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BOS@CLE: Lester fans 12 in six strong innings of work

CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox needed something positive to happen. Their offense had been struggling, they recently lost promising youngster Will Middlebrooks to injury and they were quickly falling out of the playoff race.

On Sunday afternoon, the Sox got back on track with an easy 14-1 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field, earning them a split in the four-game series.

The win couldn't have come at a better time as the Sox get ready for critical series with American League East foes Baltimore and New York. Boston is chasing the Orioles and Yankees in the division and is 5 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot.

"Those are always good," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs. "We always enjoy days like this, especially when we can get everybody in the game."

Boston, which had scored only eight combined runs in the first three games, wasted little time getting on the scoreboard against Cleveland starter Corey Kluber. The Sox got three runs in the first inning on an RBI double by Dustin Pedroia and a two-run home run from Gonzalez, and that was just the beginning.

The Red Sox added two more runs in the second, one in the fourth, and they put an eight-spot on the Tribe's bullpen in the fifth. Boston sent 13 batters to the plate, recording four doubles and three singles. Pedroia, Gonzalez and Cody Ross each reached base twice in the frame.

It became a laugher in a hurry.

"We hit a lot of balls in the gap," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "It's a good look when we look like that. I like it a lot. And [the players] like it a lot, which is even more important. ... They deserve that. They deserve four games like that."

The Sox wasted the few offensive opportunities they got in the first three games. On Sunday, they made good on nearly every one of the same chances. Every starter except Mike Aviles recorded at least one RBI, and nine different players had a hit.

It was catch-up baseball from the get-go," said Indians manager Manny Acta. "It's not fun at all when you have to come up to the plate and you're already trailing by three, four, five runs. By the fifth or sixth inning, the strategy is, 'How are you going to get the rest of the innings without using your main guys?'"

While the offense was doing its damage, Red Sox starter Jon Lester was quietly turning in a solid performance of his own. The left-hander gave up back-to-back singles to begin the first, but he limited the damage to just one run, and kept the Indians quiet after that.

"Early on, it took us a little bit to figure out their game plan toward us, and try to get in a little bit of a rhythm," Lester said. "I struggled a little bit early, but obviously when we score a bunch of runs early, it takes the pressure off me to have to be perfect."

Lester allowed just one run on three hits over six innings to earn his first win since June 27. He struck out 12 -- including the side in the third and fifth innings -- and walked two. It was the most strikeouts by a Boston pitcher since Lester fanned 12 on Sept. 13, 2010.

"He's pitching so well, and not getting a win," Valentine said. "To pitch well and get a win is something I think could get him on a roll. That's what we need."

If the Red Sox are going to stay in the playoff chase, they will need Lester to continue to pitch the way he dd Sunday. Even with the win, he's just 6-10 with a 5.20 ERA.

"There comes a point where you just need to forget about your stats and worry about trying to keep your team in the game," Lester said. "That's what I've kind of come to since my bad one against Toronto. Just keep them within striking distance, and everything else will take care of itself."

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