As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 4 – BOSTON RED SOX
A fellow Yankee fan once called the Red Sox the Red Flops because of their penchant for running out to big leads in the American League East and fading badly in the second half. After the famous “Collapse of 2011” the term seems apropos.
On Sept. 3, they were 84-54, a half game behind the Yankees and nine games up on the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished the season with a dreadful 6-18 record and missed the playoffs by a game. In Boston that is not an oops, it is an eruption and it cost manager Terry Francona his job and general manager Theo Epstein fled to the Chicago Cubs.
Looking to 2012 the Red Flops hired ego-driven Bobby Valentine as manager. Ben Cherington, an Epstein assistant, took over as GM. They even dismissed first-year pitching coach Curt Young in favor of Bob McClure to keep their starting pitchers from getting bagged in the clubhouse on Samuel Adams.
Of course, that is odd because McClure pitched most of his career with the beer capital of the world in Milwaukee.
There is no doubt the starting pitching let the Red Sox down in 2011. They scored runs and the bullpen was good until it got overtaxed. But has this team addressed the areas of weakness enough to win the division in 2012?
Well, it does not look good.
The Red Sox were unable to acquire any starter of significance this winter because they had to re-sign free agent David Ortiz and the team was already perilously close to the salary mark that would incur the luxury tax.
So they return to the field with two of the pitchers who aided in the collapse (Josh Beckett and Jon Lester), one pitcher who was hurt most of the 2011 season (Clay Buchholz) and two big question marks behind them. That seems hardly like a recipe for success.
Beckett, 31, returns as the team ace after a season in which he was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. But an ankle injury late in the season forced him to fade like a typical Red Flop in September. He posted a 5.48 ERA in September. He also was in the center of the beer issue that drew the ire of teammates and the front office.
If Beckett wants to remain the ace he better start showing some leadership by example.
Lester, 28, is starting to look like the Red Sox version of Mike Mussina. He has all the talent and the pitches to be successful but he never takes that big step forward to be an elite pitcher. He was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA but he also slid in September. He had only two quality starts from Aug. 27 to the season finale and was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in the final month.
Buchholz, 27, made only 14 starts last season before ending up on the disabled list with what was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back. He finished with a record of 6-3 and a 3.48 ERA. There is no doubt he was sorely missed last season because Epstein failed to stock the Red Sox with any depth and the team floundered after he was shelved on June 16.
The Red Sox other two starters were veteran right-handers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
If Lester is like Mussina then Lackey is looking like the Red Sox version of A.J. Burnett. Signed as free agent before the 2010 season, Lackey has done nothing but disappoint Red Sox Nation with bad pitching. He was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2010 but he got much worse in 2011 with a 12-12 mark and 6.41 ERA.
Red Sox fans have taken to calling him “Lacking.”
But there is good news for RSN, Lackey, 33, will not pitch at all in 2012 because he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. There is no real guarantee Lackey will be any better in 2013, which will be the final year of his four-year contract. His days in Beantown look to be limited at this point.
Speaking of that, Red Sox fans also would like to see Matsuzaka, 31, gone after three injury-filled seasons in which he was a combined 16-15 with a plus 5.00 ERA in only 44 starts. Last season, he was shelved in June with a 3-3 record and a 5.30 ERA. Like Lackey he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
He possibly could return late in the season but there is no one banking on him coming back pitching like in he did in 2008 when he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He is in the final year of lucrative six-year contract and the Red Sox seem to be counting the days they can part with him.
With Lackey and Dice-K on the shelf, the Red Sox have to come up with two starters and one of them is Daniel Bard, the team’s setup man the past two seasons. Bard, 26, does throw hard and he has two breaking pitches to mix in his arsenal.
But Bard also was the poster boy for the Red Sox collapse. Forced to pitch a lot to cover for weak starting pitching, Bard got hit hard and often in September, finishing the season 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA and five blown saves. Only July 31, Bard had a 1.76 ERA.
Now the question is can he be an effective starter? It has not worked for relievers lately. It did not work for Joba Chamberlain and Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays has struggled to get past the fifth inning with the Blue Jays. Usually it works better when a starter becomes a reliever as it did with former Red Sox right-hander Dennis Eckersley.
Until Bard proves he can pitch deep into games consistently and does not fade late in the season as the innings pile up, he is big question mark in 2012.
For the fifth spot, the Red Sox issued an open casting call much like the Yankees did in 2011 with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
They are looking at holdovers Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller as possible candidates. Aceves, 29, was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA but made only four starts. He is better suited as a reliever, as he proved with the Yankees. Miller, a 26-year-old left-hander, was 6-3 but he had a horrible 5.54 ERA in 12 starts.
The Red Sox also signed former Yankee right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and three other right-handers including Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva to compete for the job this spring.
None of these candidates are going to impress the Red Sox faithful. They all have a lot of mileage on them and they all have not had much success in recent years.
This might be one of the weakest Red Sox rotations in many years and the lack of depth in it is the major problem. If Beckett, Lester or Buchholz are hurt, who steps up to replace them?
The Red Sox allowed Jonathan Papelbon leave for the Philadelphia Phillies rather than pay him what he was worth as a closer for them over the past six seasons. The conventional wisdom was Bard would take over as the closer.
