Rays shell Lester, 7-4

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Rays shell Lester, 7-4

BOSTON With three home runs including a Matt Joyce third-inning grand slam the Rays knocked Jon Lester from the game after just four innings.

The Rays took the first game in the three-game series, 7-4.

In his previous nine starts, he had given up just four home runs total. The three homers tied a career high, for the third time (along with April 1, 2011 at Texas and June 18, 2011, against Milwaukee) for the most home runs Lester has given up in a game.

Lester had a crisp 1-2-3 first inning to start the game, and Kevin Youkilis RBI single in the bottom of the frame gave him a brief lead. But, he gave up three walks one more than his past three starts, spanning 20 innings, combined. His ERA climbed from 3.95 to 4.72.

Lester has had just one shorter outing this season, April 17 against the Rangers in his third start of the year when he lasted just two innings. Other than that outing and Fridays, he had averaged just over 6 23 innings per start.

The Rays added back-to-back home runs in the fourth a two-run shot by No. 9 hitter Elliot Johnson and a solo shot by Carlos Pena, who leads all batters with six home runs off Lester.

The grand slam was the second Lester has allowed in his career, along with one by Paul Konerko in the fourth inning on Sept. 30, 2010, in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Rays right-hander Alex Cobb, making just his 11th big league start, held the Sox to two runs on three hits over the first five innings.

The Sox added a run in the fifth when Scott Podsednik singled, stole second, and scored on Adrian Gonzalez's double off the wall in left field.

They got two more in the sixth when the Rays sent three relievers to the mound. J.P Howell walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Daniel Nava, the only two batters he faced, to lead off the inning. Saltalamacchia scored on Marlon Byrds single to center off Burke Badenhop and Nava scored on Mike Aviles sacrifice fly. Badenhop was done after he hit Dustin Pedroia with a pitch. Left-hander Jake McGee ended the Sox threat by retiring David Ortiz on a flyout to right.

But, that was all the damage the Sox could do.

The benches emptied when Sox lefty Franklin Morales hit Luke Scott with a pitch with two on and no outs in the ninth. Morales also hit Will Rhymes with a pitch last week in Tampa Bay. Rays lefty Matt Moore hit Adrian Gonzalez last week in the first game of the two-game series. It was a day after Gonzalez had said he would hit a home run in the game. Moore hit Gonzalez with the first pitch of his first at-bat. Dustin Pedroia was also hit Friday night, in the sixth inning by Burke Badenhop.

First impressions: Red Sox lose to Yankees, still clinch AL East

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First impressions: Red Sox lose to Yankees, still clinch AL East

NEW YORK -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 loss to the Yankees:

 

* The Red Sox couldn't have asked any more from Clay Buchholz.

Buchholz turned in what was likely his best start of the season, tossing six shutout innings while yielding just one hit -- an infield hit at that.

Brett Gardner was the only New York hitter to solve him. The leadoff hitter walked twice and reached on a slow roller to third, the only hit Buchholz allowed.

Twice, Buchholz retired eight Yankees in a row. He consistently pitched ahead in the count and showed a good rhythm on the mound.

Only a few months ago, the notion of Buchholz being part of the Red Sox' postseason rotation was laughable. Now, the Red Sox view him as a dependable, consistent starter.

And why not? Over his last seven starts, Buchholz is 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA.

Funny how quickly things can change in baseball.

 

* Don't invite Craig Kimbrel to your celebration.

Kimbrel came on for the bottom of the ninth, with a 3-0 lead and needing just three outs.

He barely threw a strike, allowing a leadoff single and three straight walks, the latter of which forced in a run.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Toronto had already lost, clinching the division title for the Sox before the bottom half of the inning began.

Still, it was troubling to watch Kimbrel. This was, after all, a save situation, even if some of the adrenaline was taken away by the Blue Jays' loss.

Kimbrel seemed completely incapable of throwing a strike. At all.

Hardly the way you want your closer to be a week before your first post-season game.

 

* The Red Sox lineup poses all sorts of problems for opposing managers.

In the eighth, Joe Girardi had a choice to make -- pitch to David Ortiz with two on and first base open. Or walk Ortiz and pitch to Mookie Betts, with Hanley Ramirez waiting on deck.

Pick your poison.

Girardi picked incorrectly, though there might not have been a correct one.

That's what happens when you face three hitters in a row with 110 RBI or more.

 

Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays

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Red Sox clinch AL East with Orioles victory over Blue Jays

NEW YORK -- The Boston Red Sox have won the AL East, clinching the division championship when the Toronto Blue Jays lost to Baltimore.

David Ortiz and the Red Sox, who had already secured at least a wild-card spot in the playoffs, will open their postseason schedule Oct. 6 seeking a second World Series crown in four years. The team's first opponent has not been determined yet.

Boston's game against the New York Yankees in the middle of the ninth inning Wednesday night when the Orioles finished off their 3-2 victory at second-place Toronto. The Red Sox began the night needing a win or a Toronto loss to wrap up their eighth AL East title.