The Red Sox didn’t gain ground on the Yankees, so this series was by no means a successful one.
But they didn’t lose any, either. The Yankees had six hits and drew five walks today but were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base. Disaster was averted with a 2-1 victory.
“It’s huge. Any win this time of the year is big for us. Being here makes it a little more special. Just keep chipping away,” said Jon Lester, who went 6.1 strong innings.
The best part of the game, clearly, was watching Daniel Bard come in for Lester with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning. He struck out Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher on six pitches, all either 98 or 99 mph.
The pitch he threw to get Swisher was a 99-mph two-seam sinking fastball that broke down and away. It was as good a pitch as you’ll see anybody throw this season.
“Nobody throws a two-seamer 99,” Bill Hall said. “Nobody.”
Bard actually went to the video room to look at the pitch again. “That was moving,” he said. “Never saw that before.”
Bard looks like he should be playing bass in an alternative rock band. He has that just-out-bed hair, a scruffy beard and a countenance that is basically on full-time chill mode.
But he’s a bear on the mound and the ball explodes out of his hand. Guys like Jonathan Papelbon, Joba Chamberlain or Joel Zumaya look like they’re trying to throw hard when they do. Bard has that easy arm action and — bam! — the ball is there.
“Exciting,” said Lester when asked what it was like to watch from the bench. “It was obviously big for us to get out of that jam. He did a great job of executing pitches really well in that inning.”
Bard fell behind Mark Teixeira 3-1 in the 8th inning and gave up a home run. That led to Jonathan Papelbon getting a four-out save.
Some fans here and on Twitter debated the merits of pitching to Teixeira in the ninth inning with a runner on second. Two things:
* Teixeira was 0 for 8 in his career against Papelbon and the man on deck, Brett Gardner, was 4 for 5 with two walks. Small sample sizes, no doubt. But that is all Terry Francona had to work with.
* It’s also crazy to put the go-ahead run on base against a team like the Yankees. If Gardner extends the game, Robinson Cano is next and he has owned the Red Sox this season.
The other interesting aspect of this game was that Jacoby Ellsbury stole four bases, tying a team record set by Jerry Remy in 1980. Clearly, he’s getting back to the business of being Jacoby Ellsbury the baseball player and not the guy who took up residence on the DL.
“I’ll tell you what it shows: When he gets on base, we’re a different team. That’s stating the obvious,” Francona said. “He can change the game with his legs. When he starts getting on base, that bodes real well for us.”
How impactful can Ellsbury’s speed be for the Red Sox? He has played in only 14 games but his six steals are tied for second on the team with Darnell McDonald. Only Dustin Pedroia, with eight, has more.
That’s it from the Bronx. Thanks to everybody for reading today and joining the chat. Back it tomorrow from Toronto.