Dempster’s start overshadowed
BOSTON — The best way to attack the Red Sox offensive approach is to work quickly and pitch to quality locations early and often.
That’s what it takes to be dominant against Boston, according to manager John Farrell, who said just as much following Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park.
And Cliff Lee was lights out, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out eight and walking none in eight innings, picking up his sixth win of the season.
“Cliff Lee was outstanding,” said Farrell after the loss. “He stayed out over the middle of the plate. He didn’t waste many pitches. After Michael Young’s home run, we manufactured a run, and that was pretty much the extent of it.
“We tried to do something there in the seventh inning with a sac bunt after Nava’s lead-off base hit. But he made key pitches when he had to, and juts a well-pitched game all the way around. We just came up on the short end of it.”
Lee allowed a Jacoby Ellsbury single to lead off the bottom of the first inning. After Ellsbury stole second, he then scored on a Dustin Pedroia single to right field, tying the game at 1-1.
But that was all the Red Sox would get against Lee, who only threw 95 pitches through eight innings of one-run ball, before he was replaced by former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.
“You wouldn’t know if it was 2007 or 2013 tonight, the way [Lee] threw,” said Farrell. “He was strong throughout, much like we’ve seen in the past. He can throw four pitches for strikes, fastball to both sides of the plate.
“His fastball location is his trademark. And he was sharp tonight.”
Afterwards, Red Sox hitters raved about Lee’s performance in shutting them down.
“He’s just a good pitcher,” said catcher David Ross. “That’s why he’s got the record that he has. He does such a good job. He pounds the zone. He can really criss-cross that cutter and sinker into righties and he keeps you off-balance. He’s coming right at you. We do a good job, usually, of grinding at-bats and working the count, but it’s tough against him. He’s throwing a lot of strikes and balls in the zone. And when you’re not on and you’re missing them, then he’s tough to beat.”
“He was great,” said Pedroia. “There’s a reason why he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. He showed it tonight. He attacked the zone. He’s pretty dominant.
“You’ve got to tip your hat sometimes. He threw the ball great.”
Tipping his hat the most, of course, would be Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster, who picked up his sixth loss of the season.
The loss is somewhat deceiving though, as he went seven innings allowing two runs on six hits while walking three and striking out four.
“It was very encouraging to see,” said Farrell. “Despite the outcome here tonight, his seven solid innings of work was needed. And it was good to see him do that.”
“I felt better,” said Dempster. “I threw the ball a little bit better tonight, but just got out-pitched by the other guy. Cliff Lee’s tough. If you’re going to go out there and match up against him, you can’t make many mistakes. And I made a couple tonight, and they cost us a couple runs. He did a good job of pitching against us.”
Dempster allowed a solo home run to Michael Young with one out in the top of the first, putting the Phillies up 1-0 early.
Then, in the seventh inning, Erik Kratz singled up the middle to drive in the go-ahead run and make it 2-1 Philadelphia. Dempster got out of the inning after that, and left the game with the Red Sox trailing only 2-1. But those two runs of support was all that Lee needed to hand Dempster the loss that, on most nights, probably wouldn’t be deserved.
“You can’t make mistakes,” said Dempster. “And I made a mistake in the first inning to Michael Young that cost us a run. Then I gave up a run there in the seventh that ultimately cost us the game.”
“I thought he pitched well,” said Ross. “He located his fastball. He mixed his pitches really well. He got his offspeed over when he had to. He made his pitches when he had to. I thought his best inning, for me, was that last inning. Those guys put some good at-bats on him and found some holes. He was down in the zone, getting his ground balls. When he’s like that, he’s really good.”
Dempster entered Tuesday night’s game coming off three bad outings in which he felt he was leaving the ball up in the zone far too much. But that wasn’t the case against the Phillies. And in fact, while his record went to 2-6 after Tuesday’s loss, Dempster has held opponents to two earned runs or less in six of his 11 starts. Yet, he only has two wins to show for it.
Seeing Cliff Lee pitching like he was on Tuesday night certainly didn’t help Dempster’s cause.
“Tonight was kind of a classic pitcher’s duel,” said Farrell. “I thought Ryan Dempster was much improved over his three previous starts. Much like we saw prior to that three-start stretch, where he was down in the strike zone, he had good secondary stuff. But we ran into a very good pitcher tonight.”