Jon Lester lost his bid for a perfect game in the sixth inning, but that was about all that went wrong against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Lester joined Mets’ ace Matt Harvey as the only two major leaguers this season to throw one hit, no walk, shut out, complete games…but they were joined by Cardinals’ rookie Shelby Miller just hours later.
The Red Sox ace needed only one pitch to retire Jays’ leadoff hitter, Rajai Davis, who flew out to Sox right fielder Shane Victorino. Lester would dominate for the rest of the night, and the game was all but over. The big lefty set down 17 straight Jays, until Toronto shortstop Maicer Izturis doubled on a line shot down the left field line, breaking up Lester’s perfecto. Working out of the stretch for the first time all night, Lester responded by striking out Adam Lind to end the inning.
The Sox seemingly had opportunities all night, as Jays’ starter Ramon Ortiz was not nearly as masterful as his Boston counterpart. The Sox looked to capitalize on the 39-year-old’s struggles early in the game, but he managed to escape relatively unscathed. Victorino and Dustin Pedroia both reached in the bottom half of the first, giving the middle of the order a chance to inflict some serious damage early, but they came up short. The Sox got two one-out baserunners again in the second courtesy of Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia walking and singling respectively. But the Sox would manage only one run thanks to an error by Izturis, and Ortiz would wiggle his way out of the jam.
The Sox struggled mightily against Ortiz, going 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position in the third through fifth innings. Ortiz managed to escape having surrendered only one run, despite allowing nine runners to reach base through five innings of work.
Though Lester wouldn’t need it, his offense bought him some insurance in the seventh, teeing off against Jays reliever Brett Cecil who had been brought back out for a second inning. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia hit three straight singles to bring in one run to start the inning. They were swiftly followed by two strikeouts by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, leaving it up to Nava to do some more damage. Nava rose to the challenge, doubling off the wall to plate two runs. Nava then came around when Salty drove a long fly ball over the head of Jose Bautista for an RBI double.
Even after the long inning, Lester picked right back up where he left off, setting the Jays down in order, and picking up two more strike outs to end the game. Lester’s brilliant outing snapped a three-game skid for Boston and preserved the three-way tie for first in the unforgiving American League East.