Red Sox turn to Lester in pressure-filled finale with Orioles
A big reason the Boston Red Sox are in the position they hander can extend their season when they wrap up a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
The Red Sox kept pace with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, as Ryan Lavarnway hit his first two career home runs and totaled four RBI and Boston held on for an 8-7 win.
Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury each hit a two-run homer for the Red Sox, who finds themselves tied with Tampa Bay in the AL wild card standings with one game remaining. Boston, of course, held a nine-game edge on the Rays as late as September 2, but has gone 7-19 over the final month.
Should a one-game playoff be necessary it would be played Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
"I think it's really good for baseball, not so good for my stomach," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It's exciting. If you don't want to show up tomorrow and play, you've got no pulse. I can't remember being that nervous in a long time."
Alfredo Aceves (10-2) worked 3 2/3 relief innings, earning the win by scattering three hits and one run. He filled in admirably for starter Erik Bedard, who lasted only 3 1/3 frames and allowed three runs on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Jonathan Papelbon barely survived a first-and-third, one-out jam in the ninth, giving up a run on a Matt Wieters groundout before finally getting Adam Jones on a bouncer to third in a protracted last at-bat with the tying run at second base.
"They needed to win this more than we did," Jones said. "All the pressure is on them."
Wieters connected for a two-run blast and scored twice, while Jones also homered for the Orioles, who took Monday's opener and has won 10 of their last 15 games.
Zach Britton (11-11) served up seven hits and five runs over 4 1/3 innings to take the loss.
Tonight it will be Lester, who has lost his last three starts and was tattooed for eight runs in just 2 2/3 innings by the New York Yankees on Saturday. However, he is an amazing 14-0 lifetime versus the Baltimore Orioles with a 2.33 ERA in 17 starts.
"He's been doing a lot of flat ground, and he's playing catch," Francona said Tuesday. "But at this point in the season, there's not a ton of bullpen sessions, besides a touch and feel, anyway. He's just got to get back to, when he gets behind in the count, having that conviction in his pitches. He's awesome at that."
Lester's also pitched to a 2.47 ERA in nine starts at Camden Yards.
Baltimore, meanwhile, will counter with righty Alfredo Simon, who is 4-9 with a 4.85 ERA. Simon did not get a decision on Friday in Detroit, but pitched well, allowing three runs and six hits in eight innings.
Simon lost to the Red Sox the last time he faced them.
Boston is 10-7 against the Orioles this season.