BOSTON — It took 15 starts and until the middle of June, but Jon Lester is finally over the .500 mark.
The veteran left-hander, who entered this season with a 100-56 career record, raised his 2014 record to 8-7 with 6 1/3 strong innings as his Boston Red Sox edged the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Lester worked through a 33-pitch first inning that ended with him screaming an expletive that may have been aimed at either home plate umpire Clint Fagan or himself. He went on to allow a run on four hits as he outdueled Twins right-hander Phil Hughes (7-3).
Four relievers finished up, with Edward Mujica earning his second save because closer Koji Uehara was unavailable after pitching three straight days. Mujica pitched a perfect ninth, with two strikeouts, after right-hander Junichi Tazawa struck out the side in the eighth.
The Red Sox (33-38) won for the second straight night despite again not hitting. They have scored seven runs in the last four games and Tuesday marked their 25th game with two runs or less. They are 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position over the last four games.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia (two hits) doubled home a run in the first inning while third baseman Xander Bogaerts made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly in the third off Hughes, who came in with a 6.56 ERA at Fenway Park that was run up while he was with the New York Yankees.
First baseman Joe Mauer hit an RBI double in the sixth inning for the Twins (32-37).
Boston utility man extraordinaire Brock Holt, making his center field debut — his fifth starting position — had two hits and a stolen base and bailed left fielder Jonny Gomes out with a tumbling catch when Gomes lost a fly ball in the third inning.
Hughes, suffering his first loss in six road decisions this season, went all the way, yielding eight hits. He came in leading the majors in fewest walks and didn’t walk anyone. He has passed just eight in 14 starts.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Lester escaped a top of the inning that had him talking to himself.
Holt led off with a single, moved up on a groundout and scored when Pedroia doubled. The hit with a runner in scoring position came on the team’s first chance Tuesday after a 1-for-22 stretch with runners in scoring position the previous three games.
Holt led off the bottom of the third with a double, stole third and scored on Bogaerts’ sacrifice fly.
Lester rebounded from a shaky first inning that included a few close ball/strike calls. He retired 11 straight from the last out in the first through the first out in the fifth.
Lester fanned third baseman Eduardo Escobar in the fifth for his 1,342nd career strikeout, moving him past Cy Young into fourth place on Boston’s all-time strikeout list.