BOSTON -- When David Ortiz and Jon Lester are productive, so are the Boston Red Sox. They are two big reasons why the Sox have been able to turn a horrid April into a prosperous May and both were at their best Sunday at Fenway Park.
Lester worked seven strong innings, allowing only one run on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts to lead Boston to an 8-1 victory over the Royals. The southpaw is 6-0 with a 1.43 ERA in eight starts since April 23.
Prior to his first recorded win on April 28, Lester struggled in his first four starts of the season but got it going in May, posting a 5-0 record in 6 starts.
"I just pitch every five days," he said. "I don't worry about other stuff. You can sit here and dwell on the past, and you're not thinking about your next opponent. Those starts were behind me the day after I started those games. I'm not too concerned about it, nor will I be concerned about it if I do it again. I know what I'm capable of and I just have to get on a roll, get some confidence and the rest will take care of itself."
Ortiz has also been a force in May and it's no surprise that he's been in a good mood lately.
He has reason to be.
Ortiz clubbed a two-run homer to straight-away center in the fifth inning on Sunday to help Boston to victory and a split in this four-game set against the Royals. He now has seven homers in his last 15 games and hit a total of 10 in the month of May. He last accomplished the feat with 10 roundtrippers in August of 2006.
"He's got himself to a point where he feels really good about himself," said Red Sox manger Terry Francona. "You can see it in his body language and his energy. He feels good. He goes up to the plate and if [opposing pitchers] make a mistake, he hits it a long way. Sometimes if they don't make a mistake, he'll shoot it to left or fight it off. He's a very dangerous and productive hitter."
Just prior to his two-run blast on Sunday, Ortiz stood in the on-deck circle and was having a conversation with someone in the front row. After his towering shot that landed in the center field bleacher seats, Ortiz crossed home plate and pointed to that same person.
After the game Ortiz explained it was one of his "cats" that he hasn't seen at a game in a while.
"What are you doing here?" Ortiz asked his friend.
"Waiting for you to go deep," the friend replied.
"I told him, 'Here it comes.' Boom!"
There has been a lot of "boom" for Ortiz in May. He ended the first month of the season with a .143 average and one homer. He's since raised his average more than 125 points after finishing the month with a .362 average, 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 24 games. He has hit safely in 18 of his past 20 games as well.
"I don't think anybody in our clubhouse doubted him," Lester said. "He started out slow last year and put up a hell of a year for not hitting a homer for two months. We all know it's there. Guys start slow. I myself start out slow. For whatever reason, it happens. I don't think guys in the clubhouse doubted what he could do.
"He's a big presence in our lineup. Whatever he did to get back to doing what he's doing is great," added Lester. "It's fun to see him. He's got his swagger back, that confidence. He started hitting the ball out of the park."
Ortiz is also riding an eight-game hitting streak and is 10-for-26 (.385) during that stretch. He has voiced his displeasure time and again when asked about his lowly April, saying it's not how you start, but how you finish.
"I just keep doing the same thing, man," Ortiz said. "See the ball and swing. That's it. I guess people started talking trash too early. I feel good. It's not over, yet."
It's clear the Ortiz swagger is back. He's a candidate for player of the month for his offensive surge and his teammates have noticed something familiar about him.
"He looks dangerous," said Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron. "That's a good sign for the Boston Red Sox. When you have that type of hitter in that position, considering we do get a lot of guys on base it makes it that much easier for the team to try to win ballgames every day."
With Boston's victory on Sunday, the Sox have won or split each of their last five series and the club owns the best record in the American League since May 3 at 18-9.
For all the success the Red Sox enjoyed in May (they were 18-11 for the month), now that the calendar turns to June, the Red Sox realize there's a lot of baseball remaining. Francona, for one, says he doesn't pay too much attention to streaks or skids.
"I don't fall into that," he said. "Our record is what it is and that's more important. You can go week to week. You can look at the last four, seven, or 10 and if you're looking for a bright spot, you can back it up. If you want to be negative, you can back it up farther. We say it constantly you just try to control what you can control. Three weeks ago is out of our hands now."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.