BOSTON — Jon Lester certainly looked refreshed from the extended break.
The left-hander pitched effectively into the seventh inning and Boston's bullpen did the rest, carrying the Red Sox to a bounce-back 6-2 win over the hard-charging Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
The victory was Boston's 10th in 14 games against the Rays this season, and it gave the Red Sox a 1½-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East. The Red Sox have been alone in first since May 27.
Lester (9-6) held the Rays to two runs — both coming off solo homers — and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out eight without walking a batter. Lester looked sharp from the start, hitting the mid-90s on his fastball in the first inning while striking out a pair.
Jose Iglesias had a two-run single, and Mike Napoli had two hits and scored two runs for Boston.
Evan Longoria and Wil Myers hit solo homers for the Rays, who lost for just the third time in 21 games and had a six-game winning streak snapped.
Roberto Hernandez (5-11) gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings, dropping to 1-7 on the road.
Longoria's homer, a drive into the seats in left-center above the Green Monster, cut the Red Sox's lead to 3-2 in the sixth, but Boston's bullpen shut the door.
Matt Thornton retired the only batter he faced. Junichi Tazawa fanned the first three hitters he faced in getting four outs. Koji Uehara worked the ninth in a non-save situation.
The Red Sox put it away with three runs in the eighth — two coming on Iglesias' single and the other on Stephen Drew's RBI single.
Lester was given an extra few days rest after the break, with manager John Farrell saying "two extra days would help him" when he made the announcement over the weekend. It showed from the start, with Lester fanning the game's first hitter — Desmond Jennings — with a 95 mph fastball. He got Jennings on a 94 mph heater in the fifth.The 29-year old left-hander certainly looked like the break helped him. Entering the game, he was 2-6 with a 6.27 ERA in his previous 11 starts.
Notes: Rays RHP Alex Cobb, struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Royals' Eric Hosmer on June 15, was scheduled to make his first rehab start for Class A Charlotte on Tuesday. ... With a scoring change, CF Shane Victorino became the first Red Sox player to steal home since Ryan Kalish on Oct. 3, 2010, also on a double steal. ... Rays SS Yunel Escobar, who set a club-record Monday with his 53rd straight errorless game at short, was charged with a throwing error in the eighth