BOSTON — A little infusion of youth and a solid start by Jon Lester kept the Boston Red Sox rolling along.
Lester pitched seven shutout innings and Brock Holt drove in two runs with one of his major league record-tying four doubles to lift the Red Sox to their seventh straight win, completing a three-game sweep over the reeling Tampa Bay Rays with a 4-0 victory on Sunday.
Boston’s streak follows a 10-game skid, its longest in 20 years. The Red Sox said that matches a major league record for consecutive wins after a double-digit losing stretch, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
The 1989 Detroit Tigers did it after losing 12 in a row, and the 1942 Pittsburgh Pirates also did it after dropping 10 straight.
Rookies Garin Cecchini and Adam Hassen collected their first major league hits to go along with fellow rookie Holt’s big day.
“It’s great. It kind of makes you reminisce of all the good firsts and just how excited they’ll be,” Lester said. “That’s the cool part about this game, to see these guys come up and doing this stuff to help out the team.”
Holt tied a major league record for doubles in a single game one day after he hit his first major league homer in Saturday night’s win. Cecchini added an RBI double for his first major league hit.
“We’re tapping into organization depth and guys are ready to contribute,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “It is a special day. I don’t know the last time two Red Sox players have gotten their first major league hits in a game.”
Evan Longoria had a pair of singles for the Rays, who dropped their season-high sixth straight. Tampa Bay owns the AL’s worst record at 23-34.
Holt has sparked Boston’s offense by moving into the leadoff spot, which had been a weakness since Jacoby Ellsbury left via free agency during the offseason, signing with the New York Yankees.
“It’s a fun day,” Holt said. “Anytime you can go out and do something like that, I had a little bit of luck on my side, too.”
Lester (6-6) allowed four hits, while striking out 12 and walking one. It was the left-hander’s 19th career double-digit strikeout game, coming after he struck out a career-best 15 against the Oakland Athletics on May 3.
The Rays looked punchless for the third straight game.
“It’s been kind of ongoing for a little while now,” Tampa Bay second baseman Logan Forsythe said.
“A team doesn’t stay stagnant for that long. We’re going to get hot, we’re going to get going soon. It’s just a matter of time. We’re putting the work in. Now we just wait and see when it happens, and when it happens, just roll with it.”
Tampa Bay was held to three runs in the series and has scored two or fewer runs in nine of its past 14 games, losing eight of those.
“I really believe that run’s there,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s really pretty much rooted in one component of our game – we’re just not a consistent offensive team right now.”
Edward Mujica and Koji Uehara each pitched an inning to complete the five-hit shutout.
For the second straight day, the clubs were cordial to each other on the field after three Boston managers and a pitcher were ejected in Friday’s game.
Rays starter David Price hit David Ortiz in the first inning and Mike Carp later in the fourth. The Carp one triggered the benches to clear, the second time in less than a week the two teams had a scrum.
Last Sunday in Tropicana Field, players in Boston’s dugout started yelling at Yunel Escobar when he stole third with the Rays up by five runs late.
The Red Sox broke ahead 3-0 in the fourth against Erik Bedard (2-4). Hassan singled to center for his first hit after Jonny Gomes singled leading off. Jackie Bradley Jr. then walked before Jonathan Herrera had a sacrifice fly, making it 1-0. Holt followed with his two-run double.
Bedard lasted 4 2-3 innings, allowing three runs and five hits, walking four and striking out four.