But the Red Sox made him a starter instead and opened up the job. They decided to fill it with 27-year-old right-hander Andrew Bailey, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Bailey is coming off two injury-plagued seasons but is pretty darn good when he is healthy. Bailey is 7-10 with a career ERA of 2.07 and 75 saves in 84 chances.
There is no doubt Bailey is an excellent closer. The only question is of the Red Sox can keep him healthy and can Bailey adjust to the very small dimensions of Fenway as opposed to the expansive Coliseum.
The Red Sox also traded with the Houston Astros for yet another former Yankee reliever in Mark Melancon. (Can the signing of Tanyon Sturtze be far behind?). Melancon, 26, was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and saved 20 out of 25 games for the lowly Astros last season. Melancon, who was touted years ago as the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera when he was in the Yankees’ minor-league system, will set up Bailey and can close if Bailey should revert to past form and pull up lame.
Speaking of lame, the Red Sox suffered a huge blow to their bullpen before pitchers reported to camp on Sunday because 30-year-old right-hander Bobby Jenks will miss more time when a pulmonary embolism was discovered in his lung. This was discovered after he had two back surgeries after pitching only 19 games last season. He is on the 60-day DL and he will be on a long road back to health.
Aceves also figures in the late innings because he is much more valuable in that spot.
The Red Sox got some use out of 29-year-old right-hander Matt Albers, who was 4-4 with 4.73 ERA in 56 games last season. The lefty specialist was 26-year-old Franklin Morales, who was 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 50 appearances. The Red Sox are hoping Rich Hill will come back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow sometime this season.
The Red Sox think 24-year-old lefty Felix Doubront can take the second left-hander spot in the bullpen. He had no record and 6.10 ERA in 11 appearances last season. Doubront could also get a chance to start and he has some upside.
This bullpen is definitely in a state of flux. New personnel, new roles and there are some pitchers coming off injuries or currently rehabbing injuries. It is not a recipe for success.
Valentine and McClure have a lot of decisions to make in the spring. For the Red Sox to succeed they need an excellent bullpen. For now, it looks just mediocre.
The Red Sox were largely a four-man offense – a very good four-man offense but a four-man offense nonetheless – in 2011.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was as advertised. He hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs and played Gold Glove defense. The Red Sox hope Gonzalez, 29, is the fulcrum of the Bosox attack for many years to come.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 season to re-establish himself in 2011. He hit .307 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs and also won a Gold Glove. Pedroia, 28, remains the spark-plug in the Red Sox engine. His grit and determination makes him the heart and soul of the team.
Designated hitter David Ortiz followed up a bounce-back 2010 season with another solid campaign in 2011. Ortiz, 36, hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs. He is not the same feared hitter he was in his steroid days hitting behind Manny Ramirez but he is still good enough to help the offense.
The big surprise was center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who played only 18 games in 2010 and was accused of milking his rib injury by some teammates. Ellsbury, 28, must have been angry because he came back with a vengeance in 2011. He hit .321 with easily a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He also stole 39 bases.
To most Red Sox observers, Ellsbury was the team’s MVP and would have won the American League MVP if Justin Verlander of the Tigers had not.
The big disappointments in this lineup were Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford.
Youkilis, who will be 33 when the season starts, still has not played any more than 147 games in a season. Last season, the combination of bursitis in his left hip and a sports hernia limited him to 120 games. He hit a disappointing .258 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and he did not play third base as well he played first base. Youkilis must stay healthy and return to form if the Red Sox are to make a move in 2012.
Left-fielder Crawford, 30, arrived in Beantown with 409 career steals and .293 career batting average. His seven-year, $142 million contract was the signing that limited the Red Sox from adding pitching this winter. He also proved he did not fit in well at Fenway. He hit .255 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs and only 18 stolen bases. He also proved weak in the field despite having won a Gold Glove with the Rays in 2010.
More bad news about Crawford: Late in the winter Crawford realized his left wrist required surgery and he is not likely to be able to play on Opening Day. Crawford will either turn his game around or become one of the biggest albatross signings in baseball history.
The Red Sox have shuffled the deck in right-field and shortstop this season.
The Red Sox released aging outfielder J.D. Drew and they used promising youngster Josh Reddick in the Bailey trade.
The Red Sox did obtain outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the Bailey deal and he is a left-handed hitter like Reddick. However, the 27-year-old has been a huge disappointment in Oakland. He is career .283 hitter but he lacks both power and speed.
Holdover Darnell McDonald, 33, was brought up last season and he hit .236 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 79 games. He could figure in an early platoon with Sweeney or win the job outright. Ryan Kalish, 23, hit .252 in 53 games and he will get a look also.
The Red Sox also picked up Cody Ross from the Giants. Ross, 31, bats right-handed and he figures to start n left-field until Crawford returns to health. Then he will shift to right in a platoon with either Sweeney or Kalish. Ross hit .240 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2011.
Shortstop also was shuffled for 2012. Starter Marco Scutaro was shipped to Colorado for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. Backup infielder Jed Lowrie was used in the Melancon trade with the Astros.
That leaves former Royals infielder Mike Aviles to start at the position. Aviles, 31, is a career .288 hitter but he hit only .255 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals and Red Sox.
