Lester shines as Sox light up Yankees
Red Sox manager Terry Francona talks about Jon Lester's effort that helped the Red Sox snap a five-game losing streak with a 7-0 triumph over the Yankees Friday night.
NEW YORK - What Jon Lester did last night for the Red Sox came as a great relief to a team that had lost its last five games. What he did to the Yankees, throwing a 7-0 shutout in his first appearance at Yankee Stadium, roiled a team that is tilting toward irrelevance, except for maybe the gossip columns.
That's why the stands were half-full when the game ended, most in the sellout crowd of 54,677 unwilling to see the last out of the Yankees' fourth loss in their last five games, dropping them closer to last place than first. It's also why Yankees manager Joe Girardi kept the clubhouse doors shut for close to a half-hour while he upbraided the Bombers. "Everybody's embarrassed," said last night's loser, Andy Pettitte. "We walked through that tonight."
The triumph, by Sox-Yankee standards, was swift (2 hours 46 minutes), wire to wire (the Sox led, 2-0, after one, 4-0 after two, 6-0 after five), and utterly dominating, Lester holding the Bombers to four singles and a double a night after they'd scored 18 runs in the wake of a tongue-lashing from the new boss, Hank Steinbrenner, who is a chip off the Old Boss.
Today is George Steinbrenner's 78th birthday. It was also 35 years ago to the day, in Steinbrenner's first season as Yankee owner, that a Sox lefthander, Rogelio Moret, threw a shutout against the Yan kees. Moret was the last Sox lefty to tame the Bombers in such fashion until last night, when Lester disposed of the Yankees, a lineup known for matching Boston at-bat for grinding at-bat, on a mere 104 pitches.
And he did it against the pitcher to whom he is most often compared, Pettitte, who came into the game having won his last six decisions but never recovered from the throwing error Derek Jeter made in the first, turning what should have been an inning-ending double play into the catalyst for a two-run rally.
"A young Andy Pettitte? That's pretty good," said Sox bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who was with the Yankees in a similar capacity in 1996, when Pettitte was Lester's age (24) and won 21 games.
"Stuff-wise, makeup-wise, they're very similar. They're both workaholics, for one, they both focus on winning games, and they both have great stuff."
Could Tuck envision Lester following a parallel track to Pettitte, the anchor of so many Yankee championship seasons?
"Maybe better," said Tuck, not given to exaggeration. "He has a lot of plus-plus pitches, and he's working on making them better. Back door, front door, he does everything he wants with a ball in his hands.
"Young, gifted, and strong."
Jacoby Ellsbury's bloop double off Pettitte scored two runs in the second, and Coco Crisp, who along with Jason Varitek crossed the plate on Ellsbury's hit, singled, stole second, and scored on Julio Lugo's sacrifice fly in the fourth for the fifth run. J.D. Drew doubled, took third on Manny Ramírez's single (breaking an 0-for-12 slump), and scored on Mike Lowell's sacrifice fly in the fifth, the inning that finished Pettitte.
Varitek broke his 0-for-19 slump with an RBI single in the eighth to finish the scoring.
The shutout was the second of the season for Lester, his May 19 no-hitter against the Royals his first. Two years ago in Fenway Park, the Bombers bounced him around for seven runs on eight hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings.
"It was cool," he said. "Definitely a different atmosphere. When you watch a game on TV, it looks so big."
Lester walked the first two Yankees he faced, Johnny Damon and Jeter, but got Bobby Abreu to hit into a force play, Alex Rodriguez to chase a third-strike fastball out of the zone, and Jason Giambi swinging. He never looked back, the Sox turning three double plays behind him and Crisp and Drew running down balls on the track.
And, yes, Lester said, he grew up with an appreciation for Pettitte.
"I've definitely watched him," he said. "I've modeled the way I pitch after him. We have similar stuff - fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball. I watch to see how he handles things. We were lucky to get to him early."
The win drew the Sox within three games of the Tampa Bay Rays, who had the night off. The Yankees, meanwhile, are eight games behind the Rays and just a game ahead of the Orioles, 10-7 losers to the Royals, going into the day traditionally considered a bellwether for how a pennant race will unfold.
"We did not play a good game," Girardi said. "We didn't do anything. We didn't hit, we didn't pitch, we didn't play a good game. I was not happy with the results."
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.