Boston’s Saturday afternoon game against the Yankees at Fenway Park was a stark contrast in haves and have-nots. Boston and Jon Lester had it. New York and CC Sabathia decidedly did not. The Sox gnawed away at the compromised Yankee lefty, systematically pulling all the right levers and eventually pulling away for a 5-1 win that looked easy.
Unlike the home run bashing festival of late the Red Sox served notice that they could play small ball to manufacture runs, made ever more satisfying since it happened against the floundering Bombers and their one-time ace.
By all measures the 2013 edition of Sabathia is a shell of the dominant pitcher of old. His fastball tops out at 92 mph and although he has continued to be durable – 198 innings going into his start at Fenway – he is third in the AL in hits allowed (208), first in runs allowed (116) and first in earned runs allowed (106). He is fifth in home runs allowed, 26th in average against (.268) and 27th in WHIP (34th). That’s why he’s 13-13 with a 4.82 ERA. The Red Sox in particular have punished him this year. Sabathia has a 7.15 ERA against Boston in 2013.
While Boston was busy knocking Sabathia around, Lester had New York in a headlock all afternoon long. When he left after eight complete innings, he’d thrown an efficient 116 pitches, allowing just one run and three hits. Lester’s 2.53 ERA after the All-Star break is better by over two runs from his pre All-Star break 4.58 ERA. How sweet it is.
Boston manufactured runs through the first five innings while Lester held the Yanks in check. After Mike Napoli got a Fenway scorekeeper gift single, taking second base on an awful overthrow to first by Yankee third baseman Mark Reynolds, Jonny Gomes drew a walk, Daniel Nava sac bunted Napoli to third and Will Middlebrooks grounded out to shortstop to score Napoli.
In the third, the Sox were back to their get ‘em on, get ‘em over and get ‘em in philosophy. Dustin Pedroia singled, Shane Victorino sac bunted him to second and David Ortiz doubled Pedey home. Boston wasn’t done. After two more singles by Napoli and Gomes, Papi was home safely and Boston had a 3-0 lead.
After the Yankees got one back in the top of the fourth, Boston tacked on another run in the bottom of the frame after Victorino singled to score David Ross.
It was efficient, clinical and had an air of finality. Uncharacteristically, it took Boston a scant two hours and forty-three minutes to dispatch the Yankees, reducing their magic number to six. With the win Boston vaulted to an MLB best 91-59 record while going 32 games over .500 for the first time this season.
The Sox and Yanks are currently two teams going in opposite directions. Barring a major stumble down the stretch Boston will win the division title and will be playoff bound. A playoff berth for New York is very much in question.