16-12: Lester shines, Youkilis delivers walk-off, 1-0

Boston fans were treated to yet another pitcher’s duel tonight, as Jon Lester and Roy Halladay (2-4) took a 0-0 game through eight innings. Lester was masterful, and gave up only a single to Lyle Overbay for eight frames, but Jonathan Papelbon (1-0) came in to pitch the 9th and wound up with the win in the 1-0 victory. Halladay pitched his fourth consecutive complete game, but took the loss on a walk-off single by Kevin Youkilis with two outs in the bottom of the 9th. Halladay has thrown four consecutive complete games before. When that guy is healthy, he is just a groundball machine (15 in this game, though Lester matched that total tonight).

Lester was just on his game tonight. He went a full eight innings, allowing just one hit, and struck out a season-high six. He was wonderfully economical, using just 97 pitches, 58 for strikes. Two Toronto double plays were critical to achieving that economy tonight. Lester looked very comfortable in his mechanics, he kept the tempo flowing, and even touched 94 mph with his heater. He was hitting his spots, and could use his fastball as a weapon because he could set it up with a good changeup and curveball. Lester has been considered a top pitching prospect, but has struggled this season, and drawn criticism from fans. Hope that tonight shows some of you what all the hype was about. He did walk four men, but it didn’t rattle him at all.

All hail the return of Jason Varitek! Boston has allowed just six runs in the three games since his return, and the starters have allowed just 4 runs (3 earned) in 23 IP.

Top of the 9th, Papelbon on to work the inning. Francona’s comment after the game was that he chose to use Paps because the Jays’ lineup was all righties; makes sense to me, as he also needed to get in some work. After he struck out Alex Rios and Matt Stairs, Scott Rolen doubled to the gap in left center.

Pedroia retures Wells to end the 9th inningThen Vernon Wells hit a rocket back up the middle, just right of the mound that should have been a single. Dustin Pedroia put on his superman symbol and snagged it with a full-length dive away from first on the fringe of the infield. He then gets up and throws Wells out to end the inning. Look at where he fielded this ball! Impressive. That was just a ridiculously awesome play, one in which Pedey dislocated his left shoulder, a recurring thing for him. That shoulder would affect Francona’s strategy in the bottom half of the inning.

With two outs, the Red Sox rallied in the bottom of the ninth. Halladay got a little too careful with David Ortiz and walked him, and Manny Ramirez followed that with a single. Youkilis took a 1-0 fastball into centerfield, and Wells bobbled it just enough to let Ortiz score from second uncontested. That’s a very good thing for the Sox, as Papi’s last slide cost him a couple of games out of the lineup. Francona would explain later that because of the status of Pedroia’s shoulder and Jacoby Ellsbury nursing a sore groin, he couldn’t pinch-run Jed Lowrie for Papi without risking going into the 10th without enough healthy infielders.

It should probably be pointed out that the damp weather and strong winds probably contributed to the success of both pitchers tonight. The lineup continues to struggle, but I suspect that won’t last for long, not in Fenway Park.

Mike Lowell returned to the lineup, and reliever Bryan Corey was DFA’d to make room on the active roster. I feel sorry for the guy; how many times is he going to have to get cut in a year? The injury carousel isn’t through with the Red Sox yet, however. J.D. Drew left after the 3rd inning with tightness in his left quad and was replaced by Brandon Moss; let’s hope the injury doesn’t linger long.


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