By Bill Burt
BOSTON — Winning is one thing. Winning four games after Red Sox losses in entirely another.
Red Sox starter Jon Lester is quickly moving up the ladder of major league pitchers, improving to 9-3 after another impressive outing in the 9-2 win for the Red Sox last night.
He has dominated the New York Yankees twice in the month of July, shutting them out in a complete-game victory on July 3 at Yankee Stadium and then going seven innings, allowing nine hits and two earned runs last night. Over that two-game stretch, he struck out 16 batters and walked only three in 16 innings of work.
"That's twice in a row he has been in total control of us," said Yankee Johnny Damon. "Right now, he's one of the better pitchers around. I'm impressed. The Red Sox have a good one in that kid."
True to form, Lester got in and out of trouble a lot last night.
He allowed a runner in scoring position in three of the first four innings without allowing any to score. In the third inning the Yankees had runners on first and second with no outs. In the third inning, Alex Rodriguez began the inning with a double, only to be stranded on third.
But Lester's best work was in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs after the Yankees had already scored two runs in the inning.
Lester got A-Rod to line out to third. Xavier Nady to fly out to shallow center. And then he induced an easy ground back to the pitcher.
The Yankees never were a threat again.
"He made some pitches," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "He's been very good against us this year."
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said Lester's control was the difference last night.
"He only got behind a few times," said Jeter. "He's tough. He's a good pitcher. When he's moving the ball around like that, for strikes, he's tough."
Manny side-show steals show
Here are the 10 things learned about Manny Ramirez before last night's game.
1. Manny wouldn't mind being traded.
2. Manny feels the Red Sox would be stupid to trade him now with the pennant race in tow.
3. If the Red Sox don't want to sign his extension they only have to send a letter or call his agent.
4. Manny says he's tired of the Red Sox.
5. Manny says the Red Sox are tired of him.
6. Manny wouldn't be upset if the Red Sox picked up his option.
7. Manny does not want to talk about a contract right now.
8. Manny says he's happy, but "enough is enough."
9. Manny does not want to be a distraction for the team as it enters August and September.
10. Manny is not happy the Red Sox haven't made any trades or acquisitions as opposed to the Yankees.
Sexson gets first feel of Sox-Yankees series
Like everyone else in a America with cable TV, Richie Sexson couldn't help but see a Red Sox-Yankees game over his career.
"They're on TV all of the time," said Sexson.
Acquired two weeks ago by the Yankees as a free agent, Sexson got an up close and personal look at the matchup he often wondered about.
"It really is something," said Sexson. "The fans are definitely into the game a lot more. I've played here before. This place is always packed. But on Friday night, in the ninth inning, man that was something. I'll never forget that."