FRANKLYWNOW - Surging Sox Keep Pace in Tight AL East Race

Surging Sox Keep Pace in Tight AL East Race

SAN FRANCISCO -- The contrast was so striking, and so satisfying for the Red Sox. An expected pitchers' duel between two of the best in the game -- Boston's Jon Lester and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum -- was instead a one-man show.

By the time Lester's 103rd pitch of the game closed the books on his sixth career complete game and second this season, Lincecum had already been out of the game for nearly two hours.

Backed by Lester, the Red Sox, even though they are a wounded bunch with injuries to several key players, rolled out of San Francisco with a 5-1 victory over the Giants in the rubber match of a three-game series.

"We needed that," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We talked before the game about being a little beat up but when your pitching is not, you always give yourself a chance. All day, he used all his pitches. I don't think he had an inning over 17 pitches. He was efficient all day and gave us exactly what we needed."

Then there was Lincecum, who was inefficient and ineffective. The Red Sox didn't just hit Lincecum but they grinded him out -- as in out of the game.

San Francisco's star right-hander threw a whopping 79 pitches over his disappointing three-inning performance. He gave up five hits and four runs, walking three and striking out four.

"When we're able to do that against a guy who throws the ball that well, it takes a little better pressure off me, and I'm able to go out and execute some pitches," said Lester.

It was satisfying for the Red Sox to win on a day they again lost a key player to an injury. Dustin Pedroia left Friday's game after fracturing the navicular bone in his left foot. Clay Buchholz exited Saturday's contest with a hyperextended left knee. And Sunday, it was catcher Victor Martinez's turn, as he fractured his left thumb and left the game in the bottom of the fourth. The Red Sox will get their medical house in order Monday, when the walking wounded visit the team's medical staff back in Boston. In the meantime, they don't want anyone feeling sorry for them.

"We've won two in a row," said Francona. "I don't know if you'd call that bad luck. We won the game. I don't know that I really care about luck. I think we just need to try to play good baseball and control what we can control. That's what we can do."

The loudest hit Lincecum gave up was a mammoth solo shot in the top of the first by David Ortiz into McCovey Cove beyond the right-field wall. It was the 72nd "splash" homer in the history of AT&T Park, and 20th by a visiting player. For Ortiz, it was home run No. 16 on the season.

"I wanted to hit that water bad," said Ortiz.

Then there was Lester, who continued his strong bid for his first All-Star berth by allowing five hits and a run, walking one and striking out nine. The lefty is 9-3 with a 2.86 ERA.

"The ball was coming out of my hand well," said Lester. "As far as location, it wasn't the best, but I used the time to get loose, and that carried over into the game. My rhythm and balance was good, and that carried over into the game."

The Red Sox finished their Interleague schedule for the season with a 13-5 mark.

After Ortiz's water launch in the first, the Giants got one back against Lester in the bottom of the first. They were sparked by leadoff man Andres Torres, who singled and stole two bases in the bottom of the first, then scored on a groundout to tie the game.

"We knew coming into this game this guy could pitch, and he was tough today, and he shuts down a lot of teams," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "We did what we wanted that first inning, we manufactured runs, but after that we just didn't do much against him."

Lincecum labored through a 30-pitch second inning and Boston tacked on two more runs. Lester came through with a sacrifice fly to right to aid his own cause.

"It's nice because we got a run on the board, but I don't really care what I do up there," said Lester.

Marco Scutaro gave the Sox a 3-1 lead with an RBI single to right.

Again, Lincecum tried unsuccessfully to gain some rhythm in the third. Kevin Youkilis delivered a single and J.D. Drew worked a two-out walk. Bill Hall's single to left brought home Youkilis. Lincecum threw 28 pitches in the third, and his day was over.

But Lester was just getting started. His bullpen got an entire day off, which was welcomed, given the exhaustive nature of the road trip.

"It's obviously nice to do that, but I'm just trying to go out there and execute pitches, and however long that takes me, then Tito makes that call," Lester said. "I was just happy to get a quality start, and it's obviously nice to save the bullpen a little bit."

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