Cancer survivor Jon Lester pitched five picture innings and his Pawtucket Red Sox erupted for five runs with two outs in the eighth inning to hand the Buffalo Bisons a 5-1 defeat before 1,509 at McCoy Stadium on Friday night.
Lester, making what is expected to be his first of two Triple-A rehab starts before returning to the Boston rotation, threw five shutout innings, allowed three hits (all singles), struck out six and didn't walk anybody.
Pitching in a hovering fog, the lefty threw 84 pitches, 56 for strikes. He topped out at 96 mph and consistently threw in the 90-94 mph range.
"I got a little tired near the end. But all in all I felt strong," said Lester, 23, who went 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA in 15 starts for Boston last year before his lymph system illness was diagnosed.
Lester's performance Friday was almost upstaged by Buffalo's Adam Miller, who pitched seven shutout innings and left with a 1-0 lead after Ryan Mulhern's homer in the eighth off reliever Edgar Martinez (2-0).
Miller, Cleveland's top minor-league pitching prospect, struck out eight and walked only two.
But his chance to go 3-0 this season was scuttled when the PawSox erupted, sending 11 men to the plate against relievers Brian Sikorski (0-1) and Juan Lara.
Pawtucket's Joe McEwing homered to tie the game at 1-1 before two walks, doubles by David Murphy and Jeff Bailey, and a single by Brandon Moss put the game away.
"Brian's done a great job for us up to this point in the season and deserved the baseball in the [eighth inning]. But he made a couple of mistakes and he paid for it," Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo said.
Lester is scheduled to make one more start for Pawtucket before the Red Sox decide whether to promote him.
The four-game series continues today at 1:05 p.m.