The Red Sox and Yankees have been involved in some pretty crazy games in recent weeks. Big leads going away, game-winning grand slams...sure, they've almost all resulted in Red Sox wins, but every once in a while you'd hope for one that doesn't cause heart palpitations at any point.
Well, Jon Lester heard the request, and answered it. Eight fantastic innings from the man who is looking perhaps even better than he did to start the season served to hold an early Red Sox lead without ever allowing New York to really even threaten a comeback. The ninth Red Sox win in eleven games was, for once, easy.
As Jon Lester rises back to his old heights, his opponent in today's game has entered a full-on nose dive. CC Sabathia looked at all like the ace of old for no more than one inning, getting three outs on his first seven pitches of the game. Then the Red Sox knocked him back down. A leadoff single from Mike Napoli and an errant throw from Mark Reynolds ended up bringing in the first run of the game in the second as the Red Sox played small ball with a Daniel Nava bunt and Will Middlebrooks RBI ground out.
The third inning would also feature a sacrifice bunt, but this one proved completely unnecessary. Coming from Shane Victorino after a leadoff single from Dustin Pedroia, the gift out was the only one CC Sabathia would record against the first five batters he faced. While the Red Sox would let him off the hook somewhat, bringing just two runs in to score in the frame, they pushed another run across in the fourth despite a double play, and a fifth in the fifth after Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes started the inning with a walk and a double respectively.
While in the past, the arrival of the Yankees' bullpen has led to plenty of runs on the board, this game it proved the end. Joba Chamberlain and Matt Daley kept the runs off the board for the seventh and eighth, but it didn't matter with Lester pitching like a man on a mission. Perfect through three innings, Lester would slip up just once, and even then it may not have been entirely his fault. A long fly ball to center field turned Shane Victorino around before falling in on the warning track. Granderson raced all the way to third, then scored on a groundout from Robinson Cano.
And that was it. While Jon Lester has gotten in trouble sometimes relying too heavily on his cutter, tonight it was at its best, with 29 of them picking up five swings-and-misses. Combined with his regular fastball sitting around 93 MPH, Lester was able to keep the Yankees consistently quiet without having to turn to his slower offerings often. With Lester keeping his pitch count down early, the Yankees couldn't get him out of the game until the ninth, when Franklin Morales took over and pitched a mean-looking final inning to secure their eighth straight series win.
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