Being a left-handed pitcher at Fenway Park is one of the toughest jobs in baseball. Jon Lester doesn’t appear to have a problem, though.
Lester looks to win his fourth straight start at Fenway and help the Red Sox improve the best home record in baseball on Thursday night when they conclude a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles.
After struggling in his first three home starts this season, Lester (4-3, 3.50 ERA) is 3-0 with a sparkling 0.61 ERA in his last four outings there.
That outstanding run began with eight scoreless innings against Toronto on April 29, and continued five days later when he limited Tampa Bay to one run and four hits over six innings in a 7-3 victory.
Lester’s next appearance at Fenway was the best of his career, as he tossed a no-hitter in a 7-0 win over Kansas City on May 19. He walked two and struck out nine in becoming the first Red Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter since Mel Parnell on July 14, 1956.
Lester was sharp again in his most recent outing last Thursday, lasting 6 1-3 innings while allowing one run and eight hits in a 7-1 victory over the Rays. His performance, however, was overshadowed by a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in suspensions for eight players, but not Lester.
In two starts this season against the Orioles - both on the road - Lester is 0-0 with a 4.09 ERA. He is 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA in five career starts against Baltimore.
Coming off a 10-6 loss in Tuesday’s series opener, the Red Sox (41-27) scored five runs in the first inning Wednesday - capped by Jason Varitek’s three-run homer - and rebounded with a 6-3 victory.
Varitek hadn’t been feeling well and was replaced in the ninth by Kevin Cash.
“I wasn’t feeling real good all game,” Varitek said. “I’m pretty achy and (manager Terry Francona) with the five-run lead, decided to make the switch. … (I’ll) get a good night’s sleep and we’ll see.”
Mike Lowell also homered for Boston, which is 6-2 on a nine-game homestand and 27-7 at Fenway.
“If you put four or five on the board, I think it takes away the hit and run. It takes away the stolen base,” Lowell said. “They kind of feel like they have to slug and I think we match up well when any team has to do that.”
Manny Ramirez singled in the third inning, extending his hitting streak to 15 games. He is batting .386 (22-for-57) with seven homers and 20 RBIs during that run.
Baltimore’s offense was cooled off after scoring 29 runs in its previous four games. The Orioles (32-32) are 5-3 on a nine-game road trip.
Although it’s not reflected in his won-loss record, Jeremy Guthrie (3-6, 3.40) has been Baltimore’s best starter this season. The right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts while pitching at least six innings 11 times in 14 appearances.
Guthrie finally received some support Saturday in a 9-5 win at Toronto. He gave up one run and six hits while walking none and striking out six in his first victory since May 13.
Guthrie pitched 6 1-3 strong innings against the Red Sox on June 2, but left without a decision in Baltimore’s 6-3 win. He is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in five career starts versus Boston.