BOSTON — Jon Lester pitched eight shutout innings as the Boston Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 6-0 on Sunday afternoon to complete a three-game sweep.
The left-handed Lester, making his first appearance since pitching one inning in the All-Star Game, improved to 10-7 and lowered his ERA to 2.50. He gave up four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
“Through the month here, he’s been outstanding,” said Boston manager John Farrell. “Eight shutout innings here again today. I think the difference today might have been the ability to change speeds with his breaking ball.
“He threw a lot of strikes to both sides of the plate with his fastball. But he was able to add and subtract to his breaking ball with particularly the cutter. And then his curveball the last three starts has probably been the best stretch in quite some time.”
Lester was satisfied with his performance.
“I felt good,” he said. “After that first inning overthrowing a little bit, just first start back after the break felt almost too good. After that settled in, felt a lot better after that.”
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler was impressed with Lester’s performance.
“He has four-plus pitches and all of them throwing for strikes today,” said Butler, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout against Lester. “He was tough.
“We had a few chances early and then they started tacking on runs. It was his day. He had his A-game. He’s shown why he’s one of the top lefties in the game.”
The Red Sox battered Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura (7-8) for a career-high six runs and nine hits over 4 1/3 innings, with four walks, a home run and a wild pitch. It was the only start this season in which he has not recorded a strikeout.
“Mostly command,” said Kansas City manager Ned Yost of Ventura’s struggles. “Just struggled with command a little. He got some pitches in the fat part of the strike zone. That’s a good hitting team over there.
“On a day like today the only thing you can do is hope Jon Lester doesn’t bring his A-game and he gets his pitch count up and makes mistakes and you take advantage of it. He was pretty good.”
The Red Sox got to Ventura right away, as lead-off hitter Brock Holt pulled a 100-mph fastball into right field for a single. Holt went to third on left fielder Daniel Nava’s single and scored on a fielder’s choice by second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
That would be all the runs the Red Sox would need, but they added two more in the third when Nava’s ground-rule double scored catcher David Ross, who opened the inning with a walk, and center fielder Jackie Bradley, who followed with a single.
Boston added three in fourth on Ross’ sixth home run of the season, scoring right fielder Shane Victorino, who led off with a double. After consecutive singles by Bradley and Holt put runners on the corners, Nava’s sacrifice fly gave the Red Sox a six-run lead.
Boston knocked Ventura from the game in the fifth. After the first three batters reached — first baseman Mike Carp on a walk, Victorino on a single, and shortstop Stephen Drew with another walk — Ross was out on foul pop to catcher Brett Hayes. Left-hander Francisley Bueno entered, keeping Boston in check by striking out Bradley on three pitches before Holt flied out to end the inning.
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NOTES: Royals RHP Jeremy Guthrie will make his 20th start of 2104 tonight at the White Sox. In his last two outings, he has allowed 14 runs in eight innings. In his previous eight starts, he had posted an ERA of 2.68. ... Royals C Salvador Perez was not in the starting lineup for the series finale in Boston because of slight right groin strain. He plans to play tonight for the start of the series in Chicago against the White Sox. ... Royals LHP Jason Vargas continues to progress from his appendectomy and could throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. Royals 1B Eric Hosmer extended his hitting streak to 16 games, the longest active streak in the majors. ... Red Sox RHP John Lackey (10-6, 3.79) is scheduled to make his 20th start of the season tonight at Toronto. In his last five starts, he is 2-2, with a 5.59 ERA, giving up 18 earned runs over 29 innings. Red Sox RF Shane Victorino, who returned from the disabled list Saturday for the first time since May 23 and who has been limited to just 23 games because of back and hamstring injuries this season, will get some scheduled time off in the next week with Boston playing the next seven games on turf in Toronto and Tampa Bay.