By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Jon Lester took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and became the first Boston left-hander in 57 years to win 19 games, leading the Red Sox over the fading New York Yankees 7-3 Saturday.
Lester (19-8) was overpowering before Francisco Cervelli singled off the glove of diving rookie Daniel Nava in left field with one out in the sixth. Lester wound up allowing two hits in seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts and three walks. He won his sixth straight start, extended his scoreless innings streak to 15 and lowered his ERA to 2.96.
Lester joined Jesse Tannehill (1904-05), Ray Collins (1913-14), Dutch Leonard (1914), Babe Ruth (1916-17), Lefty Grove (1935) and Mel Parnell (1949 and 1953) as the only Red Sox left-handers to win 19.
Boston closed within 51/2 games of New York in the AL wild-card race. The Red Sox have eight games left _ four against the Yankees, including Sunday night’s series finale.
New York dropped out of first place in the AL East on Friday night, falling a half-game behind Tampa Bay, and are 26-26 since Aug. 1 following a 66-37 start. The Yankees have lost four straight at home for the first time since May 2-7 last year, when they dropped five in a row against the Los Angeles Angels, Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
New York has been outscored 34-16 during the skid, which dropped the veteran-stocked Yankees to 10-13 in September. The Yankees’ magic number remained at three, and they can’t clinch a playoff berth at home.
After rookie Ivan Nova (1-1) was knocked out early, J.D. Drew and Victor Martinez hit consecutive home runs in the seventh against Chad Gaudin, bringing loud boos from a sellout crowd.
Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer off reliever Daniel Bard in the eighth, Granderson’s sixth homer in 10 games. Hideki Okajima completed the four-hitter, allowing Alex Rodriguez’s 28th homer of the season and 611th overall.
Lester pitched a no-hitter against Kansas City at Fenway Park on May 19, 2008, walking batters in the second and ninth innings.
Trying to join Cy Young (1904 and 1908) and Dutch Leonard (1916 and 1918) as the only Red Sox to pitch a pair of no-hitters, Lester was perfect in this one until walking Rodriguez on a full count leading off the fifth. He walked Austin Kearns starting the sixth, and Granderson’s groundout advanced the runner.
Cervelli then lined a ball to left, and Nava sprinted in. The ball hit off the heel of his glove, bounced off his chest and
rolled onto the field for a hit. Kearns, thinking the ball might be caught, held at second. Derek Jeter then stroked a single to left, and Nava threw out Kearns at the plate.
Nava gave up four runs, four hits and three walks in 4 1-3 innings.
Lester fell behind 3-1 on Granderson in the third and Nick Swisher in the fourth, but struck both out. With a 3-2 count in the second, Marcus Thames looked at a called third strike from plate umpire Chris Guccione.
Lester got ahead of Rodriguez 1-2 leading off the fifth, but Rodriguez took three balls, fouled off a pitch and then took ball four. Robinson Cano then grounded into a 1-6-3 double play and Thames fanned.
Boston took a 3-0 lead in the third as Nova fell behind three batters 2-0, another 3-0 and hit Ryan Kalish with a pitch leading off. Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz had RBI singles around Drew’s run-scoring, double-play grounder. Ortiz greeted Royce Ring with a run-scoring single in the fifth.
NOTES: Kearns returned to LF for the Yankees for the first time since he was hit on the left elbow by a Matt Albers pitch at Baltimore last Sunday. … The crowd of 49,448 was the 14th sellout at Yankee Stadium this year, double last year’s regular-season total but down from 58 in the last season of old Yankee Stadium. … New York rested C Jorge Posada and OF Brett Gardner from the starting lineup. … Thirteen of New York’s last 14 runs have been driven in on homers.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)