Lester flirts with 2nd no-hitter, beats Indians
BOSTON (AP)—Jon Lester flirted with a no-hitter in his final tuneup before the playoffs, finishing with six innings of two-hit ball on Thursday night and leading the Boston Red Sox to a 6-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
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.
Lester, who did throw a no-hitter against Kansas City on May 19, missed the chance to become the fifth pitcher in history with two in a season when Josh Barfield lined a clean double into left field to lead off the sixth. Lester (16-6) also gave up Jamey Carroll’s RBI single before leaving the game to the cheers of the crowd and the handshakes of his teammates.
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 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 got Ben Francisco on a weak flyball to right and struck on Johnny Peralta to end his outing.
Youkilis homered in the seventh to make it 7-1. Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth in a non-save situation to get ready for the weekend series against the New York Yankees and then the playoffs, which begin next week.
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.