Obviously, the first thing you notice about yesterday’s game after you notice the fact that we won and are now back in first (in a tie, but still) is that Lackey got the win. He took on Sabathia. It was Sabathia who got destroyed, and Lackey won. If there’s anyone in that clubhouse who is entitled to a victory dance, besides the entire club and especially Ellsbury, it’s Lackey.
Six innings, three runs on six hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. 115 pitches, seventy-one for strikes. What do you notice? Low efficiency but high innings, low walks, and especially no hits. Lackey isn’t like Beckett; he doesn’t have a fastball he can use to overpower a hitter. If Beckett makes a mistake, he hopes the sheer speed of the fastball will cover for it. With the kind of repertoire he uses, if Lackey has nothing to cover up his mistakes. He either locates or he doesn’t. When he doesn’t, really, really bad things happen. Yesterday, he was on the money.
His three most frequently-thrown pitches, the slider, cutter, and curveball, were all excellent. They had everything: precision, execution, location, movement. You name it, they had it. He threw in some deadly changeups and an unusually potent fastball, and his mix was designed for dominance. This, my friends, is a huge step in the right direction. Whether it’s due to the arrival of Bedard or a natural progression toward positivity, I don’t know. Probably some mixture of both. Whatever it is, if he keeps it up, we’ll be in great shape.
His first inning was one-two-three and included a strikeout on a fastball. He faced only one above the minimum in each of his next two innings. The fourth was when he ran into trouble. A single, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases. A double play scored one, and a single scored another. In the fifth, he allowed a single and hit another batter, and another single brought in his third run. Lackey returned to cruise control for the sixth; he faced one above the minimum and posted a called strikeout on a changeup.
Fortunately for Lackey, the lineup was right there to back him up. Sabathia stood no chance. We went down in order the first two innings, but we made up for it later.
We scored twice in the third. Crawford doubled off the Monster, Salty walked, and they both advanced on a sac fly by Scutaro. Crawford scored on a sac fly by Ellsbury, and Salty scored on a double by Pedroia. Then Lackey put us in a tie at two.
Then we exploded.
Youk led off the fourth with a double. You never want to put a runner on base to start an inning; you definitely don’t want to put a runner in scoring position to start an inning, especially not within our lineup. Papi struck out on three pitches, which was obviously anticlimactic. Aviles, who started in the outfield yesterday for the first time in his career, singled Youk over to third, and he scored on a single by Crawford. Salty popped out. Scutaro singled in Aviles.
And then, with the count 2-0 and two men on base, Ellsbury was thinking fastball down the pipe. Sabathia dealt a fastball down the pipe. So Ellsbury did the only sensible thing one can really do in that situation: hit a home run. It ended up in the right field seats.
At the time the score was 7-2, but even then the game wasn’t over. Aceves replaced Lackey in the seventh and mowed through his batters. Bard replaced Aceves in the eighth and gave up a home run on a ninety-nine-mile-per-hour fastball. But we meant business, and we answered that run with three in the bottom of the inning.
Reddick, who replaced Aviles in right, walked on ten pitches. Reddick moved to third on a single by Crawford, who stole second. Salty walked to load the bases. Scutaro popped out, but Ellsbury singled in two, and Salty scored on Pedroia’s sac fly.
Wheeler came on for the ninth. Then we were done. The final score was 10-4.
Crawford was perfect at the plate; he went four for four with an RBI and three runs. Ellsbury went two for four with one run and six RBIs. Six. The man is a beast. Youk and Gonzalez flashed some serious leather in the field.
There are now only two lefties in all of Major League Baseball who have hit home runs off Sabathia. Both are in our lineup. It’s Ellsbury and Gonzalez. Sabathia is 0 and 4 against us in four starts this year. The last pitcher to do that was Rodrigo Lopez of the Orioles in 2006; the last Yankees pitcher to do it was Pat Dobson in 1975. In the last three of those four starts, Sabathia has given up at least six runs.
The game tonight decides who leaves the series in first place. Beckett is pitching tonight. This should be fun.