Jon Lester matched his season high with eight strikeouts, and overcame homers by Wil Myers and Evan Longoria as the Boston Red Sox remained in first place with a 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
The Red Sox moved 1 1⁄2 games ahead of the Rays in the AL East, and stayed atop the division for the 58th consecutive day.
The loss ended the Rays’ six-game winning streak and was just their third in 21 games, a surge that began when they were in fourth place, trailing the Red Sox by seven games.
Boston is 3-4 since its four-game winning streak.
Lester (9-6) gave up two runs and seven hits with no walks in 61⁄3 innings. He is 3-6 with a 5.97 ERA since starting the season 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA. Four Red Sox pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts.
Roberto Hernandez (5-11) allowed three runs in five innings and tied R.A. Dickey for the second-most losses in the AL. But it was the 28th time in Tampa Bay’s last 31 games that its starter gave up three runs or fewer.
Boston led, 3-2, then scored three runs in the eighth on an RBI single by Stephen Drew and a two-run single by Jose Iglesias.
Myers’ fifth homer of the season on the first pitch of the second inning gave the Rays a 1-0 lead. The Red Sox tied it in the bottom half on a run-scoring single by Mike Carp.
They went ahead, 2-1, in the third on a double steal. Shane Victorino led off with a double and went to third on a flyout by Daniel Nava. Dustin Pedroia was hit by a pitch, then stole second as catcher Jose Molina threw down and Victorino scored.
The Red Sox had left runners at third base in three straight innings before Pedroia gave them a 3-1 lead with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
The Rays got another leadoff homer off Lester in the sixth when Longoria hit his 21st on the second pitch, cutting the lead to 3-2.
Pedroia is close to a contract that could keep him with the Red Sox for his entire big league career.
A person with knowledge of the talks said that Pedroia is in the process of agreeing to a deal adding $100 million over seven seasons through 2021.
The new deal was first reported by WEEI.
Pedroia is making $10 million this year, and is guaranteed the same amount in 2014 as part of a $40.5 million, six-year contract that started in 2009. That deal includes an $11 million club option for 2015 with a $500,000 buyout.