We are pleased to continue our content sharing agreement with NESN.com, so guest starring in this space is Tony Lee, NESN.com’s Red Sox reporter. Here's Tony's take on Boston's win in Monday's series finale. You can read my View from New York entry on NESN.com here.
NEW YORK -- A winning clubhouse is a happy clubhouse. The Red Sox, after a gritty effort in the series finale in New York on Monday, are still smiling.
“That was a fun day of baseball,” Boston manager Terry Francona said after his team secured a series split with a nail-biting 2-1 victory.
Sure enough, even before Francona began his postgame meeting with the media, he had a smile on his face, listening as the clubhouse filled with music, singing, yelling and all that comes with a bunch of men playing -- and winning -- a boy’s game.
Some felt that Boston needed to take three of four or to sweep the series in Yankee Stadium to still have a chance to win the American League East, or even to remain in the playoff picture. A split would do nothing but kill off four days of the schedule, they said. But by winning the finale in the way they did, stranding six Yankees in the last three innings and finally making a quality Jon Lester outing hold up, it almost felt as if the Sox had indeed won the set.
There was a sense of momentum, much of it built around a fantastic day of pitching. Lester’s 6.1 scoreless innings gave the starting rotation a boost after two lackluster efforts by John Lackey and Josh Beckett. Daniel Bard had what Francona called an “awesome” effort by striking out Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher to leave the bases loaded in the seventh. And Jonathan Papelbon recorded the last four outs, striking out Mark Teixeira with Jeter at second to end it, to send Boston to the next stop of their brutal 10-game road trip still dreaming big.
“We did need it,” Bard said. “To come in here and split, it’s a tough to place to win games. Especially for us with all that’s put on these games. We’ve given ourselves a shot. We’re within striking distance and that’s all you can ask for at this point.”
Not all of the positives surrounded the pitching performances. When the Sox get to Toronto, All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia is expected to intensify his workouts, eyeing a return in the following week. Jacoby Ellsbury, who was dropped from the top to the bottom of the lineup after going hitless in 16 at-bats since coming off the disabled list, finally had a hit and matched a franchise record with four stolen bases.
It all makes for an extremely positive vibe surrounding a team that some said would be dead in the water if they split four games in New York.
“A lot of good things happened today,” Francona said. “We didn’t have a lot of runs and we made it hold up. That was one of the funnest days. That was a good day of baseball.”
With that, Francona smiled.