Firing dart after dart at the strike zone, Jon Lester Jon Lester went eight innings, giving up just three hits and striking out five, pushing the Red Sox to a 5-1 win over a Yankees team trying desperately to sneak into one of the wild card spots.
After coming into this three-game set with the Sox just 1.5 games back in the wild card, trying to chase down the Rangers and the Rays, the Yankees have dropped back-to-back games and six of their past 10.
Meanwhile the Sox continue to pull away in the AL East, improving to 91-59.
Lester, who made his 218th career start for the Red Sox to move into seventh on the team’s all-time list, improved to 14-8 on the season. In his past six starts, he’s 4-1 with a 1.81 ERA and 33 strikeouts.
The Sox are 12-6 against New York this season. The win gave them their fourth series win over the Yankees this year.
End of the seventh, Red Sox 5, Yankees 1: After six innings and 110 pitches, CC Sabathia called it a day.
He gave up five runs on nine hits and four walks with five strikeouts. In his past five starts, he’s given up 20 earned runs.
Joba Chamberlain tossed a 1-2-3 seventh.
End of the sixth, Red Sox 5, Yankees 1: The Yankees couldn’t make anything out of Curtis Granderson’s leadoff double, and the despite a sharp liner to left by David Ortiz, the Sox couldn’t capitalize one Shane Victorino’s two-out double.
Granderson and Victorino are both 2 for 3 on the day.
Victorino also swiped his 21s base of the season.
End of the fifth, Red Sox 5, Yankees 1: Jon Lester’s managed to coast through five one-run, two-hit innings throwing just 67 pitches.
He hasn’t danced around the strike zone at all, throwing 49 of his 67 pitches for strikes.
Still, occasionally he’s run into a battle. Three of his at-bats have gone seven pitches and two have gone eight.
Rodgriguez has been milking him the most, with a seven pitch at-bat in the second and an eight-pitch at-bat in the fourth. In all, 15 of the pitches Lester’s thrown have been to Rodriguez.
In the fifth, Lester got into a stare down with Ichiro, who fouled off three pitches in an eight-pitch battle before grounding into a fielder’s choice.
After that, though, Lester struck out JR Murphy on three pitches, the last a curveball that Murphy chased as it dived down and in.
He also working with some sufficient cushion with Daniel Nava driving in Mike Napoli on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning.
There was a stretch from the start of July to mid-August when Lester left the game with the lead just twice over eight starts. In his past five starts coming into today, he’s 18 runs of support and left with the lead three times.
End of the fourth, Red Sox 4, Yankees 1: Jon Lester had retired the first nine batters he faced today before Curtis Granderson ripped a liner to centerfield and legged a triple out of it.
Robinson Cano made sure not to leave him stranded, driving him in with a ground ball to first.
But that was as much noise as the Yankees could make, and the Sox quickly got the run back thanks to a leadoff single by David Ross and a run-scoring base hit by Shane Victorino, who now has hits in seven of his past eight games, going 9 for 31 in that stretch.
End of the third, Red Sox 3, Yankees 0: For everything that’s been made of Dustin Pedroia sliding into the leadoff spot, how about what he’s done this season when he’s led off an inning.
Coming into today, he was hitting .313 with four doubles, a home run and 11 walks in 99 at-bats to start an inning.
He added another one in the third that allowed the Sox to tack two more runs on to their lead.
After Pedroia stroking a 1-and-0 fastball to left for a single, Shane Victorino moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, and David Ortiz brought him in ignoring the shift with a line-drive double to left.
After Mike Napoli singled, Jonny Gomes drove Ortiz in with a single up the middle.
End of the second, Red Sox 1, Yankees 0: On one soft ground ball down the third-base line, Mike Napoli got a couple of gifts. First, Mark Reynold’s wild throw over to first sailed into the Red Sox dugout, allowing Napoli to reach on a ball he was barely running out. Second, the official scorer ruled it a hit and gave Napoli second base on the throwing error.
The Yankees paid for the bungling the leadoff play. Jonny Gomes walked to make it first and second with no outs.
Knowing his job was to move the runners over as soon as he stepped to the plate, Daniel Nava laid a bunt down on a first-pitch fastball to push Napoli and Gomes into scoring position.
After falling behind 0-and-2, Middlebrooks finished off the factory-assembled run with a ground out to shortstop to give the Sox the early lead.
End of the first, Red Sox 0, Yankees 0: An inning couldn’t fly by much more quickly.
Six outs. Fifteen pitches.
Lester got ground balls out of Curtis Granderson, Mark Reynolds and Robinson Cano.
Sabathia got Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz all to fly out.
Along with velocity, Sabathia’s control has been an issue this season. His strikeout rate is down from 23.7 last year to 19.8 this year and his 6.8 walk rate is as high as its been since 2010.
Of the 25 pitches he’s thrown through two innings, 14 have found the strike zone.
Pregame: It’s not at all a stretch to say that whatever hopes the Yankees have of sneaking into one of the wild card spots hinge on CC Sabathia’s performance in the seasons’ final weeks.
Besides the weight that come with his price tag, he has the expectations that comes with being the rock of the Yankees rotation for so long.
But it’s obvious from his 13-12 record and his 4.82 ERA that he hasn’t been the same pitcher this year.
Earlier in the week he told the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff, “It’s frustrating, but it’s baseball. You’ve got to go out and try to keep the game close. It’s up to me to try to keep the game close and give these guys a chance to win.”
Today, he’ll run into Jon Lester, who’s 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in his past five starts.
Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano was scratched with a sprained right thumb. He’s being called “day-to-day.”
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