- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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The Yankees held on for a 4-2 victory Thursday night at Fenway Park and left town, winning two of three against the Red Sox.
From the first pitch until the last out, New York's batters wore down Boston's pitchers. The Red Sox delivered a total of 203 pitches in this one.
"It's tough," Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "Hitters get better as the at-bats go. You see more pitches and you start to get a little more comfortable, but they battle, it's as simple as that. They went out there tonight and fouled some pitches off and kept their at-bats alive and made us earn those outs. We pretty much earned every out we had to get tonight."
After Red Sox starter Jon Lester worked only five innings, Alfredo Aceves entered in the top of the sixth with a 2-1 lead. Aceves came in carrying a career-high scoreless streak of 13 1/3 innings and has been solid all season with Boston. But his former club figured him out and produced two runs on two hits during Aceves' 1 1/3 innings of work.
The finesse right-hander worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. He then struck out Nick Swisher to begin the seventh, but Andruw Jones followed with a 14-pitch battle and drew a walk. Aceves then hit Jesus Montero before he was removed in favor of Bard.
"[Bard and Aceves] went after guys with everything we had," Saltalamacchia said. "Alfredo had what felt like a 100-pitch at-bat with Andruw. It was a good at-bat, he kept battling and we've got to figure something to throw at him. We threw a couple of curveballs and he took some good pitches, got a walk and that started the inning for them."
It was an unlikely scenario for Bard, who entered Thursday having allowed only three of 29 inherited runners to score this season.
The first batter he faced, Martin, delivered the crushing blow.
Bard thought his 1-and-2 offering was a good pitch, calling it "maybe an inch off" and a "good pitcher's pitch." Martin continued to work the count, and when it reached 3-and-2, Bard challenged Martin with a nasty slider that Martin was able to foul off. Bard's next offering was a fastball that caught too much of the plate, and Martin provided the two-run double that proved to be the difference.
"I thought I made two really good two-strike pitches on him, just didn't put him away," Bard said.
"Daniel came in and threw his fastball like he normally does, got ahead of some guys and threw a good 1-2 pitch to Martin that we both thought was a pretty good pitch," he said. "Basically, they just got some key hits."
The Red Sox were up against it as Lester struggled early and lasted only five innings. The lefty allowed only one run on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts, but he tossed 43 pitches in the first, which is a career-high for a single inning.
"It was a long inning and I was happy to get out of there with one [run] and from there on out it was a struggle," Lester said.
Boston's southpaw was able to settle in a bit, but the Yankees wore him down and made him work.
"That was kind of the theme tonight, just hanging in there," Lester said. "I minimized damage and made pitches when I had to. Really, two hard-hit balls and 114 pitches later I had to get through five."
The Yankees produced foul ball after foul ball and turned in some long at-bats.
"He had to battle," Saltalamacchia said. "They were fouling a lot of pitches off and just kept working him and working him. I felt like he made a lot of good pitches, but they kept fouling them off and grinding."
"He threw his curveball early in the count for strikes and that sets up everything else," Pedroia said. "He was locating and did a great job. He's got great stuff and you just tip your hat."
With the Yankees holding a two-run lead, future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera entered and almost blew it for New York. With two outs, Boston loaded the bases with Adrian Gonzalez coming to the plate. Rivera had Gonzalez 1-and-2 before striking him out looking on a 93-mph cutter to end the game.
"He's a tough pitcher. We had the bases loaded in a good situation and a base hit ties the ballgame," Saltalamacchia said. "He pitched well."
Gonzalez was not happy with the call.
"The only thing I have to say is that pitch was down and I should still be hitting. It should be 2-and-2, and you can quote me on that," he said.
At the start of the series, the Red Sox held a 10-2 season lead on the Yankees but New York won two of three at Fenway.
"They played better than us," Pedroia said. "They're all long games and we're all tired. Tonight we just didn't swing the bats well, so we'll move on and try to win tomorrow."
Just because the Yankees leave town doesn't mean it gets any easier for the Red Sox with the Texas Rangers arriving for a three-game set. The games probably won't be marathons, but you can bet they'll be hard fought with two top lineups squaring off.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.
2hAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com