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Monday, July 21, 2014

Lester sharp again

BOSTON – Jon Lester just wants to put up impressive numbers on the mound. He will worry about the figures on his next contract later.

Red Sox fans showed appreciation for his latest brilliant outing with loud applause as he walked to the dugout after his eighth and final inning Sunday. ...

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BOSTON – Jon Lester just wants to put up impressive numbers on the mound. He will worry about the figures on his next contract later.

Red Sox fans showed appreciation for his latest brilliant outing with loud applause as he walked to the dugout after his eighth and final inning Sunday.

“I hope people are more pleased with how I’m pitching and not how I’m handling contract stuff,” the All-Star left-hander said after a 6-0 win that gave Boston a three-game sweep over the Kansas City Royals.

Lester, who can become a free agent after the season, allowed no earned runs for the third time in four starts. He struck out eight and gave up two walks and four hits. Only one Royals player reached third base.

Clearly, he hasn’t let the uncertainty over where he will be pitching next season hurt his pitching this season.

“He’s been a model for others to witness as players get to that stage of their career,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He’s been able to handle it, I think, in a professional manner.”

Lester (10-7) is 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA over his last seven starts with 47 strikeouts and eight walks in a span of 522⁄3 innings. He has yielded just one earned run in 31 innings.

“You’ve got to take each one as an individual,” Lester said. “If I’m out there thinking about what I did last time, I’m not worried about the right things.”

Lester extended his scoreless streak to 14 innings before Junichi Tazawa got the first out of the ninth. Edward Mujica retired the next two batters.

“We matched up against an All-Star pitcher today and he was on top of his game,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Yordano Ventura (7-8) gave up all six runs.

The first scored on Dustin Pedroia’s forceout at second base in the first, Daniel Nava hit a two-run double in the third, and Boston added three in the fourth on David Ross’ two-run homer and Nava’s sacrifice fly.

That was more than enough support for Lester as he keeps building a case for a lucrative contract.

“If these guys are happy with the way I’m throwing and how I’m going about my business, then that’s all I care about,” he said. “The other stuff will take care of itself when the right time comes.”

Boston entered the game in last place in the AL East, percentage points behind Tampa Bay, but won for the seventh time in eight games.

Kansas City went scoreless after losing 2-1 Saturday night. The Royals have lost nine of 12, are 9-17 since a 10-game winning streak, and have scored less than two runs in four of their last six games. They open a three-game series at the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.

“You basically just shake it off and get right back out there,” designated hitter Billy Butler said. “We faced a tough left-hander today and it doesn’t get any easier. We face Chris Sale tomorrow.”

The Royals put runners at first and second in the first when Eric Hosmer was hit by a pitch with two outs, and Danny Valencia singled. But Alex Gordon flied to left.

Alcides Escobar was left on base after a one-out single in the second, and Lester retired eight consecutive batters before Escobar led off the fifth with a double. He reached third on a one-out groundout, but the threat ended when Lorenzo Cain flied out, leaving him hitless in 22 at bats.

Hosmer singled with one out in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. After Valencia struck out, Gordon drew a walk, the first issued by Lester in three starts. But Butler grounded out.

Cain walked leading off the eighth, but Lester finished his outing by getting Omar Infante to ground into a double play before fanning Hosmer.

“Jon Lester did a really nice job of holding us down,” Yost said, “mixed in his curveball effectively, spotted his fastball well and used his cutter really well.”

Brock Holt scored Boston’s first run after he and Nava singled. Nava’s double in the third came after a walk to Ross and a single by Jackie Bradley Jr. In the fourth, Shane Victorino doubled and scored on Ross’ sixth homer. Nava’s sacrifice fly drove in Bradley, who had singled.