08/02/08 11:21 PM ET
Bay, Youk go deep as Sox hammer A's
Offensive barrage combines with ace-like effort from Lester
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
But if Saturday was a snapshot of what could be in store, the Red Sox have to like the possibilities. In this one, Boston battered the Oakland Athletics, 12-2, at Fenway Park in a game that was competitive for a half-inning.
Jon Lester, who has emerged into Boston's best starting pitcher this season, was nice enough to spot the A's a 2-0 lead. But it was gone before you could say, "Manny who?"
That's exactly what a smattering of Fenway fans began chanting after Jason Bay -- the man acquired in the Ramirez trade -- piled on to Boston's first-inning barrage by unloading for a three-run rocket to left-center that made it 5-2. Kevin Youkilis began the hit parade by tying the game with a two-run homer against A's starter Dana Eveland, who was rocked for eight hits and nine runs over two innings (plus four batters in the third).
"It was the last thing on my mind, which is usually what happens when you hit home runs," said Bay. "You're not trying to. Youkilis tied it, and to kind of come right back and get the lead after that [top of the] first inning, it was big. It was a good all-around night offensively."
Youkilis in particular had a big night, adding a second two-run homer in the eighth, giving him 20 in a season for the first time.
"If he swings at strikes, whatever we get, it doesn't necessarily have to be home runs," said manager Terry Francona. "It could be driving the ball in the gap, hitting line drives down the left-field line and shooting the ball occasionally to right -- we'll take that. It's certainly great to see a ball leave the ballpark, but he hasn't sold out his swing to hit home runs. He's covering the plate, and I think that's just a by-product of a lot of good swings."
As for Bay, he has had quite an opening. He belted a triple in the 12th to set up Friday's win, and he produced his first Monster mash in this one. Clearly, he isn't used to Fenway's cozy dimensions.
"Some guys had a couple of laughs because I was running down the line pretty hard, and that ball went out by a pretty good margin," said Bay. "I'm not used to the park yet, but hopefully, it will come to me."
After scoring just two runs in each of the last three games, the big bats finally unloaded for the Red Sox in this one.
"It's so nice to score early and put a crooked number up, and then do it again and spread it out -- give ourselves some breathing room," said Francona.
Jed Lowrie delivered a three-run double to right to spark a four-run third, and Coco Crisp's RBI single in the fifth gave the Sox a 10-2 lead.
"I still believe that it comes down to our pitching," said catcher Jason Varitek. "We've got to pitch the ball well and play good defense. We're going to have days like this. We haven't had one in quite a while."
Lester enjoyed the cushion, going seven innings and scattering seven hits and just the two runs, walking one and striking out five. In improving his record to 10-3 and lowering his ERA to 3.14, he threw 100 pitches.
"I feel pretty good, conditioning-wise," said Lester. "I've been staying on my regimen and pushing it, so everything's been feeling good."
The true sign of an ace is that when that pitcher takes the mound, everyone on the team feels as though they will win. That is the feeling that is beginning to develop with Lester.
"The team has a whole lot of confidence with him on the mound," Varitek said.
And in a sign of Lester's development, his rocky first inning did absolutely nothing to faze him.
"Jonny, once again, was very good," Varitek said. "He was throwing the ball much better than his first-inning [results would indicate]. They actually did a pretty good job of hitting that first inning. He stayed right where he was and didn't overcorrect himself."
Bay witnessed on Saturday what his new teammates have seen all year from Lester.
"[The] first impression is that he's a big boy and he can throw the ball pretty well," said Bay.
And when the "big boy" has a big lead, the Red Sox are next to unbeatable.
"That was big that we were able to turn around offensively and get him some runs, and then Jon just pitched really well," Varitek said.
The Red Sox will try to finish off a three-game sweep of the Athletics on Sunday, when Daisuke Matsuzaka faces Dallas Braden.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.