Jon Lester has not won in six weeks, but at least he feels he's getting close to ending the lengthy rough stretch.
Facing the Cleveland Indians may help him finally do it.
Mired in the worst season of his career, Lester hopes to continue his success against the Indians and help the Red Sox split their four-game set at Progressive Field on Sunday.
Lester (5-10, 5.36 ERA) is 0-5 with a 7.49 ERA in seven starts since beating Toronto on June 27. He gave up four runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Texas on Tuesday.
Though the left-hander continues to endure a disappointing year - he posted at least 15 wins each of the past four seasons - Lester believes there has been progress. He's pitched at least six innings in three consecutive outings, allowing no more than four runs in any of them, after failing to get through five in three straight.
"Past three starts, I felt like I've thrown the ball better than I have all year," said Lester, who has received no runs of support over his last two games.
He threw the ball extremely well against the Indians in 2011, when he allowed six hits and struck out 16 over 13 scoreless innings to go 1-0 in two starts. Lester is 4-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 10 outings versus Cleveland, including 2-0 at Progressive Field.
He looks to help the Red Sox (56-59) bounce back from a 5-2 loss Saturday. Boston has dropped eight of 11 this month after ending July with four straight victories.
The Indians (53-61), meanwhile, have won three of four following an 11-game skid that delivered a severe blow to their postseason chances. Cleveland has not won a series since taking two of three from Detroit at home July 24-26.
Brent Lillibridge had three hits Saturday, including his first homer since Aug. 31, and drove in two runs for the Indians. Traded to Cleveland on July 24 after going 2 for 16 in 10 games with Boston, Lillibridge is 5 for 12 with two doubles in his last three games.
"It's been a rough year, so it felt really good to contribute," said Lillibridge, who was traded from Chicago to Boston to Cleveland in less than a month.
Adrian Gonzalez drove in both runs for the Red Sox, who struggled on the same day they learned talented rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks is likely done for the season with a broken wrist. Batting .288 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs in 75 games, Middlebrooks was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of Boston's 3-2 win Friday.
Gonzalez has four RBIs in the series but is 2 for 11 in the three games after batting .478 with 14 RBIs in his previous 12.
The Red Sox will get their first look at Cleveland's Corey Kluber (0-0, 6.10) when he makes his third career start in the finale.
The right-hander allowed six runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-6, 11-inning loss at Kansas City on Aug. 2, but he rebounded Tuesday to give up three - one earned - in six innings before closer Chris Perez yielded three in the ninth of a 7-5 loss to Minnesota.
|Boston Red Sox|
|August 11, 2012||Will Middlebrooks||15-Day DL||Broken right wrist|
|August 06, 2012||Vicente Padilla||15-Day DL||Strained right biceps|
|July 31, 2012||Ryan Sweeney||60-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|July 31, 2012||Josh Beckett||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back spasms|
|July 29, 2012||Daniel Nava||15-Day DL||Sprained left wrist|
|July 21, 2012||Mike Aviles||Day-to-Day||Turf toe|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||Day-to-Day||Back soreness|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|June 30, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||60-Day DL||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
|June 29, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||Day-to-Day||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
|June 05, 2012||Jose Lopez||Day-to-Day||Sore lower back|
|May 27, 2012||Jack Hannahan||15-Day DL||Strained left calf|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Boston's offense helped Jon Lester put a halt to his losing streak.
Lester struck out 12 over six innings for his first win in six weeks and the Red Sox cranked out 16 hits in routing the Cleveland Indians 14-1 Sunday to salvage a four-game split.
"A laugher and we needed it," manager Bobby Valentine said. "The guys had a good time."
Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer and two-run double. Carl Crawford had three RBIs and three of Boston's seven doubles. Mike Aviles had three hits and scored three runs.
Best of all, Lester (6-10) earned his first win since beating Toronto on June 27. Between wins, he was 0-5 with a 7.49 ERA.
"It's nice to win," said Lester. "My confidence never strayed. I knew my stuff was there. I had to keep telling myself that.
"Scoring all those runs helps," he added. "It takes pressure off me to try and be perfect."
Boston built a 6-1 lead against Corey Kluber (0-1) and scored its most runs since hammering Miami 15-5 in an interleague game June 20.
"We sure hit a lot of balls in the gap," Valentine said. "I liked it. I liked it a lot."
Lester was on cruise control with the lead. He gave up three hits and one run to move to 5-1 lifetime against Cleveland though Boston won for only the fourth time in 12 games.
Cleveland is 3-2 after falling from contention in the AL Center with 11 straight losses.
"It was catch-up baseball from the get-go," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It's not fun at all when you come to the plate and you're down by five runs."
Lester threw his fastball on both sides of the plate and mixed in a sharp curve. It was his 17th career game of 10 or more strikeouts, one behind Joe Wood , who is third in Red Sox history behind Pedro Martinez (72) and Roger Clemens (68).
"He started using his curve in the third inning and that made all the difference," Valentine said.
The left-hander posted at least 15 wins each of the past four seasons, going 65-32 overall, but opened this year 0-2, including an embarrassing 18-3 loss to Texas on April 17 in which he gave up seven runs over two innings.
He went 5-3 over the next two months before enduring the toughest stretch of his career.
"You come to a point where you have to forget stats and just go out and try to keep your team in the game," Lester said. "Let this offense get a chance."
Boston batters gave Lester some space, staking him to a 3-0 lead in the first. Dustin Pedroia had an RBI double and scored on Gonzalez's 13th homer.
A sacrifice fly by Carlos Santana cut it to 3-1 in the bottom half. Lester was happy to give up only one run after singles by Jason Donald and Asdrubal Cabrera put runners on first and third with no outs.
"To minimize it to one run with no outs was big," Lester said. "That's what I have been missing."
Then the Red Sox poured it on.
Crawford lined a two-run double in the second and ex-Indian Kelly Shoppach 's broken-bat RBI single in the fourth made it 6-1.
An eight-run fifth off relievers Josh Tomlin and Frank Herrmann featured two-run doubles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Gonzalez. Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each hit RBI singles, Danny Valencia had a sacrifice fly and Crawford another RBI double.
Tomlin, dropped from the rotation on July 31, will have his right elbow examined in Cleveland and will not make the Indians' trip that begins Monday in Los Angeles. He didn't pitch last September due to a sore elbow and admitted Sunday he had not told Acta that it's bothered him for more than a month.
"I felt like I could go out there and get outs," Tomlin said. "Apparently I couldn't. It didn't hurt every single day, but there were days it did hurt."
It was the eighth time since the All-Star break that Cleveland gave up 10-plus runs. The Indians are 9-21 and their starting rotation has a 6.71 ERA over that stretch.
Kluber gave up six runs and seven hits over 3 1-3 innings, his shortest outing in three career starts.
NOTES: Boston 3B Will Middlebrooks does not need surgery on his broken right wrist, though he is still likely out for the season. ... Gonzalez had eight RBIs in the series and 22 in his last 16 games overall. ... Santana moved from first base to left field in the sixth, his first outfield appearance in 300 career games. He last played there in 2008 in Class-A ball. ... Boston reliever Clayton Mortenson struck out in the ninth. He batted after Valentine rested players with the big lead and lost use of the designated hitter in a series of lineup changes. ... The Indians released INF Jose Lopez , who was designated for assignment Aug. 7. They released OF Johnny Damon and RHPs Derek Lowe and Jeremy Accardo earlier in the week. ... Cleveland opens a nine-game trip to Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle on Monday. ... The Red Sox continue their nine-game trip with three-game series at AL rivals Baltimore and New York.