The Jason Varitek era in Boston is officially over. Varitek was not re-signed and Jarrod Saltalamacchia enters his second season as the unquestioned starter for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia, 26, is coming off a so-so 2011 season. He hit .235 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. He also struck out 119 times in 358 at-bats so he is not exactly a selective hitter. The Red Sox also wish he would continue to improve his defense and throwing.
The Red Sox will likely keep Ross, McDonald and either Sweeney or Kalish as backup outfielders. McDonald is valuable because he play all three spots and he is better in center.
The Red Sox picked up former Twins infielder Nick Punto as a reserve at second, short and third. Punto, 34, hit .278 with one home run and 20 RBIs with the Cardinals last season. Having Punto means the Red Sox can allow 22-year-old shortstop Jose Inglesias another season to develop at Triple-A. Inglesias can field but has not developed much as a hitter.
The team also picked up former Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Rays. Shoppach, 31, hit .176 with 11 homers and 22 RBIs with the Rays and he replaces Varitek as the backup catcher. He is solid defensively.
This is a serviceable bench but I would hardly call it talent-laden or special.
The Epstein-Francona era is over. The main architects of the only two World Series championships in the last 96 years have fled. They left a financial constraint on the team that prevented them from addressing their crisis in starting pitching, the bullpen and in right-field.
The Crawford and Lackey signings along with the trades for since-departed Victor Matinez and Gonzalez left this very dollar-rich team weak in minor-league prospects and unable to find enough wiggle room to sign what they needed without breaking way past the level where the luxury tax kicks in.
This limits what the Red Sox will actually do this season. This is team that already is beset by injuries (Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford, Jenks) and they are severely lacking in depth before spring training has even started. It is hard to see how they find the money to fix what needs fixing if the ship should begin to flounder.
The Red Sox will only go as far their offense and their top three starters take them this season.
With the Rays a bit flawed it is easy to see both the Red Sox and Rays battling for second place behind the Yankees in 2012. Because of what happened to the Red Sox last season it hard to see how it could happen again. But that is what I am predicting.
I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Rays pitching will be the reason the Red Sox will finish third. The only question is can Valentine get out of town before RSN tries to lynch him. Good luck, with this bunch, Bobby. You are going to need it – along with a lot of Maalox.
Just call them the Red Flops.
YANKEES 9, RED SOX 1
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
– Charles Dickens from “Tale of Two Cities”
If any tidbit of prose could describe the end of this pre-autumn battle between two proud franchises this Dickens line would surely be appropo.
While the Yankees have clinched the American League East and they are getting prepared for the playoffs the Red Sox are praying they still can reach the playoffs as they seemingly implode like a proud skyscraper that is now obsolete. These are two cities and two teams headed in diametrically different directions.
Freddy Garcia pitched six scoreless innings in his effort to win a postseason starting slot, Jesus Montero hit a homer and drove in four runs to stake a claim for a postseason roster spot and Derek Jeter added a home and three RBIs to silence those early-season critics that thought his career was over as New York humiliated Boston on Saturday in front of national TV audience at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees jumped all over Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (15-9) with one out in the second inning.
Robinson Cano started the onslaught innocently enough with a single to left. Nick Swisher then coaxed a walk. Andruw Jones reached when his bouncer to shortstop Marco Scutaro could not be turned into an out. Scutaro’s throw to second reached Dustin Pedroia after Swisher hit the bag.
Montero then showed the Red Sox what can happen when you actually hold onto your prospects by slashing a sharp single between third and short into left to score Cano. Russell Martin, who stated on Thursday that he hated the Red Sox and would like to oust them from the playoffs, followed with s sinking liner to left that clanked off the glove of free-agent flop Carl Crawford that scored Swisher and Jones.
Jeter capped the six-run explosion with a typical Jeter opposite-field home run to right-center over the auxiliary scoreboard and into the bleachers. It was only his sixth home run of the season but it was probably just as big as his 3,000th hit home run off David Price of the Rays.
Much like a English muffin on a nippy winter morning, Lester was toasted.
The Yankees added two more runs in the third inning and chased Lester to the showers – all coming after two were out.
Swisher looped a single to right and Jones lashed a lined single to left. Montero, 21, then further built upon his near-legend status in the Bronx with a long blast to left-center that bounced off the wall for a double and scored both Swisher and Jones.
Now Lester was burnt toast and manager Terry Francona removed him from the heat of the game.
With an 8-0 lead, Garcia (12-8) was free to toy with the overaggressive Red Sox hitters by giving them a little bit of this and a little bit of that at slow and even slower speeds. Garcia scattered six hits, walked one and struck three as the 34-year-old right-hander won at least 12 games for the ninth time in his 13 major-league seasons.
With Bartolo Colon and A.J. Burnett struggling and Phil Hughes battling back issues, Garcia seemed to all but lock up a spot in the Yankees’ postseason rotation with his 102-pitch effort on Saturday.
Montero, meanwhile, added to his day with his fourth home run in just 52 at-bats, a solo shot to the opposite field in right off Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa to lead of the sixth inning. Montero raised his batting average to .346 and in his last two games, Montero is 6-for-7 (.857) with a home run and six RBIs.
With backup catcher Francisco Cervelli still recovering from concussion symptoms, Montero has an opportunity to make the postseason roster as the backup to Martin and he could draw some starts as a right-handed designated hitter.
