PHILADELPHIA — Jon Lester helped Boston avoid a sweep by not getting swept up in the hype surrounding his start against Philadelphia.
“I was just trying to pitch a normal game,” Lester said.
His normal outing would’ve been a season-best effort for so many pitchers.
Lester tossed two-hit ball over seven shutout innings, Jason Varitek homered twice and the Red Sox managed to win once in the three-game series, beating the Phillies 5-2 on Thursday.
The duel between two of the top lefties in baseball was short-lived.
Lester had the starter’s spotlight to himself after Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels was hit in the glove hand by Adrian Gonzalez’s liner in the fourth inning and soon left. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Hamels sustained a “real good bruise” between his thumb and his palm.
The Phillies said X-rays were negative and Hamels will make his next start. Hamels declined to talk to the media.
Lester (10-4) struck out Raul Ibanez with two runners aboard with his 120th pitch to end a game-tying threat in the seventh.
“It was big to get out of the seventh,” Lester said.
This week’s matchup was hyped as a potential World Series preview. If it is, don’t look for much offense in October: Philadelphia outscored the Red Sox 9-6.
Dustin Pedroia and Varitek hit back-to-back homers in the eighth to make it 5-0.
Ryan Howard hit his 17th homer in the ninth, a two-run shot off Bobby Jenks. Jonathan Papelbon got two outs for his 15th save.
October could belong to the pitchers.
“You can’t worry about losing streaks or winning series,” Lester said.
With Hamels out, the Red Sox wasted no time scoring against David Herndon (0-2) in the fifth.
Josh Reddick hit his second triple of the season after right fielder Ben Francisco misplayed the ball and it scooted by him to the wall. Drew Sutton followed with an RBI single and Jacoby Ellsbury added a run-scoring single for a 2-0 lead.
In the sixth, Herndon allowed Varitek’s opposite-field homer into the first rows of the right-field seats. He added his fifth homer of the season in the eighth.
Herndon allowed five hits and three runs in only two innings.
Lester made the lead stand.
He snapped a personal two-start losing streak and became the first Red Sox lefty to record four straight double-digit win seasons since Bruce Hurst from 1983-88.
“He was pretty powerful today,” Varitek said. “He held on and kept us in the game. He’s the story today.”
With the Red Sox ahead 3-0 in the seventh, Howard singled and Shane Victorino walked. Lester retired Ben Francisco, then fanned Ibanez swinging on a 90 mph fastball to end the inning.
Ibanez hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the seventh of Philadelphia’s 2-1 win on Wednesday.
Daniel Bard pitched a scoreless eighth for the Red Sox.
Hamels, who has a 9-4 record, was cruising until the fourth. He had already snagged a liner an inning earlier when Gonzalez hit a comebacker. The ball appeared to hit Hamels in the palm of his hand. His mitt fell off, but Hamels recovered to throw out Gonzalez at first.
Hamels grimaced as he looked at the sky and shook his hand several times. He threw a few warmup pitches and stayed in the game.
Not for long. Herndon got loose in the bottom half of the inning and came in to start the fifth.
The Phillies already have starters Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton, and relievers Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge among the pitchers on the disabled list.
“We don’t need to lose any pitchers,” Manuel said. “We definitely need to keep him there, if possible.”
The Red Sox shook up their lineup against Hamels in the finale. Gonzalez, who made his second career start in right field on Tuesday, was at first base. David Ortiz appeared as a pinch-hitter a day after he was in the lineup at first.
Also, Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis was out of the lineup with a sore left foot. Youkilis fouled a ball off it in Wednesday night’s game. General manager Theo Epstein said Youkilis’ X-rays were negative.
NOTES: The Red Sox designated OF Mike Cameron for assignment and recalled INF Yamaico Navarro from Triple-A Pawtucket. Boston has 10 days to trade or release Cameron. … Phillies starters ended June with a 1.96 ERA. They are the first rotation since the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves in 1992 to finish a full month with an ERA under 2.00, STATS LLC said. … The Phillies started a stretch of four straight day games. … A crowd of 45,810 was the fourth-largest crowd for a regular-season game in Citizens Bank Park’s history.