The Red Sox topped the Rays by a score of 3-1 in the first half of Tuesday's doubleheader, relying on a strong start from Jon Lester and a big homer from Jacoby Ellsbury to push them past their division rivals.
The game opened with Lester looking rather less than dominant. Throwing 22 pitches in the first inning, the Sox' lefty ace gave up a leadoff double to Desmond Jennings, who would end up scoring the first run of the game later in the frame. Again in the second the Rays put two men on, and while they didn't push a runs across, it seemed entirely possible that it would be a short, unimpressive game for him.
And then came the third inning. For seven of the eight frames he tossed, James Shields was untouchable, allowing just a lone walk to Kevin Youkilis. But in the third, things were different. Josh Reddick led the inning off with a line drive into right and, with one out, Mike Aviles moved him to second with a single of his own. Jacoby Ellsbury stepped up to the plate and, with one swing of the bat, ruined Shields' day, blistering a misplaced changeup for his 21st homer of the year and giving the Sox a 3-1 lead.
It was a lead that would hold up, too, as Jon Lester had found his groove in the top half of the inning, sitting down the Rays--Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist included--in order. He would go on to strike out the next three batters he faced, and pick up another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth before finally giving up a lone hit in the sixth. Despite having 80 pitches on his arm through four innings, Lester would leave the game only after going seven innings of one-run ball, striking out eight, and giving up just three hits and a walk. Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon wrapped the game up with a couple clean innings, and the Sox started their two-day marathon off on the right foot.