The Red Sox instead are looking for something or someone to stop their calamitous tailspin that has seen them record a 5-17 mark in September. The combination of their loss and victories by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels leave the Red Sox just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Rays and 2 1/2 games in front of the Angels in the wild-card standings with five games left to play.
The Yankees improved their record to 96-61 and they need just one victory and a loss by the Texas Rangers or Detroit Tigers to clinch home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs.
- Though Brian Cashman is generally praised for not trading Jesus Montero, don’t forget that Cashman included Montero in a proposed deal to the Mariners for Cliff Lee last July. It was only because Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik also had asked for Ivan Nova and Eduardo Nunez that nixed the deal. So Yankee fans actually have the greed of Zduriencik to thank for the fact the Yankees have held onto Montero and let him blossom into what appears to be sure superstar status. Think of Montero this way: He could the best power-hitting prospect the Yankees have brought up from their minor-league system since Mickey Mantle in 1951. That is 60 years!
- Garcia’s good outing came at the perfect time because he was 0-1 with a 10.95 ERA in his last three starts. Garcia is 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA this season, which should earn him strong consideration for a starting spot for the Yankees in the postseason. With CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova already assured spots, Garcia becomes very important to the Yankees this postseason.
- Jeter’s home run was his first since Sept 4 at Yankee Stadium against Toronto. He is hitting .304 this month and his season average is at .297. So he has a good chance to reach the .300 mark before the season ends. Jeter was hitting .260 on June 13 when he was placed on the disabled list with strained calf muscle.
Hughes threw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Saturday and reported no pain in his back. Hughes, who missed his last start due to back spasms, is in line to make a start on the final day of the regular season on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, FL. Because of the timing of the injury, Hughes likely will be relegated to the bullpen when the Yankees open their postseason schedule. . . . Cervelli exercised for a second consecutive day on Saturday but the Yankees do not expect him to be available for the American League Division Series. Cervelli has been sidelined since Sept. 8 with concussion symptoms after a home-plate collision with Orioles underachieving outfielder Nick Markakis. . . . The Yankees paid tribute on Saturday to the 50-year anniversary of Roger Maris’ 61st home run, which broke Babe Ruth’s 1927 single-season record of 60. Members of the Maris family were on hand for the ceremony before the game.
Because of the ninth rainout of the season on Friday, the Yankees will play the Red Sox in a day-night doubleheader on Sunday.
The Yankees will start the opener with Burnett (10-11, 5.28 ERA). Burnett faltered in the fourth and fifth innings of his last start against the Minnesota Twins on Monday. He gave up four runs in his four-plus innings, although he did strike out seven batters. He is 5-4 with 5.07 ERA against the Red Sox in his career.
The Red Sox will counter with ancient knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (7-7, 5.08 ERA). Wakefield gave up two runs in five innings in a loss to the Rays last Sunday. He is 8-13 with a 5.08 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
In the nightcap, the Yankees will call upon Rookie of the Year candidate Nova (16-4, 3.62 ERA). Nova is coming off 7 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball against the Rays on Tuesday to win his 12th straight decision. Nova is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will counter with overpaid and underwhelming right-hander John Lackey (12-12, 6.49 ERA). Lackey was tagged for eight runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Orioles on Monday. Lackey is 8-9 with a 4.69 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time for the opener will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
The second game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by MLB Network and locally by YES.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
– William Shakespeare from Macbeth
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2
It looked like Thursday night series finale against the Red Sox was going to be one of those games where the Yankees put runner after runner on base only to be denied a run. That is until the seventh inning, when Russell Martin came to the plate with two on and one out.
Up to that point, the Yankees were trailing 2-1 because the Yankees could not parlay nine hits, four walks and a hit batter into any runs after the first inning and had left 12 runners on base in the first six innings.
But Martin greeted The Bard, the reliever Daniel and not the famous playwright, with a two-run double to right-center and closer Mariano Rivera weathered a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the ninth to strike out Adrian Gonzalez looking to preserve a very important victory for New York in front of a mostly hostile crowd of 38,074 at Fenway Park.
With the victory the Yankees pulled to within a slim half game of the Red Sox in the American League East race and the two teams are tied in the loss column at 53 apiece.
The Yankees had trailed since the bottom of the fourth inning, when Dustin Pedroia followed a four-pitch walk to Gonzalez with a two-run home run to center off Yankee starter A.J. Burnett.
But the Yankees got busy with one out in the seventh inning with an incredible at-bat by Andruw Jones against former Yankee reliever Alfredo Aceves. Jones worked Aceves to a 2-2 count, fouled off three pitches, took ball three, fouled off five more pitches and drew ball four.
Aceves’ night then came to an end when he hit designated hitter Jesus Montero, who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was playing in his first major-league game, with a 2-2 pitch.
Manager Terry Francona summoned his ace setup man,Bard, to get the Red Sox out the jam. However, Martin was able to drive 3-2 Bard fastball into the gap in right-center to score pinch-runner Chris Dickerson, who also was recalled from Scranton on Thursday, and Montero to allow the Yankees to reclaim the lead. Martin moved to third on the play at the plate.
Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez then added an important insurance run by slapping a 1-0 fastball to right that scored Martin.
The Yankees again turned to their troika of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Rivera to close out the game.
Soriano tossed a scoreless seventh and Robertson followed suit in the eighth.
