Lester outduels Tanaka; Red Sox nip Yankees 2-1


Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports)

Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox prevailed in one of the season’s marquee pitching matchups Saturday, defeating the New York Yankees and rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka 2-1 in the Bronx.

With the scored tied 1-1 and the Red Sox down to their last out in regulation, Mike Napoli lined a 1-2 fastball over Yankee Stadium’s famed short porch in right field for an opposite field home run that gave the Red Sox a narrow lead.

Closer Koji Uehara dispatched the Yankees quickly in the bottom of the ninth, with two strikeouts and a soft line drive to center, to seal the victory and even the series at one game apiece.

Napoli was surprised at the two-strike offering he received from Tanaka, telling WEEI after the game:

"He had me where he wanted me. I don’t know, I was just looking, I was just hoping he would hang the split. Usually he doesn’t. I was pretty surprised, but I was down to two strikes. I was just trying to see something up. My mind was saying, “Hang a splitter,” but I just got something up in the zone that I could handle."

The Red Sox’ first run also came by virtue of the long ball. With one out in the top of the third inning, David Ross hit an 0-1 fastball into the left field stands to stake the Red Sox to a 1-0 lead.

The Yankees answered in the bottom of the frame.

Leading off, Brian Roberts reached base on a fielding error by Stephen Drew and went to second when Lester hit Yangervis Solarte on the foot with a pitch. Brett Gardner moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt and Derek Jeter followed with a sharp ground ball to Drew that scored Roberts.

Lester (9-7, 2.92) pitched eight innings giving up five hits and an unearned run. He threw 118 pitches, striking out six and walking two. Uehara notched his 17th save.

Tanaka (11-3, 2.10) pitched a complete game but lost his second consecutive decision. He threw 116 pitches, surrendering seven hits and two earned runs. He struck out eight and walked two.

Dustin Pedroia had three hits for the Red Sox, who stranded four runners on the bases, all in scoring position.

Pedroia was out at second in the top of the sixth inning trying to stretch a single to center field. He made efforts to avoid the tag of second baseman Brian Roberts on a throw from center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and initially he was called safe. Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged the call and replay quickly confirmed that Roberts applied the tag in time.

In addition to his home run, Ross threw out Gardner, who had singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, trying to steal second base. The play proved important because Jeter and Ellsbury followed with singles.

There was a buzz leading up to the game as the Red Sox promoted minor league sensation Mookie Betts earlier in the day, optioning Rubby De La Rosa to Triple A Pawtucket. Betts did not play at all in his first game in a major league uniform.

The Red Sox (37-44) are seven games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East division, and five games behind the third place Yankees (41-38). With the win, the Red Sox have completed 81 games, half of their regular season schedule.

John Lackey (8-5, 3.45) squares off against Chase Whitley (3-1, 4.07) tonight at 8:05 (ESPN) in the deciding game of the series.