(Sports Network) - Jon Lester narrowly avoided a loss his previous time out after one of his worst outings of the season. Tonight the Boston Red Sox starter will try to keep a lengthy unbeaten streak intact in the continuation of a three-game series versus the Arizona Diamondbacks from Fenway Park.
Lester began the 2010 campaign 0-2 with an 8.44 earned run average over his first three starts -- all Boston losses -- but has rebounded tremendously with a 7-0 mark and a 1.96 ERA through his past 10 trips to the mound. The Red Sox are 8-2 in that time. Lester luckily did not factor into the outcome of an 8-7 loss at Cleveland last Thursday, however, as he was reached for six runs and nine hits with eight strikeouts in six innings.
The left-hander, who has lasted at least six innings in nine consecutive appearances, will put his solid home record on the line tonight and is 4-1 in seven outings at Fenway Park this season. Lester has never faced Arizona in his career.
Fellow starter Clay Buchholz also had never faced the D'Backs before until beating them last night. Buchholz allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings during Tuesday's 6-3 triumph and struck out eight batters to improve to 9-4 on the season. Four relievers held Arizona scoreless the rest of the way, with Jonathan Papelbon preserving the victory in the ninth for his 14th save.
David Ortiz finished 2-for-4 with a two-run homer while Dustin Pedroia collected two hits, knocked in a run and scored three times for the Red Sox, who have won 12 of their last 17 games in Beantown and are 20-9 as the host since late April.
"It's so important for me as a pitcher when my team gives us an early lead offensively," said Buchholz. "It allows me to avoid pressing and I can focus on hitting the corners."
Boston is still four games off the pace in the American League East and 11-5 over its last 16 contests. It has won or split 14 of its last 17 series since April 20, sporting an MLB-best 34-19 mark over that time period.
Arizona is last in the NL West Division and had a modest two-game winning streak cut short last night. Ian Kennedy was pounded on the hill to the tune of six runs on nine hits with a walk and six K's in six frames.
Justin Upton stroked a two-run double in the fourth inning and Adam LaRoche drove in a run for the Diamondbacks, who have dropped three of their last five games and couldn't crack Boston's relievers.
"We tried to put pressure on them, but their bullpen completely shut us down," said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch.
D'Backs slugger Mark Reynolds finished 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, one game after his team rallied for a walkoff win versus St. Louis on Sunday. The Diamondbacks have lost 11 in a row on the road and are only 9-23 as the guest this season, and have allowed a major league-high 34 home runs since May 20.
Arizona's Kelly Johnson went hitless in four plate appearances on Tuesday to watch his season-best 10-game hitting streak come to an end.
Earlier in the day, Arizona acquired right-handed relief pitcher Sam Demel from Oakland in exchange for outfielder Conor Jackson.
Since recording just his second win of the season on May 15 at Atlanta, Arizona starter Rodrigo Lopez has gone 0-3 with a 5.45 earned run average in five starts. Lopez aims to end the losing ways tonight against the Red Sox.
Lopez has dropped consecutive starts to Colorado and St. Louis -- both at home -- and was beaten by the Cardinals on Friday. Lopez, who allowed three runs in seven innings of a 3-2 loss versus the Rockies on June 6, was reached for five runs in seven frames of a 5-2 setback to St. Louis. He fell to 2-5 to go along with a 4.45 ERA in 13 starts.
The right-hander is 1-2 in six road starts this season and has faced Boston many times throughout his career. Lopez is 10-9 with a 4.53 ERA in 26 career games (20 starts) against the Red Sox.
Boston has won five of its last seven meetings with Arizona since losing all three matchups with the Diamondbacks at Fenway Park back in 2002. The Red Sox are 132-104 against the National League, while Arizona is 86-105 all-time in interleague action.