But Rivera opened the ninth by walking Jed Lowrie. After Josh Reddick flew out to deep right and Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out swinging, Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk. Rivera entered the game having walked only five batters in 51 innings.
Marco Scutaro then singled sharply to right to load the bases and bring to the plate Gonzalez, who entered the game leading major-league baseball with a .341 average.
Rivera, using his cutter to Gonzalez on the inside corner for the first four pitches, was ahead on the count 1-2 when he threw a cutter to the outside corner at the knees and Gonzalez watched as it nestled right into Martin’s glove and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez raised his right arm to call Gonzalez out on strikes.
The game was somewhat bittersweet redemption for Burnett, who has been lit up like a roman candle since June 29. Signed as a free agent before the 2009 season expressly because he came off a 18-10 season in which he beat the Red Sox four times, Burnett entered Thursday’s game having never beaten the Red Sox while wearing a Yankee uniform. Burnett also was in real danger of losing his spot in the starting rotation.
But Burnett pitched well. He gave up only the two runs on five hits and two walks and he fanned four batters over 5 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, the Yankee hitters were keeping Boston left-hander Jon Lester busy throwing pitches from the first toss four hours and 21 minutes before this marathon ended.
With one out in the fist inning, Curtis Granderson singled to right. Mark Teixeira followed with a sinking liner single to center and Robinson Cano scored Granderson with a lined double off the Green Monster in left-center.
The Yankees could have put a real hurting on Lester then. But Nick Swisher struck out, Jones walked and Montero struck out to end the threat. However, Lester threw 43 pitches in the inning. Though the Yankees continued to put pressure on Lester they could not get the big hit to either tie it or take the lead.
Lester threw 114 pitches over five innings and gave up just the lone run on seven hits and three walks.
Burnett left the game with one out in the sixth after giving up a single and a stolen base to Pedroia and a walk to David Ortiz. Boone Logan was called in by manager Joe Girardi and he fanned Carl Crawford.
Cory Wade then was called in to pitch to Lowrie and disaster nearly struck the Yankees.
Lowrie lofted a fast-sinking liner into centerfield but Granderson dove to his right and scooped the ball into his glove just before it hit the ground. The sensational grab not only saved at least one run for sure. It also ended the inning.
Wade (3-0), thanks to Granderson, earned the victory with his one-third inning of relief. Rivera earned his 36th save in 41 chances, albeit he did it the hard way.
Aceves (9-2) took the loss.
The Yankees ended up taking two of three from the Red Sox at Fenway and now are 4-11 with their bitter rival on the season.
- Martin missed the first two games of the series but he made his presence felt with his clutch double in this game. He was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and scored a run. Martin has quietly and steadily raised his season’s average to .240.
- Cano continues to pound Red Sox pitching. He was 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI in the game. Cano is now hitting easily a team-best .307 on the season and he now has 98 RBIs.
- Burnett was so bad many Yankee fans cringed when it was announced he would pitch this game. It was with good reason, too. Burnett recorded an astronomical 11.91 ERA in August. But he did pitch well and kept the Yankees in the game until the Yankee hitters finally got tired of leaving runners on base. There is a good chance Burnett will remain a starter and Phil Hughes will be sent to the bullpen after Burnett’s performance because Hughes has experience in the bullpen and Burnett’s wildness may not translate well to the bullpen.
- Granderson’s catch in the sixth inning added a strong defensive note to his resume for a potential Most Valuable Player award. Granderson’s 124 runs, 38 home runs, 107 RBIs, 10 triples and 24 stolen bases has overshadowed his excellent defense in centerfield.
- The Yankees were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position until Martin’s double and Chavez’s single in the three-run seventh. They left the bases loaded twice in the first six innings and left two on in two other innings. The pitching staff holding the Red Sox to six hits and just the two runs allowed the hitters to finally get the big hits when they needed them.
Teixeira was forced to leave the game in the bottom of the seventh inning due to swelling in right knee after he was hit by a pitch batting in the top of the sixth against Aceves. No X-rays were taken but Teixeira had the knee wrapped in ice after the game. He is day-to-day. . . . Along with Dickerson and Montero, the Yankees recalled four other players from their minor-league system. Infielder Brandon Laird and right-handed relief pitchers Lance Pendleton and Scott Proctor were called up from Scranton. Left-handed reliever Raul Valdes was recalled from Double-A Trenton. Proctor, 34, previously spent four seasons with the Yankees from 2004-2007. He posted a 2.57 ERA in seven innings at Scranton. Valdes, 33, had a 3.38 ERA in seven appearances with the Cardinals this season before he was released. Valdes becomes the second left-hander in the bullpen along with Boone Logan. . . . Alex Rodriguez (sprained left thumb) hopes to be able to return to the lineup on Friday.
The Yankees return home after a taxing road trip to host the Toronto Blue Jays for a three-game weekend series.
The Yankees will open the series with their hottest starter, Ivan Nova (14.4, 3.96 ERA). Nova is 6-0 in his six starts after being recalled from Scranton on July 30. He is 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA against the Blue Jays in his short career.
The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Brandon Morrow (9-9, 4.79 ERA). Morrow has allowed five homers and 11 runs in his last 10 innings over two starts. He lso has lost four of his last five starts. He is 3-1 with a 4.68 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, RED SOX 2
Reporters kept reminding CC Sabathia that he was 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Red Sox this season and he kept saying to them that he had beaten them before and he could do it again.
