NESN.com is pleased to launch a content sharing agreement with YESNetwork.com. The following is a piece from Joe Auriemma. You can read Tony Lee's story on YESNetwork.com by clicking here.
First and foremost, I would like to introduce myself to "The Nation." My name is Joe Auriemma and I am a writer and producer for YESNetwork.com. As part of the recent content sharing agreement between YESNetwork.com and NESN.com, we are trying to bring the Boston and New York fans the most comprehensive coverage of the greatest rivalry in sports.
What can you say about the finale of this four-game set? Jon Lester and the Red Sox' pitching staff did not disappoint, and in a hard-fought series, the Sox and Yankees split. There were a lot of fans and media alike saying that the Red Sox needed to win three of four or sweep this series to stay in the American League East race, however I disagree with that statement. Monday was a huge win for the Sox and their postseason chances. They gained a half-game on the Rays for the wild-card race and are back to being six out of the divisional race.
If the Red Sox do make the postseason in 2010, Boston fans can look back at one inning in this season that may have turned everything around. The seventh inning was where the Red Sox were teetering with fate. Lester's unhittable stuff was all but gone. Jorge Posada singled to lead off the inning. Marcus Thames hit a blast that the baseball gods somehow kept in the field of play. One more inch and Thames' top-of-the-wall double would have been a game-tying, two-run homer. Austin Kearns then came up and got hit by a pitch.
The next course of events proved why Terry Francona is an elite manager in baseball. Bases loaded and no one out, Francona stayed with his lefty stud against Curtis Granderson, who is now hitting .206 (21-for-102) this season against left-handed pitchers. Lester mustered up enough to continually fool Granderson with slider after slider to strike him out. Francona then went to Daniel Bard.
The next six pitches will certainly be looked at as some of the most important pitches of Bard's young career.
Three pitches to Derek Jeter, three strikes, all 98- and 99-mph fastballs, and he didn't stop there. Nick Swisher got the same treatment — three pitches, three lasers, three strikes and out of the jam. Bard made two All-Stars look puzzled at the plate and kept the score at 2-0 Red Sox.
Sure, the Yankees had more chances. Bard didn't look like the same pitcher in the eighth inning. Mark Teixeira's long solo home run to right closed the lead to 2-1, and the Yankees had another opportunity in the ninth with Jeter on second with one out, but the Red Sox held on. Jonathan Papelbon earned the save and the Red Sox survived.
If the Sox get healthy, pitch the way they are capable of pitching and are playing baseball in October, Red Sox fans may look back at the seventh inning on Aug. 9 and say that was the turning point of the season.