PHILADELPHIA - David Wells, the corpulent and caustic lefthander who went through life with unbuttoned jersey and untethered tongue (right, Bud Selig?), took one look at this place when he was with the Red Sox and pronounced it fit for a World Series - the Little League version. The park's miniaturized dimensions, Wells sniffed, belonged in Williamsport. As a pitcher, he would have had it condemned as unfit for habitation.
Last night, another Sox lefthander, Jon Lester, ventured into Citizens Bank Park for his first pitching assignment here and looked so comfortable, the only thing he was missing was room service in a 3-0 win before 45,160 on a gorgeous late spring night.
The close fences and fearsome Phillies lineup, the highest-scoring bunch in the National League? Mere trifles for Lester, who allowed just six hits, all singles, and did not allow a Philadelphia batsman the courtesy of a visit to third base in seven innings.
"The guy's a winner," Sean Casey said of Lester, who is 6-3 overall and has won his last three starts, posting a 1.33 ERA in that span (20 1/3 IP, 3 ER). "He wants the ball. He competes.
"You can just see it, the way he goes about his business. Certain guys have a presence on the mound, and having been around the league, I can see it, and he's one.
Ryan Howard, the bruiser who hit two home runs off Bartolo Colon a night earlier? Three trips to the plate against Lester, three right turns to the dugout, all on swinging third strikes. Howard later whiffed a fourth time against closer Jonathan Papelbon, who struck out the side in registering his 20th save.
Pat Burrell, Philadelphia's righthanded power threat who also homered off Colon? Two whiffs and a popup to second against Lester. Burrell also went down swinging against Papelbon, who entered after Hideki Okajima, in a two-whiff eighth, had his best outing of the month.
"He was terrific, especially against the middle part of the order," manager Terry Francona said of Lester. "He used his breaking ball behind in the count, his two-seamer. His command in the strike zone is a lot better, his tempo.
"He's growing up as a pitcher. His confidence is growing. He should be confident. He has a lot of ways to get people out."
Lester gave an assist to Mike Lowell for starting two double plays, and said that against a fastball-hitting team like the Phillies, going soft was the best approach.
"I threw curveballs," he said of working Howard. "Had to get him off the fastball. I got away with one that I left middle up, but that's because I had set him up with the curveball."
Lester walked just one batter last night, and has walked a total of two in his last three starts.
"Every start is getting better," he said. "Walks are going down. I'm more around the zone."
The Sox, meanwhile, profited from another unexpected show of power from Coco Crisp, who has been making a habit of flexing his muscles on this six-game swing through life on the Other Side. Crisp hit a two-run home run in the second off older-than-dirt Jamie Moyer, then singled, stole second, and scored on Julio Lugo's double in the sixth, personally accounting for all of the Sox' scoring.
Crisp hit home runs in each of his two starts against the Reds, one from either side of the plate. After a night off Monday, the switch-hitting Crisp hit another one from the right side, this one off the 45-year-old Moyer, whose fastball arrives at the plate at roughly the same speed as Josh Beckett's changeup and whose change might have trouble beating Tim Wakefield's knuckler homeward.
Moyer has made a handsome living with his offspeed repertoire, and by mixing in a sinker more, he has enjoyed a renaissance. He shut out the Marlins on two hits over eight innings in his last start, and the Phillies had won his last six starts, outscoring opponents, 56-18.
But if Moyer's continued employment depended on his ability to beat the Sox, for whom he once pitched, he would have long since retired. Moyer has not beaten the Sox since May 3, 2001, when he was with Seattle. In nine starts since, he is 0-7 with a 9.07 ERA.
Last night, Moyer was undone by control problems, the patient Sox working five walks out of him in five innings. He also gave up four hits, but all those runners did not translate into a procession across the plate.
Neither did Boston's six stolen bases, which tied a club record. Crisp scored after swiping second in the sixth, but none of the other base stealers did. That included Jacoby Ellsbury, who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh and stole his 34th base in the ninth, but became the only runner apprehended by Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz when he was thrown out attempting to steal third.
It was the first time this season Ellsbury was bagged stealing third; he'd been 7 for 7.
"One too many chances," said Francona, who clearly would have preferred that Ellsbury not made the last out of the inning at third with Lowell at the plate.
The most unlikely stealer last night? That would be Casey, who took off on a full-count pitch in the eighth and stole second, his first steal since last July 15 and the 18th of his career.
Is there a compilation DVD showing all of Casey's stolen bases?
"If there is, it's a short video," he said. "If anyone wants to, they can watch it with me. Jacoby has almost twice as many just this season."
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.