On Tuesday night, he did just that.
Sabathia bowed his neck and steeled his nerves to throw six tough innings, fanning 10 and stranding 10 baserunners as New York rode its ace lefty to a huge psychological victory over Boston at hallowed Fenway Park with 37,773 in attendance.
Sabathia (18-7) threw a Yankee career-high 128 pitches and gave up just two runs on 10 hits and two walks. But the best part of Sabathia’s performance was how he wriggled out trouble in virtually every inning.
In the second, Sabathia induced Jacoby Ellsbury to hit into a harmless grounder to end the inning with the bases full of Red Sox. In the fourth, Sabathia gave up four hits, including a solo home run by Carl Crawford and an RBI double by Marco Scutaro that brought the Red Sox back into the game at 3-2. But he struck out swinging American League batting leader Adrian Gonzalez to leave two more Bosoz adrift. In the fifth inning he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging and stranded two more runners.
Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away at right-hander John Lackey (12-10), who entered the contest with a 3-0 record against the Yankees this season. They did it without most of the usual suspects, too. It came from the crew who normally play off the bench.
In the second inning, Eric Chavez, who is filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez at third base, followed a Robinson Cano one-out walk and a Nick Swisher single with a bouncing RBI single just past second baseman “Dusty” Pedroia to break the seal on the scoring. I call Pedrois “Dusty” because in his effort to stop the bouncing ball he ate a face full of dirt on his dive.
The Yankees tacked two more runs off a tentative Lackey in the fourth. Curtis Granderson walked and one out later Robinson Cano doubled off high the Green Monster in left-center to score Granderson with his major-league-leading 123rd run of the season. After Nick Swisher drew a walk, Chavez hit another shot up the middle that Pedroia had no chance on to score Cano and give Sabathia a 3-0 cushion.
After the Red Sox scored what would be their only two runs of the night in the fourth, another bench player shocked Lackey and the Red Sox in the fifth. Francisco Cervelli, who came into the game with only one home run this season and a total of two in his career, blasted a 3-1 Lackey fastball over the Green Monster in left and out onto Landsdowne Street.
The Yankees added a run in the seventh. It started with a bang and some fireworks that cleared both benches and got Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild ejected from the game.
When Cervelli crossed the plate on his home-run gallop in the fifth he stopped at home plate to clap his hands. Lackey promptly hit him square in the back with his first delivery of the seventh. Cervelli immediately yelled out at Lackey and walked towards the mound. He was cut off by Saltalamacchia and home-plate umpire Ed Rapuano and both benches and bullpens cleared.
Calm was restored without any blows struck and Rapuano warned both benches to cut it out drew the ire. Rothschild had some parting words with third-base umpire Mark Wegner and walked away. However, Wegner tossed him from the game.
The question was did Lackey throw at Cervelli on purpose? If he did it was the stupidest thing he did all night. And Lackey, who came into the game with a 5.98 ERA, has been on a first-name basis with stupid in his pitching this season.
Lackey later uncorked a pitch that Saltalamacchia could not handle and Cervelli moved to second. Brett Gardner advanced Cervelli to third on a bunt single. Cervelli then scored on Derek Jeter’s double-play grounder. So if Lackey did hit Cervelli on purpose it was yet another stupid decision because it cost him a run.
Meanwhile, the Yankee bullpen had to navigate the last nine outs to preserve the victory for Sabathia. Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera combined to give up three hits, two walks and hit a batter over the final three innings. However, the Yankees were still able to keep the Red Sox from scoring with more clutch pitching.
Wade got into a one-out jam in the seventh when he walked David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie followed with a single.
Logan was summoned from the bullpen and he gave up a fly ball single to left-center by Crawford on which Ortiz could have scored. But he waited too long at second to see if it would drop. Logan then bowed his neck and steeled his nerves and fanned Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald on 3-2 pitches out of the strike zone.
Soriano pitched around a leadoff walk to Ellsbury to pitch a scoreless eighth and Rivera came on the ninth to fend off one last Red Sox threat.
Ortiz led off with a double. Two outs later, Rivera hit Saltalamacchia with a inside cutter in which Saltalamacchia appeared to swing. Wegner awarded Saltalamacchia first base, claiming he did not swing. Manager Joe Girardi erupted out of the dugout and he became Wegner’s second Yankee victim of the night.
Earlier in the inning, Jed Lowrie was called out on strikes on a Rivera fastball that appeared to be out of the strike zone. Lowrie slammed his bat and charged right into the face of Rapuano to argue the call and he was not ejected. Hmm!
Anyway, the hit batter left the Red Sox with the two on, two out and the tying run at the plate in pinch-hitter Josh Reddick. Reddick did slice a lined shot to the opposite field, however, Red Sox Nation went home crying like babies when Gardner reached up and snared the liner for the final out.
Rivera eanred his 35th save in 40 opportunities and it is the 594th of his career, seven saves away from all-times saves leader Trevor Hoffman’s total of 601.
The Red Sox can’t be proud of their effort on Monday. They struck out 13 times and left a total of 16 base-runners on base while scoring just two runs. The Red Sox were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The key to game was they missed their opportunities to score while the Yankees cashed in on the much fewer chances they had.
