Valentine: Lester had 'best stuff of the year'

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Valentine: Lester had 'best stuff of the year'

BOSTON It appeared Jon Lester would be in for a rough outing. He needed 27 pitches (17 strikes) facing six batters in the first inning.But, although the Tigers got three hits, they got just one run off the Red Sox left-hander in the inning, leaving two runners on base.Detroit added two more in the third when Quentin Berry led off with a triple and scored on Danny Worths sacrifice fly. Miguel Cabrera, the next batter, doubled and went to third on a wild pitch, scoring on Prince Fielders groundout to third when Will Middlebrooks failed to check him back to the base.After that, though, Lester settled down, retiring 10 of the next 12 batters he faced, allowing just a lead-off single to Brennan Boesch in the fourth and a two-out double to Cabrera (who is 8-for-14 in his career against Lester) in the fifth.Lester went 6 23 innings, giving up four runs on 10 hits with no walks, four strikeouts, and a wild pitch. He threw 120 pitches, 83 for strikes. His ERA went up a tick, from 4.72 to 4.79.The 10 hits were a season high, and the most hes given up since allowing 12 to the White Sox on May 20, 2011. The 120 pitches were his second highest total of the season, after 122 in seven innings to the White Sox in Chicago.Lester was not involved in the decision, and still has yet to beat the Tigers, the only American League club he has not beaten in his career.Still, manager Bobby Valentine thought it was some of Lesters best stuff this season.His curveball was darting. His cutter had the hitters jumping back. His two-seamer was electric. I thought, Valentine said. Its all from the side. But catcher Kelly Shoppach thought it was really good stuff, too. Things didnt go his way. Those three runs, Id say they were a little tainted. He did what he had to do to bow his neck, as they used to say, and put up the zeros. He did a great job.Lesters stuff was so good, it even fooled Valentine. Lester said he really didnt use his cutter that much in the game. Other than that, he agreed with his managers assessment.Lester did not allow a walk, the second time hes accomplished that this season, along with his complete-game win over the Mariners on May 14. Prior to that, he had gone 46 straight starts since the last time he did not issue a walk, on Aug. 14. 2010, at Texas.Felt like I did, Lester said of having his best stuff of the season. It was getting frustrating to have good stuff and get whacked around a little bit. But that being said, more importantly, try to go deep in the game. Guys gave me a chance to win, which is all you can ask for. Bullpen did a great job. Guys swung the bats great. We had some, had a hard time figuring them out early on but the second and third time through we put some good at-bats together and obviously scored some runs. It was big, big team win for us. Thats a big game for us right there.Lester gave up a run in the first and two more in the third, to spot the Tigers a 3-0 lead. After giving up a double to Miguel Cabrera (who is now 8-for-14 in his career against Lester) in the third, the lefty retired 11 of the next 13 batters he faced, except for a Brennan Boesch single leading off the fourth, and another Cabrera with two outs in the fifth.Lester said it had nothing to do with him making adjustments.They just werent hitting it, he said. I just, no adjustments, stuff didnt change, mix didnt change. I think early on they ambushed me a little bit. But, I dont know. Im at a loss for words for trying to figure it out. Like I said, its frustrating for me because when I have stuff like that, it should play a little bit different but theyre a good hitting team, too. So I got to keep making pitches and keep grinding it out, keep figuring it out every day, just keep throwing it.After Gerald Lairds double in the seventh with one out the second hard-hit ball of the inning, but Alex Avila was erased at second on a tremendous throw by left fielder Daniel Nava to second baseman Nick Punto Valentine visited the mound, but left Lester in.He was at his pitch limit, obviously, Valentine said. Two line drives off the center field wall and I just asked him to reach down and get one more out for us. And he said he could do it.Lester did as asked. He struck out Quentin Berry, looking at a 94-mph fastball, then gave way to Matt Albers, who gave up two consecutive singles, including an RBI single to right to Cabrera, tying the game, erasing Lesters win and quality start, and an intentional walk to Fielder before getting Delmon Young to ground out to end the inning.Although Lester was not involved in the decision, the Sox and Albers got the win.

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.