The Boston Red Sox caught a break when New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected in the second inning of Wednesday's 5-1 victory for having pine tar on his neck; Pineda was seen with a similar foreign substance during his last start against the Red Sox, meaning he was obviously going to come under more scrutiny in his latest outing, but the Red Sox elected to let it go last time without bringing it to the notice of the umpires. After he shut them down during their April 10 start and was so blatant in his use of the pine tar on Wednesday, however, the Red Sox were feeling a lot less benevolent during last night's game and orchestrated Pineda's rightful removal from the contest, thus forcing the Yankees to stretch out of their bullpen.
Even before Pineda was ejected, the Red Sox were having success at the plate, finally learning their lessons about the dangers of starting slowly and digging themselves into a big deficit. In the first inning, the Red Sox hit safely four times and scored two runs as they shook off their struggles in at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Considering how the rest of the game played out, the Red Sox could have stopped scoring then and still won the game, but they would later go on to add two more runs in the third inning and their final run in the eighth inning at a time when the game was already safely wrapped up. Overall, the Red Sox put together a respectable batting line of .294 BA/.368 OBP/.382 SLG/.337 wOBA; the team might not have hit with much power, but their ability to get on base made scoring runs a simpler proposition.
Helping make sure that the five runs the Red Sox pushed across home plate stood up, or maybe we should phrase it that the Red Sox hitters helped prevent John Lackey's masterful start from going to waste, was John Lackey's dominance over the Yankees hitters. In his 8.0 innings of work that kept the Red Sox from needing to lean too heavily on a much-used bullpen (ninth-most innings pitched this season), Lackey struck out 11 Yankees, walked none, and allowed just 7 of the 31 batters he faced reach base; even the run he gave up came off a sacrifice fly, which is possibly one of the least impressive ways a team can score a run.
His overwhelming pitching from start to finish kept the Yankees from ever achieving a win probability above 50.0 percent after he induced Jacoby Ellsbury to ground out to begin the game. Against Lackey, the Yankees stood no chance and it showed throughout the game and was further reflected by Lackey's .307 win probability added, the highest for the Red Sox on Wednesday.
What a joy it must have been for the Red Sox to avoid falling into an early hole and having to scratch and claw their way to dig themselves out; games are a lot easier to win from the frontrunner position, and the Red Sox will need to replicate their Wednesday performance multiple times before they can establish themselves as one of the better teams in their division on the field and not just on paper.