The best news is the Yankees have pulled to within a half-game of the Red Flops, uh, Sox in the American League East. The Yankees are 81-52. The Bosox are 82-52.
- Sabathia’s line of 10 hits and two walks over six innings is not very impressive. But it was a very gutsy effort the ace delivered on Monday. Sabathia struck out Gonzalez the first three times he faced him and Gonazalez ended the night 0-for-5, the only Bosox starter who did not get a hit. MVP, huh? Sabathia got the big outs when he needed to and limited the damage in the fourth to two runs. Sabathia might have been more impressive in toughing out this start then he has in his complete-game shutouts.
- Chavez came through subbing for A-Rod with a pair of RBI singles off Lackey in the second and fourth innings. After missing 2 1/2 months with a broken bone in his right foot, Chavez was hitting just .237 since his return in July. However, in his last four starts, Chavez is 6-for-16 (375). Chavez stands to get some more playing time while A-Rod heals his sore left thumb.
- Cervelli’s home run was a much smaller version of the Bucky Dent home run in the one-game playoff in 1978. Cervelli was the most unlikely Yankee to homer on Tuesday. His enthusiastic celebration at home plate also goaded Lackey into stupidly hitting him in the back with his first pitch in the seventh. It cost the Lackey and the Chicken Pox, uh, Red Sox a very important run. Letting a bench guy like Cervelli get under your skin is not smart.
- Logan deserves credit for fanning Saltalamacchia and McDonald in a bases-loaded pressure situation in the seventh. Logan has not given up an earned run since July 23 against Oakland, a span of 12 appearances. Logan is 4-2 and has lowered his season ERA to 2.60.
- The Captain let us down on Tuesday. Jeter could have been still favoring his bruised right knee but he went 0-for-5 including his run-scoring double play groundout. In fact he grounded out to the infield in all five at-bats. On the verge of passing the .300 mark, Jeter’s average fell back to .293.
- Mark Teixiera also flamed out in this game. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three weak infield popups. Teixeira is so intent on loading up on his back leg and lifting the ball that he pops up a lot, hence his current batting average of .249. Tex needs to stop going down for pitches and start hitting line drives on pitches up in the strike zone.
- Jorge Posada had no day to write home about either. He was 0-for-3 and ended the Yankees two best rallies in the second and fourth innings by grounding into double plays. He also flew out to left. Posada is hitting a anemic .239 in what likely will be his last season with the Yankees.
Rodriguez had a cortisone shot administered to his left thumb and he will not play in the Red Sox series. Rodriguez originally injured the thumb diving for a Joe Mauer infield single on Aug. 21, his first game back in the lineup after missing a month with surgery on his right knee. Rodriguez then re-aggravated the injury in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday against the Orioles. Rodriguez may be able to return to the lineup on Friday with the Yankees at home against the Blue Jays. . . . Sabathia became the fifth Yankees pitcher to win at least 18 games in three straight seasons and he is the first to do it since Vic Raschi did it from 1948 through 1951.
Well, in Act One we had four hit batters (five if you count the one Granderson was hit with that Rapuano had his head up his hind end and missed), two ejections and a bench-clearing incident. What will Act Two of the this three-act play between the Red Sox and Yankees bring on Wednesday?
The Yankees will count on 24-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes (4-4, 6.46 ERA). Hughes was on a three-game winning streak and looking like the 18-game winner he was in 2010. However, he allowed six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Athletics last week. But Hughes did not lose the game because the Yankees rallied from a 7-1 deficit to win 22-9. Hughes is 2-4 with a 6.25 ERA lifetime against the Blowsux, uh, Bosox.
The Sox will counter with right-hander Josh Beckett (11-5, 2.43 ERA). Beckett gave up four hits and fanned four in his last outing against the Rangers. Beckett is 13-7 with a 5.37 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2
Games can easily turn on the smallest things.
Up 2-0, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two out on the fifth inning and chased Yankees starter Bartolo Colon. But they failed to capitalize on it.
Tied at 2-2 in the sixth, Red Sox starter Jon Lester had just retired Robinson Cano on a bases-loaded double play. But Lester was unable to get out the inning without surrendering the lead.
Boone Logan (3-2) struck out American League batting leader Adrian Gonzalez with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth and Nick Swisher grounded a key two-out double over the bag at third to score Curtis Granderson with the tie-breaking run in the sixth as New York edged Boston to win their eighth straight game and reclaim sole possession of first place in the A.L. East.
The Yankees’ bullpen, ranked first in the major leagues in ERA, pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball, giving up just two hits and no walks and striking out five to disappoint the Red Sox fans among of the 38,006 in attendance at Fenway Park on Friday evening.
The Yankees last stood atop the division alone on July 7. They can only surrender it completely if they lose the next two games with the Red Sox this weekend.
The Red Sox drew first blood on Colon in the third inning. Josh Reddick stroked a one-out single and Marco Scutaro followed by hitting into a fielder’s choice that erased Reddick. But Jacoby Ellsbury slammed a 3-2 fastball off the top of the Green Monster in center to score Scutaro from first easily.
The following inning, the Red Sox added a run on a two-out solo home run from David Ortiz. Colon was ahead of Ortiz in the count 1-2, but Ortiz was able to line a fastball over the Red Sox bullpen into the bleachers in right-center for his 21st home run of the season.
