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Closing Time: Jon Lester, Red Sox bats bounce back at Fenway Park in taking series opener against Indians

06.12.14 at 10:19 pm ET
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Thursday night, Jon Lester did what aces are expected to do — get their teams moving in the right direction.

Coming off arguably his worst outing of the season, Saturday in Detroit, Lester dominated the Indians through five innings at Fenway Park. The lefty escaped after a pair of runs in the sixth to lead the Red Sox, finishing with a strong 7 2/3-inning outing, and lifting the Red Sox to a 5-2 win over Cleveland.

Lester struck out three of the first four batters he faced and never looked back. He allowed two runs — one earned — on eight hits, with one walk and four strikeouts to improve to 7-7 with a 3.33 ERA this season. He threw 72 of his 109 pitches for strikes.

The Red Sox returned home after an ugly 2-7 road trip, finally showing some life at the plate. The Sox’ five runs were more than they scored in the entire Baltimore series, having scored just once in three games against the Orioles. The hosts collected eight hits off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin.

David Ortiz hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning for the Sox’ second and third runs of the game. Mike Napoli was 2-for-4 and scored Boston’s first run in the second inning. Daniel Nava was 3-for-5 and is 9 for his last 22 since his return to the Sox June 2.

Brock Holt‘s hitless night Wednesday ended his 10-game hitting streak, but he got a new one started Thursday with a 2-for-4 night that included a two-run double to left field in the sixth to score Jonathan Herrera and Jackie Bradley.

The Red Sox improved to 30-36 for the season with the win. Here is what went right (and wrong) for John Farrell‘s team:

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–” Lester did more than his part to lift a struggling Red Sox team Thursday night. While a rocky sixth inning skewed his line for the night, Lester was seemingly untouchable through the other 6 2/3  innings. The lefty shutout the Indians through the first five frames, allowing just three hits, a walk and just one runner to reach scoring position. Lester pitched a season-low 4 1/3 innings against the Tigers in his previous start Saturday, a start that followed an eight inning, 12-strikeout performance in a shutout win over the June 1. But Lester found himself on the upswing again Thursday.

— If the Red Sox were going to break out their dreadful offensive slump, they were going to need more production from the middle of the order. They got just that. Ortiz woke up from his his 1-for-12 skid when he knocked an 0-1 pitch with two outs into the seats to score the eventual winning run. Napoli chipped in with two singles and scored a run in the second after reaching on an error.

— One of the stories of the Sox’ struggles this season has been its historically bad outfield production at the plate. On Thursday, outfielders Nava, Bradley and Sizemore combined for five hits, two runs and an RBI. Nava was .333 entering the game since his return to the team June 2, and added to his production with three hits. Sizemore’s ground-rule double to score Napoli in the second was his first RBI since May 27.

— Bradley made the throw of the year for the Red Sox, first tracking a Michael Bourn fly ball at the center field wall (about 370 feet from home plate), and then proceeding to throw a strike to Napoli on the fly for an inning-ending double play.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

— There wasn’t much for the Sox to complain about Thursday, especially after finally scoring some much-needed runs. However, the Sox once again hurt themselves with missed opportunities, most notably in the second inning when the Sox failed to score on a bases loaded, no outs opportunity. After Sizemore’s ground-rule double to right to score Napoli, David Ross walked to load the bases. But the bottom of the order failed the Sox as Herrera’s hit into a 3-2-3 double play and Bradley struck out looking to end the inning. Herrera was 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position for the game.

— The sixth inning was an otherwise forgettable one for Lester given his performance Thursday night. The lefty nearly coughed up a 3-0 lead when Jason Kipnis hit a one-out single to left to score Bourn and Michael Brantley. After Carlos Santana flied out, Ryan Raburn singled to put runners on first and second with two outs. But Lester escaped after forcing Nick Swisher to ground into a fielder’s choice.

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