Sox get even with sweep
Three HRs help to reach .500
NEW YORK — Last night was a difficult one for Jon Lester. The Red Sox lefthander “didn’t have a feel for anything’’ against the Yankees. He gave up two home runs, struggled with his command, and junked the game plan after two innings.
It was just the kind of game he treasures.
Lester found a way to get through six innings, and that was enough to help the Sox to a 7-5 victory and a three-game sweep.
Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit home runs in support of Lester and three relievers as the Sox swept a three-game series in the Bronx for the first since 2004.
“As a starting pitcher, when you can go out there and not have your best stuff and still come out on top, that’s always a good thing,’’ said Lester, who allowed four runs on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. “These are the games that you remember at the end of the year when you look back on things.
“The two-hit shutouts that you throw when you can basically throw your glove out there, those are the special nights that don’t come along very often. When it’s all said and done, these grinders are the more important ones.’’
Now the season begins. The $161 million Red Sox are .500 for the first time at 20-20, and return to Fenway Park to face the Orioles tonight just three games out of first place.
“It actually feels good,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Saying that, we’ve got a game [tonight] and hopefully this is kind of moving forward.’’
At the same time, the Sox have sent their rivals spinning into disarray. The Yankees have lost five straight and nine of 12. The Sox are 5-1 against the Yankees this season and have won 12 of 17 going back to last year.
Lester (5-1) gave up four runs in the first two innings then blanked the Yankees for four. The Sox went to former Yankee Alfredo Aceves to start the seventh inning. He allowed an unearned run when Carl Crawford bobbled a ball in left field. But Daniel Bard came in and snuffed the rally.
The Sox got the run back when Saltalamacchia homered to right field against Joba Chamberlain. It was the first home run by a Red Sox catcher this season and the first for Saltalamacchia since Aug. 2, 2009, when he played for the Rangers.
Bard pitched the eighth inning before Jonathan Papelbon took care of the Yankees in the ninth for his seventh save.
A day after Jorge Posada sparked turmoil by refusing to play after being dropped to ninth in the lineup, the Yankees were Team Tranquility last night. Posada apologized to manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman, quelling the controversy.
The Yankees then celebrated the era of good feeling by beating on Lester for two innings. Derek Jeter was hit in the foot by a breaking pitch to start the bottom of the first. He advanced on a ground out and scored on Mark Teixeira’s single to center.
Lester was battered in the second inning. Andruw Jones, the designated hitter in place of Posada, hammered a cutter deep over the fence in left field. Lester then walked Russell Martin on five pitches. After getting two outs, Lester left a fastball over the plate and Curtis Granderson lined it into the seats in right.
Lester had entered the game riding a scoreless streak of 16 1/3 innings against the Yankees. But in a span of 11 batters he had surrendered four runs.
Fortunately for Lester, he was facing Freddy Garcia (2-3), who allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits and two walks before leaving with one out in the sixth.
The Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning as Youkilis struck out but reached on a passed ball, Ortiz singled to right field, and J.D. Drew walked. Jed Lowrie flied out deep to center, driving in Youkilis
Down, 4-1, in the third, the Sox tied it when Youkilis belted his seventh homer of the season after Jacoby Ellsbury doubled and Adrian Gonzalez walked.
Down, 0-and-2 in the count, Youkilis worked the count full then fouled off a slider. Garcia then threw his first fastball of the at-bat, a pitch down the middle of the plate that was all but screaming “hit me’’ as it arrived. Youkilis was accommodating.
“That put us right back in the game,’’ Francona said.
The Sox took their first lead in the fifth inning when Ortiz broke his bat swinging at a changeup and had enough muscle to push the ball over the fence in right field, just inside the foul pole 314 feet away.
“It takes a strong guy to do that,’’ Saltalamacchia said.
The lead grew to 6-4 in the seventh. Dustin Pedroia walked and stole second. That prompted the Yankees to intentionally walk Gonzalez to get to Youkilis. He hit a slow roller up the third base line that went through the legs of Alex Rodriguez. Pedroia scored before the Yankees could make a play.
“We’re going out and playing good ball right now. We have to keep going,’’ Youkilis said. “Just keep grinding away.’’