BOSTON – David Ortiz and Jon Lester each got off to a slow start and picked it up in the second month of the season.

Yup, just like last year.

Ortiz capped his big May with his 11th homer of the season and Lester pitched seven strong innings, helping the Boston Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 8-1 on Sunday to salvage a split of the four-game series.

Lester, just 1-2 with a 4.71 ERA in April, is 6-0 with a 1.43 ERA in his last seven starts. Ortiz, who hit .143 with one homer and four RBI in the first month of the season, batted .363 in May with 10 homers and 27 RBI.

“People started trash talking too early,” Ortiz said.

Lester felt Ortiz deserved more support after his slow start because he came back strong last season, finishing with 28 homers and 99 RBI.

“I don’t think anybody doubted him,” Lester said. “He started off slow last year and put up great numbers. I started off slow in April. Players start off slow.”

Ortiz batted .230 with no homers in April last year. Lester was 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA.

“(Ortiz) took some good swings today,” Boston Manager Terry Francona said. “He’s really taking good swings. He’s gotten to the point where he really feels good about himself. You can see it in his body language. When they make a mistake he hits it a long way.”

Mike Cameron doubled twice, drove in two runs and scored three times for Boston. Jason Varitek added a solo homer.

The Red Sox, who are off on Memorial Day, went 18-11 in May after going 11-12 in April.

Lester (6-2) allowed one run and four hits. He retired 11 of 12 batters over the middle innings as the Red Sox opened a 7-1 lead.

“His pitch count got up a little bit, but he always made a big pitch when he needed to kind of limit the damage,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said. “He pitched a good game. His cutter was the pitch that would get him out of trouble.”

The Red Sox scored three times in the fifth and sixth to take control. Ortiz’s two-run shot to center off reliever Brad Thompson (0-4) made it 4-1 in the fifth, and Cameron added a two-run double in the sixth.

Marco Scutaro had three hits and two RBI for the Red Sox. His slow roller to the right of the mound in the fifth drove in Bill Hall and gave Boston a 2-1 lead.

Bruce Chen, inserted into Kansas City’s rotation when Gil Meche was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with right shoulder bursitis, allowed one run and two hits in four innings. He threw 43 of his 75 pitches for strikes.

“I’m very happy with the way I threw the ball today,” Chen said. “Last time I pitched, I threw like 40 pitches. I think Ned made a very good decision when he pulled me out.”

Thompson was tagged for six runs and seven hits in 12/3 innings for Kansas City, which lost 1-0 Saturday after winning the first two of the series.

“Two out of four is nice, but it’s much better when you win the last two,” Yost said.

Brayan Pena’s run-scoring grounder gave the Royals a 1-0 lead in the second. Ortiz’s sacrifice fly tied it in the third.


NOTES: It was Cameron’s first two RBI of the season. … Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia, hitless in his last 13 at-bats and just five for his last 40, was given the day off. Hall replaced him and batted eighth. … Chen pitched briefly with Boston in 2003, going 0-1 with a 5.11 ERA in five games. … Both teams had a different look, wearing white hats as part of baseball’s “Welcome Back Veterans” initiative. Francona joked “it looks like we’re selling ice cream.” … Kansas City’s David DeJesus went 0 for 4, ending his 11-game hitting streak. His bat slipped out of his hands during one plate appearance and went flying seven rows back, leading to a nice grab by a fan along the first-base line.


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