|Closing Time: Jon Lester dominates, Pedro Ciriaco unstoppable as Red Sox beat Yankees||08.18.12 at 7:20 pm ET|
NEW YORK — This is why the Red Sox didn’t trade Jon Lester for pennies on the dollar.
It has been a difficult year for the left-hander. His 6-10 record and 5.20 ERA entering Saturday suggest that depths of his year-long struggles to find consistency.
But the Sox did not bite when teams went fishing to see if they would sell low at the trade deadline on the left-hander, and the pitcher’s last two starts — albeit against injury-diminished Indians and Yankees lineups — have underscored the Sox’ conviction that Lester still has the stuff to be too important an asset to consider dealing. After a six-inning, one-run, 12-strikeout effort on Sunday, Lester backed up that effort by delivering seven dominant innings against the Yankees in a 4-1 victory.
He again permitted just one run, this time allowing five hits and two walks, holding the Yankees hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. He struck out four, bumping up his fastball to 95 mph and showing a nasty swing-and-miss cutter that had late downward bite, along with a curveball that he could throw for strikes.
It marked just the second time this year — and first since May 14-19 — that Lester has won back-to-back starts. The common denominator in the most recent two outings? They both came on the road. In a year in which his numbers will fall far short of his career norms, it is striking that Lester is now 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA in 11 starts on the road, having held his opponents to one or no runs in six of 11 of those road starts — a level of dominance that suggests that the Sox are right to continue to view him as a rotation anchor, rather than someone to send packing.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Adrian Gonzalez delivered a signature two-run homer into the left-field grandstand in the top of the first inning. Naturally, the homer came with a runner on second base, improving Gonzalez’s major league-best average with runners in scoring position to .409 with a 1.150 OPS. Seven of his 14 homers have come with runners in scoring position. He went 2-for-3 with an intentional walk, and on the year, he is now up to a .308 average and .830 OPS.
– Pedro Ciriaco could not be contained against the Yankees for long. The 26-year-old, who started at shortstop on Saturday, responded to an 0-for-3 night on Friday by going 4-for-4, improving to 15-for-29 (.517) against New York for the year (and in his career). According to Gary Marbry of Nuggetpalooza fame, Ciriaco’s .500 average is the highest career mark against the Yankees in New York franchise history (min. 25 AB), ahead of Glenn Hubbard (.462).
– Dustin Pedroia went 1-for-5, doubling in his fourth at-bat of the game, to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He also made an outstanding pivot of a double play ball in the second inning to help keep Lester from an early derailment.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– Cody Ross, likely still hobbled after slamming a pair of foul balls off his own leg on Friday, went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Still, while health may have played into his struggles on Saturday, the Yankees have shut down Ross this year. He’s hitting just .167/.222/.357 with 17 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances against them this year.
– Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-5, and failed to score a runner from third with no outs in the ninth inning.
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