Jon Lester allowed two runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings to get the win in Game 5. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit ó Jon Lester pitched well enough to win in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series and didn't.
Lester gave up one earned run in 6 innings as Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers one-hit the Red Sox 1-0 last Saturday.
Lester repeated that strong outing in Game 5 of the ALCS on Thursday at Comerica Park and this time he did win. Boston is one game from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2007 after it defeated Detroit 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is Saturday at Fenway Park.
Lester went 51⁄3 innings, allowed seven hits and three walks. He avoided trouble in the first and fourth innings before allowing single runs in the fifth and sixth.
"Tonight was huge," Lester said. "We're up 3-2 and going home."
Lester wasn't pleased with manager John Farrell's decision to lift him after a single by Omar Infante put runners on first and second with one out but it worked out.
"Our job is to start and try to finish," Lester said. "In that situation, it's John's decision. I may not like it. I respect every decision John makes."
Farrell said Lester wasn't as sharp as he was in Game 1 but this time the Red Sox gave their ace left-hander run support, scoring three in the second and one in the third.
Lester, who helped the Red Sox sweep the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 World Series, helped himself in the field in posting his second victory of this postseason.
Austin Jackson led off the fifth with his second single of the game. Jose Iglesias, hitting ninth, bunted a high pitch down the first base line that Lester bobbled, then went to the infield grass with his glove and in one motion flipped it to Mike Napoli to retire Iglesias by an eyelash.
Iglesias was awarded a sacrifice but, with the Tigers trailing 4-0, it appeared he was bunting for a base hit.
"With Iggy running you know you don't have much time," Lester said. "For some reason I have my glove closed (which led to the bobble). It was all reaction. I just made the toss. It was obviously a big out for us in that inning."
Jackson later scored Detroit's first run on a two-out single by Miguel Cabrera but had Lester not made that play the inning could have been more damaging for Boston.
Another defensive play, and baserunning error, prevented Detroit from taking the lead in the first. Cabrera walked with one out and went to second on a Prince Fielder single. With two outs Jhonny Peralta singled to left. As Cabrera reached the bag third base coach Tom Brookens raised his hands but Cabrera ran through the stop sign and was easily thrown out at the plate by Jonny Gomes.
Lester said Gomes' throw and Napoli's long home run to lead off the second were plays early on that gave Boston the momentum.
"Nap did a good job of hitting the ball," Lester said. "And Jonny makes that good throw. If he doesn't make a good throw they're up 1-0."
The Tigers had runners on first and second with one out in the fourth when Lester got Brayan Pena, pinch hitting for Alex Avila, to hit a comebacker to start an inning-ending double play.
"We were fortunate that we had a couple of ground ball double plays," Farrell said. "(Removing Lester) wasn't a hard decision at all. We have full confidence in John as well as the bullpen. Pena has had success against him in the past. He was getting close to 100 pitches (Lester threw 108). He wasn't as strong as he was six days ago."
Pena was the next hitter and singled home Martinez but Junichi Tazawa got Jackson to hit into a double play to end the inning.