The Boston Red Sox would have to feel pretty good about themselves if they can claim a series victory over the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night.
More important, it would assure the Red Sox keep at least a share of first place in the AL East.
Boston dropped into a tie for the top spot with the Tampa Bay Rays after losing Friday's opener 2-0, but both clubs picked up wins Saturday to keep their virtual deadlock in place. The Red Sox did their part by jumping on Dodgers' starter Hyun-Jin Ryu early for a 4-2 victory.
After getting shut out in the opener, Boston plated all four of its runs in the opening frame. Mike Napoli hit an RBI single and Jonny Gomes followed with a three-run homer.
Jon Lester held the early lead, pitching seven scoreless innings before getting charged with one run in the eighth. He recorded one out in the frame before exiting and yielded three hits and four walks while striking out six in total.
"I commanded the ball pretty well. I moved my fastball around and got more consistent with my cutter," Lester said. "Any time you get such an early lead, you just try to attack the zone."
Craig Breslow gave up Los Angeles' only run-scoring hit, a two-out double by former Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez with two outs in the eighth. He then walked Hanley Ramirez, leading to Boston manager John Farrell bringing in closer Koji Uehara to record the final out of the frame, which he got by striking out A.J. Ellis.
Uehara then retired the Dodgers in order in the ninth to record his 13th save and put the Red Sox in position to win two straight for the first time since Aug. 6-7. Boston has alternated wins and losses over its last eight games.
Ryu was pulled after five innings by manager Don Mattingly, having surrendered five hits and the four runs with seven strikeouts.
"We were in it at the end but we just couldn't find a way to break through," said Mattingly. "But our bullpen was tremendous. They kept us in the game and gave us a chance to come back."
The Dodgers had a four-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the sixth time in 35 games since the All-Star break.
Los Angeles also lost at Dodger Stadium for the first time versus Boston, which was swept in a three-game set there from June 21-23, 2002.
Still owners of a 9 1/2-game lead over Arizona for first place in the NL West, the Dodgers turn to fifth starter Chris Capuano tonight.
Capuano, a native of Massachusetts, will face the Red Sox for the first time in his career.
The 35-year-old lefty has not lost since July 4, going 4-6 with a 4.70 earned run average in 19 games this season with 17 starts. However, he does have a 6.23 ERA in nine starts at home.
Capuano logged his third straight no-decision on Tuesday. He gave up three runs on six hits and a walk over five innings at the Miami Marlins, a game the Dodgers won 6-4.
L.A. has won each of Capuano's last seven outings.
Getting the call for the Red Sox will be Jake Peavy, who has not won since his Boston debut on Aug. 3 after getting dealt by the Chicago White Sox.
In three starts since his win, Peavy is 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA, but has allowed only three runs and 10 hits over his last two starts. He did not factor into a 3-2 loss on Tuesday at the San Francisco Giants, giving up a run over 5 2/3 innings.
The 32-year-old righty is 9-5 with a 4.25 ERA in 17 total starts this year and has plenty of experience versus the Dodgers given his tenure with the San Diego Padres. In 24 previous meetings, Peavy is 13-2 with a 2.27 ERA.