The best starts of Jon Lester's career have been followed up with an understandable return to normalcy, though they've generally resulted in more Boston victories.
He'll need some help against a Texas Rangers staff that's also been tough to squeeze runs from lately.The left-hander will try for an encore performance to his latest gem Saturday night while trying to help the Red Sox avoid a sixth consecutive loss in Arlington.Lester (3-4, 2.59 ERA) mowed down Oakland in last Saturday's 6-3 home win, tossing eight scoreless inning while surrendering just one hit and striking out a career-high 15."Just the combination of power and command was impressive," manager John Farrell told the team's official website. "He was locked in seemingly from the first pitch of the game. He maintained his stuff throughout -- four pitches for strikes, and three of those on both sides of the plate. So he was in command from the start."In follow-ups to his previous four career starts with at least eight shutout innings while allowing a hit or less, Lester is 3-0 with a 4.30 ERA.He hasn't, however, had much recent success against Texas. Since the start of 2011, he's 0-2 with a 7.62 ERA in five starts versus the Rangers, surrendering eight homers in 26 innings -- including five over 11 1/3 in Arlington.The Red Sox (17-18) got to witness a similarly dominant performance to Lester's last outing in Friday's series opener, but in this case they were the victims. Boston didn't get a hit off Yu Darvish until David Ortiz's single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth crept through a Texas defensive shift."As soon as he hit it, I thought it was going to be a hit," Darvish said. "Obviously I was a little bit disappointed, but I was already ready to give up a hit, so it didn't really matter."Texas pitching has posted 22 straight scoreless innings, and now tries to record three straight shutouts for the first time since July 2011.The Rangers (19-17) are 17-6 at home versus the Red Sox since 2009. On the current five-game run, they're batting .351 while holding the Red Sox to seven runs on a .154 average.The offense was helped along Friday by Elvis Andrus' 4-for-5 night in his return to the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He'd spent the previous five in the bottom half of the order and is now batting .409 on a six-game hitting streak."He has been looking better, he's trying to stay inside the baseball and keep it up the middle or to right field," manager Ron Washington told the team's official website. "It was just a matter of time. Elvis is a good hitter, he's not a bad hitter."Lester will be opposed by Martin Perez (4-2, 3.59), who has been beaten up for 13 runs in 9 2/3 innings of consecutive losses after tossing 26 scoreless innings over his previous three starts. After an 8-2 loss in Colorado on Monday, his manager cut him some slack due to the environment he was in and the potent lineup he faced."You got to understand where we are," Washington said. "The kid is going to have 30-something starts. He's going to have some starts that just don't go in his favor. But he's healthy, so got to keep running him out there."The left-hander faced the Red Sox in Boston on April 8 and earned the win despite allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks in 6 1/3 innings.A.J. Pierzynski went 0 for 3 in his first game back in Texas after going 7 for 9 against the Rangers last month.