Gearing up for October, Jon Lester has proven nearly unbeatable down the stretch.
Looking to stay hot in his final start before the playoffs, Lester tries to help the visiting Boston Red Sox clinch the AL's best record Saturday night against Chris Davis and the Baltimore Orioles.
After posting a 4.58 ERA in the first half, Lester (15-8, 3.67 ERA) has gone 7-2 in 12 outings since the All-Star break while compiling a 2.29 ERA, the AL's third-lowest mark over that stretch. The left-hander has been even more dominant over the last five-plus weeks, going 5-1 with a 1.74 ERA.
"Just getting back to being me," he told MLB's official website.
Lester struck out eight over seven innings of one-run ball to help the Red Sox (97-63) clinch the East with a 6-3 win over Toronto last Friday.
"I wanted to finish the game, but obviously that didn't work out," he said after earning his 100th career victory. "I've never been able to be on the mound in a game like this. To be there in the end and have everybody dogpile you; I'm a little disappointed I only went seven."
While Lester went 14-0 with a 2.49 ERA in his first 20 starts versus Baltimore (83-77), he is 1-3 with a 4.32 ERA in his last four. Davis is 3 for 22 against Lester, and Brian Roberts is 9 for 43. Adam Jones is 15 for 50 but has struck out 20 times.
Boston has won three straight at Camden Yards after taking Friday's opener 12-3. David Ortiz and Daniel Nava hit three-run homers and Jonny Gomes also went deep as the Red Sox lowered their magic number to secure the AL's best record to one.
Dustin Pedroia went 3 for 4 with two runs and Stephen Drew drove in three.
The Orioles have hit .222 in dropping seven of nine.
"The bottom line is, we all, everybody in here, wanted to make the playoffs and we didn't do it," losing pitcher Scott Feldman said. "Hopefully next year we'll get in there."
Davis hit his major league-leading 53rd homer and Jones hit his 33rd to set a new career high. Davis' homer was his 28th at home, breaking Frank Robinson's franchise record set in 1966 at Memorial Stadium.
Davis has seven homers and 15 RBIs in 17 games in the series this year.
The Orioles now turn to Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 4.03), who has gone without a decision despite a 5.13 ERA in five starts this month. After surrendering three runs and a career-high 11 hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 5-3, 12-inning win at Boston on Sept. 18, Chen gave up two runs before exiting with one out in the fifth inning Monday in a 5-4 walkoff loss at Tampa Bay.
Chen, who is 4-2 with a 3.49 ERA at home, is 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts against the Red Sox this year. Each of those outings came in Boston.
Pedroia has hit Chen hard, going 9 for 16 with four doubles and a triple. Mike Napoli is 3 for 8 with two homers.
Ortiz, 2 for 4 with a homer off Chen this year, now has seven 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons, tying Ted Williams' team record.