Lester looks to beat the Orioles for the fourth time in four tries this season and further strengthen Boston’s grip on the wild card Saturday night at Camden Yards.
With ace Josh Beckett(notes) winning once in his last seven starts, Lester (13-7, 3.29 ERA) has been Boston’s most consistent starter lately, and one of the majors’ best. The left-hander is 10-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 19 starts since May 31, and is unbeaten in his past 10 outings.
After struggling Sept. 11 in a game that was rained out in the first inning, Lester was back in form in a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay two days later, yielding two hits in eight innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.
“I was kind of surprised the way my body responded,” Lester said of starting twice in three days. “I figured I’d be a little more sore than I was.”
The Red Sox (87-59) are 10-1 against the Orioles in games started by Lester, who is 5-0 with a 2.21 ERA in those outings. The southpaw has been superb in winning all three starts this season against Baltimore, allowing two runs and 17 hits in 21 1-3 innings while walking four and striking out 26.
Boston rode a strong start from Clay Buchholz(notes) and Jason Bay’s(notes) team-high 34th homer to a 3-1 victory in Friday’s series opener. The Red Sox improved to 14-2 against the Orioles (60-87) in 2009 with their sixth straight defeat of Baltimore.
It was also Boston’s eighth win in nine games overall and extended its wild-card lead to seven games over fading Texas.
Buchholz continued an encouraging trend for the Red Sox, whose starters have allowed three runs or fewer in 11 consecutive games. Boston’s rotation is 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA over an eight-game stretch.
Bay left Friday’s game in the fifth with flu-like symptoms.
“I’ve had a very upset stomach all day,” Bay said. “I didn’t do anything - I laid on the trainer’s table until game time, then I got up and went out there. Running around didn’t exactly make me feel a whole lot better.”
Baltimore needs to win Saturday and Sunday to avoid dropping its 11th straight series to Boston.
“We certainly have a different lineup,” manager Dave Trembley said. “Our guys are battling their butts off and we’re trying to scratch. For us, we have to cash in on the few scoring opportunities that we do get because we know, for the most part, that we’re not going to get a lot of them.”
David Hernandez(notes) (4-8, 5.40) hopes to end a personal four-game losing streak for the Orioles. The rookie was hit hard again Monday in an 8-4 loss to the Rays, allowing five runs and nine hits in three innings.
Hernandez has failed to complete five innings in five of his last nine starts, going 1-6 with a 7.88 ERA.
The right-hander was very good in his first start against Boston - a 6-2 win at Fenway Park on July 26 - but is 0-2 with a 10.29 ERA in the past two matchups.
Pedroia is 3 for 8 with three homers against Hernandez.