Red Sox bullpen pitches in when needed

NEW YORK -- Boston Red Sox starter Jon Lester worked 6⅓ scoreless innings. Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard worked out of a one-out bases-loaded jam. Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon recorded a four-out save.

It all equaled an important 2-1 victory -- and a series split -- against the New York Yankees Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Lester entered his outing riding a career-high four-game losing skid and he knew he had to keep the explosive Yankees lineup off balance if there was any chance for Boston to come away with a split.

The southpaw delivered.

"They weren't just getting Jon Lester, they got a pissed-off Jon Lester," said Bard. "That's a scary combination. Like you saw today, he went out there with a purpose and he knew how bad we needed this win and made it happen."

Lester improved to 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 career starts against the Yankees; he's held New York to two earned runs or fewer in seven of the outings. On Monday, he held New York hitless through 4⅓ innings before a single by Austin Kearns.

"He was tremendous," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Early on, his strike-ball ratio was even, which was interesting. He pitched well with men on base and he made pitches down and had movement. He was great."

Lester was nearing the 100-pitch plateau when he entered the bottom of the seventh with a 2-0 lead. He allowed a single to the Yankees' Jorge Posada and a double to Marcus Thames to lead off the inning. Lester then hit Kearns with a pitch to load the bases.

Francona figured if his starter could get through one more batter, the Sox would be in good shape.

Lester delivered, striking out Curtis Granderson to end his outing.

Any good major league pitcher would want to stay in the game and clean up the mess he made. But in Bard, Lester was handing the ball over to someone in whom he has complete confidence.

"If something bad is going to happen, you want to do it," Lester said. "I'm very comfortable giving the ball to those guys. They've done it all year for us and hopefully we can continue to do it."

The hard-throwing, right-handed Bard was eased into situations at times last season, his first big league campaign. Now that he's shown he can handle any situation, Francona is comfortable with Bard in any scenario.

Bard struck out Derek Jeter. Then he struck out Nick Swisher. Threat over. Inning over. Boston lead still intact.

"The last pitch he threw to me was 99 mph," Swisher said. "It's not supposed to move like that."

While that scenario unfolded, Papelbon was getting ready in the bullpen.

"He showed a lot of guts and determination," Papelbon said of Bard's performance.

Bard came back out for the eighth and quickly surrendered a solo homer to the Yankees' Mark Teixeira for New York's first run of the game.

"It should have been zero if I made a better pitch to Teixeira," Bard said with smile.

The Yankees had two baserunners in the eighth with two outs before Papelbon was summoned. He quickly recorded the final out of the eighth and struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 28th save of the season.

"That's the way you draw it up, but sometimes it doesn't work that way," Lester said of the Sox pitchers' performance. "Bardo did a great job getting out of that jam for me. You can pin that win on the bullpen."

When Bard was asked to comment on Lester's statement, the satisfaction was evident.

"It means a lot," Bard said. "Look at how well he pitched and look at his career. For a guy like that to say something like that means a lot. I love being in those situations. I want the team to want me in those situations. I don't want to be out there with everyone shaking and biting their nails. It's good to know that other people have confidence in you."

In his brief big league career Bard has already proved he can handle that type of situation.

"In a 2-1 game against the Yankees in the seventh or eighth, everyone is [biting their nails]. I like to keep everyone as relaxed as possible," he said.

Lester was relaxed and finished with his 12th victory.

"He pitched really well and deserved the win," Bard said. "We're glad we were able to preserve that for him."

As the Red Sox exited the visitors clubhouse at Yankee Stadium Monday evening, it was clear the players were happy to have won two of four in New York. It was a major victory in a lot of ways as Boston's road trip continues in Toronto on Tuesday night.

"It's huge," said Lester. "Any win this time of year is big for us. Obviously, being here makes it a little more special. We'll just keep chipping away. Hopefully it's a step in the right direction and maybe we'll use this as a little momentum and keep going."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.