BOSTON — Jon Lester regained the form that made him Boston’s best starter late last season.
Lester pitched seven shutout innings to return to his winning ways in Fenway Park, leading the Red Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
“That was the guy that I remember from last year,” said left fielder Jason Bay, who came over to the Red Sox in a trade deadline deal last season.
Lester (1-2), who had allowed 11 runs in 12 innings in his first two starts of the season, held the Orioles to four singles while striking out nine and walking two. He lost his first start of the year in Fenway against Tampa Bay on April 8, snapping a 16-game regular-season unbeaten streak at home.
Lester, who went 16-6 in 2008, was Boston’s most dependable postseason starter last year. He went 1-0 in the division series, throwing 14 shutout innings against Los Angeles. In Game 7 of the ALCS against Tampa Bay, Lester was outpitched by Matt Garza in a 3-1 loss.
“We really didn’t think there was anything wrong for me to fret on,” Lester said of his first two starts.
It was the fourth straight victory for the Red Sox, who can complete a sweep of the four-game series on Monday morning in the annual Patriots’ Day game.
Dustin Pedroia and Mike Lowell had RBI singles for Boston.
“That was just enough,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “The ballpark was playing big today.”
With cool temperatures and a fairly strong wind blowing in, it was the right setting for Lester.
“From the first pitch of the game, he had power behind his pitches,” Francona said. “He elevated his fastball early.”
Koji Uehara (2-1) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings for the Orioles, who lost their fourth consecutive game.
“The fastball was working,” Uehara said through a translator. “Maybe the radar gun doesn’t show it, but the high fastball, I was able to get a lot of flyouts.”
Ramon Ramirez pitched a perfect eighth and Takashi Saito allowed a run before finishing for his first save with the Red Sox. Saito retired the final two hitters with Aubrey Huff on second, striking out pinch-hitter Greg Zaun to end the game.
The Red Sox won for the 26th time in their last 32 home games against Baltimore.
“Koji pitched a great game and so did Lester,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. “(Lester’s) velocity was better from the last time he had pitched.”
Uehara’s third career start was his best so far, but the right-hander didn’t get the run support he received in his first two outings. In each of his first two games, the Orioles scored seven runs before he was replaced.
Bay said the Red Sox hitters were surprised by Uehara.
“He was spotting his fastball and wasn’t overpowering guys with his velocity, but he was sneaky,” Bay said.
Ty Wigginton drove in Baltimore’s only run with a groundout in the ninth.
Bay went 0-for-3 and failed to reach base safely for the first time this season, halting a streak of 24 games dating to last season.
The Red Sox grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second on Lowell’s RBI single, a soft fly that dropped in front of charging right fielder Nick Markakis after Kevin Youkilis led off with a double.
Pedroia singled in Nick Green with two outs in the fifth.
Notes: Francona elected to avoid using Jonathan Papelbon after he closed the past two games. … Baltimore CF Adam Jones left in the second due to a sore right hamstring. Felix Pie replaced him and made a spinning catch of Nick Green’s deep drive in the third. … Lester is 7-0 lifetime against Baltimore. … Former Red Sox re-liever Mike Timlin threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Also, as part of Kids’ Opening Weekend, Sesame Street’s Elmo threw out a first pitch.
Red Sox 6, Orioles 4
BOSTON — Kevin Youkilis fell a triple short of the cycle and drove in four runs, leading the Boston Red Sox to a 6-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night.
Youkilis went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer and two doubles as the Red Sox won their third straight after starting 2-6. Baltimore dropped its third consecutive game following a 6-2 start.
Mike Lowell had a pair of hits and an RBI for Boston.
Youkilis, coming off just his second hitless game of the season Friday, hit a three-run drive into the seats above the Green Monster off starter Adam Eaton (0-2) to put Boston ahead 4-0 after Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz singled in the third.
Josh Beckett (2-1) struggled with his control at times in his six innings.