The Red Sox had stumbled into second place, losers of six of their last seven games after a hot start to the season. But they had the right man on the mound Friday night.
Jon Lester came a pitch away from a perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays in a 5-0 victory for the Sox. His only blemish was a double by Maicer Izturis with two outs in the sixth inning.
The lefthander was masterful, striking out five without a walk and throwing 79 of his 118 pitches for strikes. It was the third shutout of his career, the first since July 3, 2008.
Lester no-hit the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park earlier that season and for a while on Friday, he appeared to be on his way to another historic night against a Blue Jays team that has played poorly all season.
Toronto grounded into 12 outs, their hitters failing to get good swings on Lester, who is 5-0 with a 2.73 earned run average.
Lester retired 10 in a row after giving up the double. Nothing was close to being a hit. The Blue Jays sent only 28 batters to the plate.
Lester struck out Adam Lind for the final out and got a huge cheer from the crowd of 33,606. It was the 10th career complete game for Lester.
It was the first one-hit shutout for the Red Sox since Josh Beckett did it June 15, 2011, against Tampa Bay.
The Sox are 5-2 against the Blue Jays this season, outscoring them, 44-40.
Lester was facing the Blue Jays for the third time this season. The familiarity worked in his favor on Friday.
Lester needed only 58 pitches to retire the first 15 batters in order. Eight came on ground balls as he kept his fastball down and induced contact early in counts.
Brett Lawrie led off the sixth inning with a line drive to center field that Jacoby Ellsbury sprinted in to catch. Colby Rasmus then flied to right field.
Izturis broke up the perfect game with a double down the line in left. He hit a changeup that was low but over the middle of the plate.
After getting applause from the crowd, Lester had to face a new hitter. With Rajai Davis unable to hit because of a strained oblique, Lind struck out to end the inning. That left him 3 of 28 against Lester with 11 strikeouts.
Lester was then perfect for the seventh and eighth innings.
Toronto unearthed Ramon Ortiz to make the start, his first in the majors since 2011. Ortiz, who turns 40 in two weeks, was remarkably good as he held the Red Sox to one run on four hits over five innings. He walked five and struck out one.
It was Ortiz’s first appearance against the Sox since Aug. 31, 2004, with the Angels.
Jon Lester nearly perfect in Red Sox’ 5-0 win over Blue Jays
Boston Globe | May 11