Lester keeps Sox unbeaten vs. Yanks
Ten strikeouts supported by Bay's seventh-inning homer
NEW YORK -- In the hours leading up to the latest rivalry matchup, the Red Sox were just trying to find their way around. After all, Monday was their first game at the palatial new Yankee Stadium.
"I went to the kitchen, and next thing I know, I was in the gym," laughed David Ortiz. "I was like, 'What?' Then I went to the dugout, and I'm like, 'Hey, I'm going to get lost here.'"
Fortunately for the visitors, they looked quite at home on the actual field. In particular, Jon Lester needed no adjustment to the new mound, pitching the Red Sox to a 6-4 victory before 46,426 fans. The contest started two hours and 17 minutes later than scheduled, thanks to steady rain. It ended at 1:10 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
But for the Red Sox, the wait was well worth it. They are now 4-0 against the Yankees this season.
"I was pleased," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's a long day. We went out with a lot of energy. It ends up being a great night. It's late, but it was a good night."
As always -- it seems with these two teams -- there was drama right to the last pitch. The Yankees put together a major threat against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning, putting two on for Mark Teixeira, the prized offseason acquisition who had already belted two homers on the night. But Papelbon blew a 95-mph heater by Teixeira for the second out.
Nick Swisher then walked to load the bases, bringing up sweet-swinging second baseman Robinson Cano. Papelbon came back with another fastball to strike out Cano and finish off his seventh save in as many opportunities.
Papelbon had come on in the eighth to put out another fire, registering the last two outs in that inning.
"He had to make pitches to get out of it, and he did," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He's been pretty good like that all year. That was definitely in a spot where we needed it."
Lester allowed six hits and three runs in seven innings, walking two and striking out 10.
"I thought that this stuff was terrific," Francona said. "It was as good as we've seen this year. I thought that his stuff was explosive. He threw a good cutter."
The Red Sox had built a 4-0 lead after four innings, but the Yankees climbed back into it when Lester had his lone hiccup in the fifth. Moments after Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected for arguing a called third strike on Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon ignited the crowd by ripping a two-run homer to right. Teixeira, who had been off to a slow start for his new team, made it back-to-back shots by belting one over the wall in left-center field. Suddenly, it was a 4-3 game.
"Most of the home runs I've given up this year were pitches out over the middle of the plate," said Lester. "These were down and just mislocated. They just put good swings on them in a certain area, and they hit it. It's not like these guys have never hit a home run before. You've got two pretty good hitters up there. When you miss location and stuff like that, they're going to put good swings on the ball."
But Jason Bay opened up some more breathing room for Boston in the top of the seventh inning by clubbing a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole off New York reliever Alfredo Aceves. That insurance blast turned out to be huge when Teixeira hammered his second homer of the night into the Yankees' bullpen in right-center against Ramon Ramirez.
Just about all of Bay's seven homers this season have come in big spots.
"Off my bat, I thought I had it, and then it started to turn hard left toward the end, and then I put a little body english on it," said Bay. "I'm glad it stayed fair. They had come back. It was a good game, and it was nice to get a little more breathing room."
The Red Sox scored a run in each of the first four innings against Yankees righty Phil Hughes. Included in that scoring output was Mike Lowell's sixth home run of the season, which came in the second.
Ortiz, who got a pregame pep talk from Francona, supplied two doubles in this one, the second of which drove home Jacoby Ellsbury to make it 4-0 in the fourth.
"He kept his hands in and didn't leak with his body and got to some pretty good pitches," Francona said. "You could see the look on his face. It was nice to see him have fun playing the game. It was good."
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis had to leave the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with stiffness in the left and lower parts of his back.
There was some tension in the top of the fourth, when Girardi hollered something at Red Sox first-base coach Tim Bogar, who then vehemently yelled something back at the Yankees' manager. Neither would say what the dispute was about, but Girardi perhaps thought Bogar was stealing some signs.
"He started yelling at me from the dugout," Bogar said. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I just reacted to what he said to me. What did he say? That's between me and him. It's a baseball thing -- heat of the moment or whatever it was. He just had something to say, and I answered him back."
All in all, it was a compelling first chapter of Red Sox-Yankees at the new and expansive haunt in the Bronx.
"It's fun," said Lester. "In a lot of other stadiums, you don't get that. You don't get the energy and the electricity or whatever. It's a great ballpark. I'm glad they didn't change a whole lot. It's an unbelievable place, and I look forward to a lot more games here."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.