BOSTON -- The red-hot Yankees found a way to pull into Boston early Friday morning tied for first in the AL East with the Red Sox despite a 1-8 record against them.
And on Friday night, they found a way to notch their first victory over their rival since April 9 -- with their starting pitcher lasting only 42/3 innings.
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How? No need to look further than the bullpen.
Starting with Boone Logan striking out MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez on three pitches to escape a base-loaded jam in the fifth, Yankees relievers stifled the Red Sox in a 3-2 victory in front of 38,006 at Fenway Park.
The Yankees (69-42), winners of eight straight, 11 of 13 and 16 of 21, lead the Red Sox (68-43) by one game.
"Percentages were probably on our side to win a game, right?'' Derek Jeter said of beating Boston. "But we can't worry about how we played against them earlier in the season. We feel as though we're playing well. We're pitching well. Yeah, it's a big win because we want to continue to play well.''
"It's a big win when Lester was dealing and to be able to scratch three runs across,'' Girardi said. "That's a big win for us.''
Logan, up and down -- but mostly down -- against lefties this season, pitched one scoreless inning, followed by Cory Wade (one-third of an inning), Rafael Soriano (one inning) and David Robertson (one inning).
Mariano Rivera earned his 29th save, retiring David Ortiz on a grounder, allowing an infield hit by Carl Crawford and striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Josh Reddick looking to end it. The five relievers allowed two hits and no walks in 41/3 innings, striking out five.
"I feel much better each time I'm out there,'' said Soriano, making his third appearance since coming off the disabled list. "It's starting to remind me of the way I pitched in Tampa when I was the closer.''
Robertson's ERA dropped to 1.44 and Rivera's to 1.70. If Soriano comes anything close to the pitcher he was with the Rays in 2010, when he saved 45 games with a 1.73 ERA, the Yankees will have the high-quality bullpen they envisioned in spring training -- if Logan can lock down lefties. "Our bullpen has been excellent,'' Girardi said, "and we've had a lot of guys step up.''
Bartolo Colon entered Friday night's game 8-6 with a 3.30 ERA but was done after 42/3 innings, having allowed two runs and six hits and thrown 94 pitches. After he walked Jacoby Ellsbury -- which ended the Yankees pitching staff's streak at 44 innings without a walk -- Dustin Pedroia's infield single loaded the bases with two outs and brought the dangerous Gonzalez to the plate. A 2-0 Red Sox lead could have expanded quickly.
"I thought Bartolo was getting a little tired,'' Girardi said. "I didn't want him to make a mistake because of fatigue and I went to the fresh lefthander, and that's a huge strikeout for Boone Logan and us.''
Lester (11-5) surrendered the lead in the sixth as the Yankees scored three runs on three hits and two of their six walks.
Eduardo Nuñez drew a walk after falling behind 0-and-2 and scored after singles by Jeter and Curtis Granderson, who lined a drive into left-center for his team-leading 86th RBI. After Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases, Robinson Cano grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, with Jeter scoring to tie it at 2. Nick Swisher then pulled a ground-rule double down the leftfield line and Granderson scored his major league-leading 99th run for a 3-2 lead.
"We feel pretty confident right now,'' Swisher said. "It's not a cocky confidence, it's a confidence on the inside that we know when we take that field we're going to give it everything we've got.''
So the Yankees woke up Saturday morning in sole possession of the division lead for the first time since July 6. Which means almost nothing to Jeter.
"It's better to be in first than second, third or fourth,'' he said. "But we're not looking at the scoreboard. We just want to continue to play well.''