Apr 22, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher J. Lester (31) throws the ball against the New York Yankees in the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
The storyline for tonight’s game with the Yankees was supposed to be the pitching matchup between the resurgent Jon Lester and the Yankees new phenom, Japanese superstar Masahiro Tanaka. This game turned out to be the Yankees taking batting practice against Lester, as they prevailed 9-3.
The game started auspiciously enough with Lester pouring in the first two strikes to new Yankee and new object of Red Sox Nation hatred Jacoby Ellsbury. Instead of trying to get Ellsbury to chase the next pitch, Lester threw a fastball right over the middle of the plate up in the zone and Ellsbury pounded it to center field where a fan interfered with it and the umps called it a triple. Derek Jeter followed with a single on the first pitch, scoring Ellsbury, taking second and then third on a passed ball then errant throw by A.J. Pierzynski, then promptly scored on a ringing Carlos Beltran single. It was 2-0 after three batters in the first. The Yankees were working Lester’s pitch count, getting runners on base, and scoring again in the fourth with three straight doubles, to make it 4-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Red Sox gave their fans some hope when David Ortiz crushed a 3-1 fastball over the bullpen above the triangle for a solo home run. Mike Napoli followed with a laser shot home run over the Monster to cut the deficit in half. With two outs, Pierzynski lashed a double off the Monster and the Red Sox looked to be getting to Tanaka. Xander Bogaerts ended the threat by taking a called strike three. The Yankees returned to their attack in the top of the fifth, getting the first two batters on but Lester battled back to strike out the next two hitters. He was on the verge of getting out of the inning when Napoli could not catch Brian Roberts‘ liner, two steps to his right. Brian McCann, leading off first base, thought the catch had been made and started to leave the field, but Bogaerts could not get Grady Sizemore‘s attention to throw to him for the easy force at second. Sizemore threw home far too late, making it 5-2. Lester could not stop the bleeding and soon it was 7-2. Chris Capuano came on to allow one more run to score for a four-run Yankee fifth and the night was essentially over. Tanaka retired the Red Sox in order in the bottom of the fifth and it was time to play out the string. A double with two outs in the ninth by Bogaerts brought in the third run in the person of Gomes who had also doubled off Yankee phenom Dellin Betances who had been making the Red Sox look bad to that point.
Any story of this game should focus on the shoddy fielding of the Red Sox. Five of the eight runs against Jon Lester were unearned; he struggled all night. He was continually frustrated by close pitches he did not get, ultimately walking four and allowing 11 hits in 4.2 difficult innings. It seemed wherever the Yankees hit it, the ball fell in. Jonny Gomes could not get to a ball in left field which was in the air a long time. Jackie Bradley Jr. attempted to catch a ball in center that hit the wall a good two feet above his glove. In addition to that other Sizemore gaffe, he had another fly ball to right that he could not make the catch on, allowing a Yankee run. The Napoli error was the real killer of the game because they could have been out of that inning and ready to attack Tanaka. After that inning, the spirit seemed to go out of the Red Sox.
Another key for the Yankees was their ability to cash in their opportunities, going 7-for-18 with runners in scoring position (RISP). The Red Sox, on the other hand, went 1-for-7. They wasted a one out double from Pedroia who tried to start something in the bottom of the first. Tanaka then came back to strike out Ortiz and Napoli. Aside from the homers by Ortiz (which travelled 482 feet, the second longest in the majors this year) and Napoli in the fourth, they were never really in the game offensively. The large early deficit was too much to overcome, especially with the unfamiliar Tanaka on the mound.