BOSTON – The Tampa Bay Rays began Friday’s game like the young upstarts they are, grabbing a 2-0 lead after the top of the fourth inning.

It took only one mistake for everything to change.

Rookie right fielder Wil Myers badly misplayed a David Ortiz fly ball and all the Rays’ momentum crumbled.

The Boston Red Sox turned that misplay into five runs in the fourth. More runs followed for a 12-2 victory in Game 1 of the American League division series before a jazzed crowd of 38,177 at Fenway Park.

Game 2 will be at 5:37 p.m. Saturday.

Jon Lester got the win, allowing three hits over 7 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs, both homers, three walks and struck out seven.

“He’s gotten better,” said Manager Joe Maddon, whose Rays beat Lester twice in the 2008 playoffs. “He had struggles in the recent past with command but that’s not the case right now.”

Every Boston player recorded at least one hit and one run. Jarrod Saltalamacchia knocked in three runs with a double and single. Jonny Gomes doubled in two runs. Shane Victorino went 3 for 4 with two RBI.

“You see nine hitters and we all work together,” Gomes said.

Lester began his outing with four straight strikeouts, his fastball reaching 97 mph.

“The adrenaline was going,” Lester said. “Our game plan early was to set the tone, come right after the guys.”

But it looked like a couple of poor pitches would cost him. Sean Rodriguez (second inning) and Ben Zobrist (fourth) homered for a 2-0 lead.

That advantage looked enough for Rays left-hander Matt Moore, who had not allowed a hit through three innings.

Moore also dominated Boston with a complete game at Fenway Park in July, and he looked locked in again.

But Dustin Pedroia led off the fourth with a single.

Ortiz followed with a fly ball to the warning track in right. Myers backed up and seemed ready to catch it, but the ball bounced behind him and into the bullpen for a ground-rule double.

“I saw (center fielder Desmond Jennings) out of the corner of my eye and backed off,” Myers said. “It was totally my fault.”

And the crowd let him know it, chanting his name throughout the game.

With runners on second and third, Mike Napoli popped out. Gomes then came up and clubbed his two-run double off the ball, making it 2-2.

Saltalamacchia struck out but then the wheels really came off for Tampa Bay.

Stephen Drew hit a slow grounder to first. Moore ran over to cover but Drew beat him there. Meanwhile, Gomes scored from second base for a 3-2 lead.

“Double hustle,” Gomes said.

Will Middlebrooks doubled in Drew to make it 4-2. Jacoby Ellsbury reached after striking out on a wild pitch. Victorino followed with an RBI single to right. Boston led 5-2.

“(Moore) was not bad,” Maddon said. “We just kind of messed it up that inning. Mistakes will kill you.”

Boston knocked Moore out in the fifth with three more runs, Saltalamacchia’s double doing most of the damage.

Once Boston took the lead, Lester retired nine straight batters.

He walked two in the eighth and left with two outs to a raucous standing ovation.

“Setting aside the two mistakes to Rodriguez and Zobrist, Jon was strong,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said. “He stayed out of the middle of the plate.

“That’s as powerful stuff as Jon has had for us all year long, and it came at a very good time.”

The game became an official spanking when Boston added four in the eighth.

John Lackey will start Saturday for Boston.

“Hopefully John can go out there and give us another good start,” Lester said. “And when it’s said and done, hopefully we’ll go to Tampa up 2-0.”

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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