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Dave D'Onofrio's Sox Beat: Lester emerges a leader
Retiring the first nine Yankees he faced, and subsequently surrendering just three hits and two walks over eight sterling innings, Lester pitched the Sox to a 5-1 win in a matinee performance that further strengthened the fast-convincing case that he should start Game 1 of the forthcoming American League divisional series that becomes more inevitable by the day.
"That's who Jon Lester is."
In other words, he's pitching like an ace.
And the longer their beards will grow.
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Spoiling a pair of Joba Chamberlain pitches with the count full, then letting ball four bounce into the dirt, Napoli staved off history in the seventh inning Saturday. He'd already singled twice in the game, and walked in his other plate appearance, so he remained at 176 strikeouts this season - still one behind Mark Bellhorn for the team record that has stood since 2004.
By now it's abundantly clear how different the Red Sox of 2013 are than the 2011 club. But if one quote can encapsulate that difference, catcher David Ross might've delivered it Saturday.
He wasn't here two years ago to see that staff get whittled down by injury, and see the commitment of its pitching staff come into question after an epic collapse. But in talking about Lester, Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy, specifically, he is completely comfortable with the attitude and approach of that staff and the team this September.
"All these guys work so hard, it's fun to go out and compete with them laying it all on the line on a nightly basis. That's what this team does. That's why we are in the position we're in, is because we go out there and we lay it all on the line, we play for each other, everybody prepares, everybody loves playing hard for each other. That's why we haven't been on a long losing streak, because of the performance of the starting pitchers."
Stat of the week: By notching its 91st win, the 2013 bunch on Saturday became just the second Red Sox team since 1951 to hit that mark in the club's first 150 games. They join the 1986 pennant winners as one of 10 Sox teams ever to do so.
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