I’ll talk about the game first and what it means afterwards, because the situation is pretty dire and it would be easy to get ahead of myself in exploring the truly pathetic and unfortunate predicament in which we currently find ourselves.
Lester gave up five runs, four earned, on nine hits over four and one-third innings. He walked two, struck out six, and threw 101 pitches. He gave up three runs in the first thanks to an RBI double and a force out, he gave up one in the second on a sac fly (this was the unearned run, because the runner was able to advance from second to third on a passed ball by Salty), and he gave up two in the fifth thanks to a triple and a single.
It was one of those games where it was just a chore to pitch. Lester was really laboring, which explains his high pitch count relative to the number of innings he pitched; he threw twenty-nine pitches in the first, twenty in the second, thirteen in the third, nineteen in the fourth, and twenty in the fifth before he was pulled. His cut fastball was good, but his sinker, changeup, and curveball were not great by any means, and he was really struggling, getting behind, and throwing a lot of pitches. Even when he got himself ahead of hitters, there were too many occasions where he couldn’t seal the deal. So the Yanks had the opportunity to see more of his stuff, plus he was getting tired earlier, plus he was putting men on base. When a good pitcher has a bad day, that’s generally what it looks like. We lost, but we’re lucky it wasn’t worse. Slugfests are usually pretty embarrassing, so it’s better to lose with dignity than to lose without it.
Atchison replaced Lester after the RBI single in the seventh and pitched the rest of the inning plus the sixth without incident. He made the first out of the seventh pretty quickly before then giving up a double followed by a home run, at which point he was replaced by Melancon, who pitched the rest of the inning plus the eighth. Aceves pitched the ninth.
Unfortunately, we didn’t really put up too much of a fight. We scored one run in the first on an error, went down in order in the second, and then scored another run in the third on a double by Papi. We went down in order in the fourth, in four in the fifth, and in order in the sixth. We opened the seventh with back-to-back walks on ten pitches, but we went down in order after that. We scored our last run in the eighth on a double by Aviles. We put two on in the ninth but didn’t do anything with it.
But that first-inning run deserves elaboration. Not too much went well yesterday, but I will say that I did thoroughly enjoy Derek Jeter’s day in the field, which absolutely abysmal. In all the Sox-Yanks games I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve seen a single fielding performance by Jeter as terrible as this one. It was awesome. With runners on first and second in the first and one out, Jeter had plenty of time and space to catch what was supposed to be a routine popup by Ross to end the inning. And he just dropped it. He dropped it. It was amazing. The ball was right there, and he dropped it. I’ve never seen that before. It was the most pathetic thing ever. The crowd went wild, and for good reason. It was definitely one of the highlights of the season. And Ciriaco came right on home. Sweet, sweet, sweet stuff.
And he wasn’t even done. He completely botched what was supposed to be a routine ground ball as well as completely ruined a throw to first in the third, which accounted for two of the base runners we had in the third inning.
Thus, the final score was 7-3. Punto went two for four, and Ciriaco had another great game with a three-for-four performance. Defensive highlights, aside from the Yankees’ blatant examples of lack thereof, included Sweeney’s ridiculously outstsanding catch to end the fifth; the ball was hit to shallow center field, and Sweeney charged and dove front-first to haul it in. We had half as many hits as they did, and those two doubles were our only extra-base hits. We went two for fourteen with runners in scoring position and left twelve on base. Despite the fact that the Yankees had fourteen hits to our seven, they went three for fourteen with runners in scoring position and left eleven on base, so from that perspective the team were evenly matched, and you can see that the Yankees also had plenty of opportunities of which they did not take advantage. But they still won, so that observation doesn’t do much.
As for the bigger picture, we just lost three out of four games to the Evil Empire and we enter the All-Star break at .500. We are tied for fourth (or last, again, depending on how you look at it), and we are nine and a half games out of first. For his part, Lester enters the break with the lowest ERA he has ever had in any first half of any season in his career as well as the lowest strikeout total he has ever had in any first half of any season since 2008. However, it is also true that we can expect the returns of Ellsbury and Buchholz to be imminent, and I imagine that Pedroia’s return can’t be too far off, either. No matter what, no team in the Major Leagues needs a break more than we do. We need to regroup, refocus, and just figure out how to win as a team and on a consistent basis. We need to find our groove. And when we find it, we need to stay in it and ride it to a good place.