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Tuesday night saw the continuation of the opening series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The pitching match-up featured both teams’ No. 2 starters, as Jon Lester for the Red Sox and A.J. Burnett for the Yankees pitched in a back-and-forth battle. The Red Sox jumped on the scoreboard in the first inning, however the Yankees tied it up quickly thereafter. Boston put up two more runs in the third, but New York took the lead with three runs of their own two innings later. Boston tied it up in the bottom of the fifth, but the Yankees put up single runs in the seventh and eighth innings to take the lead for good.
The key play of the game was Marco Scutaro’s erroneous throw in the seventh inning. On a routine ball hit to him, he fielded it cleanly, however he then threw it into the dirt trying to get it to first. This allowed the Yankees to load the bases (instead of ending the inning), and they scored on a Hideki Okajima (who took the loss for this game) bases-loaded walk. The final score: Yankees 6, Red Sox 4.
Jon Lester did not look nearly as sharp on Tuesday as he did during spring training. He went just five innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits. While he struck out four, he also walked three and hit two Yankees (not necessarily a bad thing, but still). He struggled with his command all evening and had a lot of trouble putting hitters away. This led to too many full counts, and it raised his pitch count too quickly to allow him to go deep into the game.
Other Red Sox pitchers fared better, with Manny Delcarmen and Daniel Bard both throwing scoreless innings. All the same, the bullpen pitchers could not bail out the starter like they were able to Sunday night, and inevitably the loss falls on their shoulders. Had Okajima thrown more strikes and fewer balls he might have had an easier time keeping the Yankees off the bases.
While this was not the offensive explosion of Sunday night’s game, nor that of any of their preseason games during the final week, the Red Sox did manage to bang out nine hits Tuesday night. Victor Martinez had a huge night for Boston, going 2-3 with a walk, including a two-run home run off Burnett that, at the time, gave the Red Sox a two-run lead. He also hit a double later in the game to tie the game at four apiece.
The other big hitter for the night was Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 2-5 with a double, a stolen base, and two runs scored. If they can get that kind of production out of the hitters at the top of the lineup each night, the Red Sox will win more games than they lose.
Remember how last season the Red Sox beat the Yankees the first nine times they played them? The Yankees still wound up winning the World Series that year. This was one game. The second game…of a 162-game season. There is plenty to talk about in this game, such as the potential effectiveness of Hideki Okajima this season and whether Marco Scutaro will be one of those error-prone shortstops Boston occasionally gets (think the 2005 season and Edgar Renteria).
But, we must all keep in mind that it is incredibly early in the season. It will take a month before we really get a sense of what kind of team we have this year. The Sox showed Sunday night they are capable of coming back from deficits and that the bullpen can keep the team in the game. Tuesday night they showed the opposite: that this team struggles with holding leads and that its bullpen can let games get out of hand. Which team is the real deal will take a long time to discover.