutaro-Lowrie-Lowell, Beltre-Lowrie-Lowell|
|E - Marco Scutaro (16, Throwing)|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Jon Lester (W,14-8)||7||2||1||0||5||10||0||3.12|
|Daniel Bard (H,29)||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||1.79|
|Jonathan Papelbon (S,33)||1||0||0||0||2||3||0||2.91|
|HBP - Pena (by Jon Lester)|
|WP - Jon Lester 3 (4)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jon Lester 106-58, Daniel Bard 15-8, Jonathan Papelbon 23-13|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jon Lester 5-3|
|Batters Faced - Jon Lester 26, Daniel Bard 4, Jonathan Papelbon 5|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|B.J. Upton, CF||3||0||0||0||1||1||1||.235|
|Jason Bartlett, SS||3||1||2||0||1||0||0||.253|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||2||0||1||0||1||0||1||.213|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||3||5||.291|
|Willy Aybar, DH||3||0||0||0||1||2||3||.235|
|Ben Zobrist, RF||4||0||0||0||0||3||2||.251|
|Sean Rodriguez, 2B||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||.261|
|a- Dan Johnson, PH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.140|
|Reid Brignac, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.256|
|Kelly Shoppach, C||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.193|
|b- John Jaso, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||2||.280|
|Matt Joyce, LF||2||0||0||0||1||1||1||.226|
|a-walked for S. Rodriguez in the 9th|
|b-struck out for Shoppach in the 9th|
|SB - B.J. Upton (37, 2nd base off Lester/Martinez), Sean Rodriguez (10, 2nd base off Lester/Martinez)|
|CS - Sean Rodriguez (3, 3rd base by Lester/Martinez)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|David Price (L,15-6)||7||10||3||3||0||8||2||3.01|
|Pitches-Strikes - David Price 106-75, Randy Choate 10-6, Dan Wheeler 14-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - David Price 4-9, Randy Choate 1-1|
|Batters Faced - David Price 31, Randy Choate 3, Dan Wheeler 3|
|Attendance - 29461|
|Game Time - 2:55|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Gary Darling, First Base - Bruce Dreckman, Second Base - Paul Emmel, Third Base - Bill Hohn|