|How the Yankees finally got to Jon Lester||08.06.11 at 12:46 am ET|
Red Sox fans have seen this movie before.
An ace pitcher is cruising along against the vaunted Yankee lineup, like Jon Lester was on Friday night. The Sox left had allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings, throwing just 73 pitches in the process.
Then, boom. All of sudden, the Yankees start taking pitches, fouling off pitcher’s pitches and making every swing count. The Yankees still work the pitcher as well as any team in baseball and they proved it again Friday night, trailing 2-0.
Even the best pitchers the Red Sox ever had – like Pedro Martinez, circa 1999 – have fallen victim to this in the last 15 years that Derek Jeter has been a captain. And Jeter was at the middle of things – or more to the point – the start of things on Friday night.
Eduardo Nunez fell behind quickly two strikes to open the sixth, with the Lester and the Red Sox in command, 2-0. Then six pitches – including two foul balls – later, he was on base with a walk. Jeter singled and Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI single to left-center and it was 2-1.
“Just really lost command,” Lester said. “You have to tip your cap to them. They did a good job being patient that inning. I threw some pretty good pitches they laid off, whether it was a ball or strike, they stayed within themselves and it seemed like the first five innings, we dictated both sides of the plate and in the sixth inning, they did.”
Lester would throw his final 35 pitches of the night in that sixth inning as the Yankees rallied for three runs off Lester.
“The first thing was Nunez’s at-bat, the fact that he was able a 3-2 walk after fouling off some really tough pitches,” Granderson said. “I think he threw pretty anything and everything at him. Derek got his first hit of the ball game, I got my first hit. Nunez read it really well and was able to score.”
Following Granderson’s hit, Mark Teixeira worked the second walk of the inning to load the bases for Robinson Cano. The Yankees most-dangerous hitter hit a sharp grounder to second for a 4-6-3 DP that tied the game. While it was two outs on one pitch, it was the ninth pitch Lester had to throw to Cano in that at-bat alone.
Whether it was fatigue or simply lack of focus, Lester seemed to let up and gave Nick Swisher a pitch that found too much of the plate and he ripped the go-ahead double to left to give the Yankees the lead for good.
“I think the thing that sealed the deal was Swish’s two-out hit right there,” Granderson said. “You can easily go ahead and say, ‘OK, we got two there and we tied it and let’s see if we can score some more [in later innings]. But Swish has been swinging the bat real well and delivered the ball just beyond the reach of Youkilis and I was able to score.”
“I was aware we were having good at-bats,” added Jeter. “I think that’s the key. I don’t think anyone was looking at his pitch count. But we were having good at-bats, and it started with Nunez getting that walk. After that, we strung together some good AB’s. Lester is a handful and we were fortunate to get those runs of him there.”
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