By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
For much of the season, the Red Sox have been so busy beating other teams into submission that the notion of winning game with their pitching seemed almost quaint.
This, despite having a rotation full of high-profile -- to say nothing of high-salaried -- starters. Often in the first three months, the starters were the recipients of such powerful offensive backing that they became almost afterthoughts. It may be too strong to suggest that the Sox were winning in spite of their pitching, but surely they often won independent of their pitching.
Of late, however, the offense has sputtered thanks to a cocktail of injuries (Carl Crawford, Jed Lowrie); interleague play and the absence of the DH; and plain old law of averages.
It didn't help that the Sox began treating the notion of putting Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield (to accommodate David Ortiz) as an exercise as fraught with as much danger as navigating a tightrope over shark-infested waters.
Suddenly the same team that had amassed double figures in runs six times in the spam of a dozen games as recently as mid-June was now desperate for a run, any runs.
Entering Thursday, Red Sox position players had not driven in a single run in the previous 20 innings.
What to do, what to do?
Enter Lester, who had the crazy notion of beating the Phils at their own game. Before Thursday, exactly one-third of Philadelphia's victories had come in games in which they scored three runs or fewer.
And beyond the desire to snap a two-game losing streak and avoid being swept, Thursday seemed as good a time as any to lean on the rotation since the lineup was missing both Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis and feature Darnell McDonald hitting second and Jason Varitek hitting fifth.
Leater was brilliant on the early going. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth and by the end of the sixth had permitted just two baserunners.
(It should be duly notes that the Sox were aided by Gonzalez's smoking liner back to the mound with one out in the fourth which struck Cole Hamels on the right hand and forced him from the game the following inning).
Lester insisted that he didn't approach the start with the idea of singlehandedly beating the Phils.
"Obviously you want to have a quality start," said Lester, "and go out there and battle and not give up a lot of runs. But you can't worry about losing streaks or anything like that. You just have to go out and execute pitches."
Which he did, again and again.
"Jonny held on and kept us in the game long enough," said Jason Varitek. "Jonny was the story."
Eventually, the offense provided enough, albeit from some unlikely sources. Varitek slammed two solo homers and Drew Sutton and Marco Scutaro contributed four hits between them.
Still, for a change, this one was all about the starter.
Winning with pitching -- what a concept.