Lester, meanwhile, entered the sixth inning having given up only two hits, two walks and he had struck out seven. He had to feel pretty cocky, too, because he came into the game with a career record against the Yankees of 8-1 with a 3.56 ERA. But the Yankees, buoyed from Logan’s strikeout of Gonzalez in the fifth, mounted a rally that Lester could not escape.
Eduardo Nunez started it by drawing a 3-2 walk. Derek Jeter followed with a single up the middle and Curtis Granderson scored Nunez with the Yankees’ first run with a loop single into shallow center.
Lester (11-5) then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases with no outs. However, Cano, who had a rough 0-for-4 evening with two strikeouts, hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Jeter scored from third to tie it at 2-2 but the once promising rally looked a lot bleaker with Granderson at third with two outs.
However, Swisher bounced a 1-1 pitch over the bag at third for a double that scored Granderson and gave the Yankees their first lead of the night. Because of the stellar work of the bullpen, it was all they needed.
Cory Wade, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera followed Logan to the mound and maintained the lead. Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out the last two hitters looking, to record his 29th save in 33 chances this season.
The Yankees now have a season record of 69-42. The Red Sox, who were unable to bury the Yankees in the standings despite having their best record ever in the month of July (20-6), fell to 68-43.
- Logan has taken a lot of abuse from Yankee fans and the media this season, but he deserves the victory and all the kudos for saving the Yankees in the fifth. Since a disastrous outing against the Cincinnati Reds on June 20, Logan has allowed just four earned runs in his last 16 appearances spanning 13 1/3 innings (2.70 ERA) with only three walks and 20 strikeouts.
- Swisher’s clutch double was part of a 2-for-3 night with a walk. In his last 10 games, Swisher is hitting a sizzling (.368) with two home runs and seven RBIs. That has raised Swisher’s season average to .267. Swisher hit .326 in June and .323 in July to rescue his season after a miserable first two months.
- Granderson’s RBI single in the sixth now give him 86 on the season, which trails only Ryan Howard (87) of the Phillies and Gonzalez (91) for the major-league lead. His tie-breaking run-scored now give him 98, which leads Ellsbury by 15 runs for the major-league lead. Granderson is hitting .326 in his last 10 games with a home run and 10 RBIs.
- Having Soriano back certainly paid dividends in this game. With Logan and Wade splitting the sixth, the Yankees needed Soriano to bridge the seventh to get to Robertson and Rivera in the final two innings. He pitched a perfect inning, punctuating the good outing by striking out Ellsbury swinging for the final out. A healthy Soriano can be a huge key to bullpen the rest of the season.
- Colon did not pitch great but he really did not pitch awful either. After retiring the Red Sox on just one hit and having thrown 29 pitches in the first two innings, Ellsbury drew him into an eight-pitch at-bat that culminated with an RBI double. Colon simply got beat on a poor 1-2 pitch to Ortiz for the home run in the fourth. But the Red Sox put him through a grinding fifth in which he loaded the bases with two outs on 26 pitches. Having thrown 94 pitches, Girardi chose to use Logan to pitch Gonzalez and it worked out perfectly for the Yankees. Colon left having given up two runs on five hits and one walk and he fanned two in 4 2/3 innings.
- Cano ceratinly has had better days at the plate. He struck out his first two at-bats and seemingly ended a promising rally on Lester in the sixth by hitting into a double play. In the ninth he laced a line drive into the right-field corner but it was caught by rookie Josh Reddick. Cano’s 0-for-4 night dropped his average back under .300 at .298.
- Jorge Posada also looked lost hitting from the right side of the plate — as he has all season. He was 0-2 against Lester with a strikeout and a flyout that was turned into a double play when Andruw Jones got caught too far off first base. Posada also struck out hitting left-handed against reliever Matt Albers. Posada is hitting .234 on the season.
Girardi and the Yankees have decided to keep Ivan Nova on the roster through the three-game weekend series with the Red Sox. That means Phil Hughes will be available to the Yankees for long relief, if needed, on Saturday or Sunday. The Yankees currently are carrying 13 pitchers and only three bench players. But Nova’s one-run, 10-strikeout performance against the White Sox on Thursday kept him on the roster and reserve outfielder Chris Dickerson remains at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It still is unclear if the Yankees intend to use a six-man rotation or what starter they will shift to the bullpen to resume a five-man rotation. . . . Alex Rodriguez increased his workload in his second day of rehab field workouts at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Rodriguez was happy with the workout and said he is progressing in his recovery from right knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
The Yankees will have a chance to extend their season-high eight-game winning streak against the Red Sox on Saturday and drop them to two games back in the division standings.
They have the guy pitching who can do it, too. The Yankees will start left-handed ace CC Sabathia (16-5, 2.55 ERA). Sabathia was not sharp on Monday against the White Sox but gave up only two runs on 10 hits over eight innings to go 9-1 since June 14. Unfortunately, of his five losses this season, three have come to the Red Sox. He is 6-8 with a 3.88 ERA against them lifetime.
The Red Sox will counter with struggling veteran right-hander John Lackey (9-8, 6.23 ERA). Lackey gave up five runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings on Monday against the Indians. He has been the most inconsistent starter for the Red Sox this season. He is 7-8 with a 4.68 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be at 4:10 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by the FOX Sports.