Mariners-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

When the Boston Red Sox have turned to their ace in recent times of turmoil, Jon Lester has rarely delivered a victory.

Perhaps he'll be better with the team riding a winning streak.

The struggling left-hander looks to bring Boston a fourth consecutive win Monday night when the Seattle Mariners begin a brief stop at Fenway Park.

In between Lester's 2007 return from cancer treatments and early September last season, the Red Sox went 89-46 with the Seattle-area native starting.

But he went 0-3 with an 8.24 ERA in his final four starts last year - all losses during Boston's epic September collapse - and Lester (1-3, 4.29 ERA) has watched the inconsistent Red Sox lose after five of his seven outings in 2012.

He's 1-6 with a 5.55 ERA in his last 11 starts, with his lone win in that stretch capping Boston's six-game win streak last month.

Three of the four runs he allowed Wednesday at Kansas City were unearned after an error by Marlon Byrd, but he needed 108 pitches to get through five innings in a 4-3 defeat.

"I want to win as much as anybody," Lester said. "I know it's hard to say and it's hard to hear, but we've got to keep showing up."

His teammates have been doing more than that since his last appearance. The Red Sox (15-19) dropped the opener of a four-game set against visiting Cleveland but won the next three, including Sunday's 12-1 rout.

Daniel Nava went 2 for 2 with three RBIs and was hit by two pitches, improving to 6 for 10 with four doubles and four walks since being called up last week. Will Middlebrooks has also arrived from the minors recently to give Boston a huge boost, hitting his fourth homer in 10 big league games Sunday.

"When you have a good team like we have a good team, things are going to get going eventually," Nava said. "And hopefully this is the start of something good."

After a 1-11 stretch at home, the Red Sox are trying to win four in a row at Fenway for the first time since last July, when they swept a three-game set against the Mariners to cap a nine-game home win streak.

Seattle (16-20) avoided a sweep Sunday and spoiled Andy Pettitte's return to the majors with a 6-2 win over the New York Yankees. The Mariners, in the midst of a 10-game trip, snapped an eight-game road skid.

"We just have to stick with these guys and help them grind through it and get to where they're consistent both home and away," manager Eric Wedge told the team's official website. "This is a tough road trip for us, a lot of travel, some good clubs that we're playing, some veteran baseball clubs. So it's a good test for us. A good education."

Jason Vargas (4-2, 2.79) should have a good chance to end the club's four-game slide in Boston if his recent form holds. He yielded five hits and no walks in eight innings of a 2-1 win over Detroit on Wednesday, getting lifted for closer Brandon League despite having thrown just 90 pitches.

The left-hander won his lone previous outing at Fenway on April 29, 2011, yielding four runs in seven innings of a 5-4 win.

Dustin Pedroia will try to extend his hit streak - the longest active run in the majors - to 15, while second base counterpart Dustin Ackley will be looking to stretch his to 10.

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