Not only was Jon Lester in good enough shape to stick around and do interviews after the Red Sox 9-5 loss to the Yankees – he did them standing up. The impact point just below the right knee is just red right now – he expects a bruise by morning – and he insists he will not only make his next start but he will not even limit his next in-between starts throwing session.
Nothing broken. Jon Lester left tonights game here with nothing worse than a contusion of the right quad – x-rays at Yankee Stadium negative and hes day-to-day (were all day-…). After Lester had been levelled by Melky Cabreras third-inning line stove – as Sox radio play-by-play man Joe Castiglione had put it in the press box hallway half an inning earlier – our season hangs in the balance in the trainers room.
Well that changes everything. The 78th pitch of Jon Lesters long night here at Yankee Stadium just rocketed back off Melky Cabreras bat and the inside of Lesters right knee. He started to drop to the ground before the ball did, and when Terry Francona and the training staff helped him down the steps toward the Boston clubhouse, Lester has to hop from one step to the next. As the old grim joke goes, I dont know what it is, but Im guessing its broken.
The last time Boston was here in the Bronx one of the franchises many great baseball minds nodded gravely at my contention that the Yankees might not be that great a team, then could contain his disbelief no longer, smiled broadly at me, and asked, in the way only friends who consider each other slightly nuts can ask, Really?
The Baseball Prospectus folks (sorry, subscription required, these are not plugs, I just really find their work useful) analyzed the nine possible playoff teams four-man rotations based on Support Neutral Winning Percentage, which I think I understand but probably dont. The Cards lead at .575 with the Tigers second, the Red Sox third (.561) and the Yankees, dragged down by Joba Chamberlain, eighth at .520. Thus – natch – Jon Lester has sputtered through a long first three innngs capped by a second-deck home run by Alex Rodriguez, while Chamberlain is perfect through three, havng struck out three of the bottom four Boston hitters and popped up the fourth (Varitek) behind the plate.
Jason Varitek, who for my money is the only reason the head-to-head matchup between the teams offering us playoff previews tonight here in the Bronx end up 4-3-2 Yankees instead of 4-3-2 Red Sox, must have just tied some kind of dubious record. In the first inning he and Jon Lester were victimized by three stolen bases without a single throw. Two were on balls that popped away from the Boston veteran but the third was not. It was pointed out, in the Baseball Prospectus Annual I believe, that veterans who guide pitching staffs without contributing offense are not called catchers – theyre called coaches. If Varitek is not producing that vaunted glove and brainwork behind the plate the Stockings need to move him out, Victor Martinez in, and almost anybody to First.
The Sox sloppiness afield has cone in contrast to the unlikeliest of Yankee brilliance: a Joba Chamberlain barehanded pick-up of Ellsburys squib in the first, and a stop, slide, and hope grab by Nick Swisher to rob Ortiz just now in the second.