Before the first game of this four-game weekend series between the Yankees and Red Sox, the New York Yankees honored Muhammah Ali. Maybe the presence of this great boxing legend inspired both teams to treat this crucial series like a World Class Championship Boxing Match.
In the first game on Thursady night, both the Yankees and Red Sox slugged it out like an old-fashioned street brawl, battling on the field, and on the mound, to the final out when the Yankees were the last team standing, victorious with a 13-6 win.
The Bronx Bombers pounded out 18 hits, including four home runs, and put this game out of reach for the Sox with a power explosive eight-run third inning that moved the Yanks into a 9-3 lead at the time.
This inning was highlighted by a pair of three-run homers by Melky Cabrera and Jorge Posada, and basically ended future Hall of Famer John Smoltz’s comeback attempt, as the Boston starter was designated for assignment the following day.
The Yankees power surge also included a pair of solo homers by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira that helped to hold off the Red Sox eight-hit attack, which included a homer by Dustin Pedroia, and a two-run homer by Boston newcomer Casey Kotchman.
The pitching in this game was awful by both teams, as all pitchers who took the mound struggled to keep runners off base and keep the score down. Yankee pitchers allowed 12 walks, and Red Sox hurlers gave up six base-on-balls.
Joba Chamberlain by far did not throw his best game, and got in and out of trouble in basically every inning he pitched. He was one hit or walk away from being taken out of this game before he completed a full five innings of work. But, Chamberlain (8-2) did hold on long enough to strike out the final two batters in a one-out, bases loaded situation in the top of the fifth that kept the score at 9-4 before he departed, which enabled him to be credited with the win.
So, this game ended up being a slugfest with the Yankees winning 13-6, to increase their lead to three and a half games over the second place Boston Red Sox.
A Classic Game For The Ages …
The second game of this “Summer Showdown”, Game #10 of the Yankees vs. Red Sox “Season Within A Season”, which was billed as a great pitching matchup between A.J. Burnett of the Yankees and Josh Beckett of the Red Sox, was just that, indeed.
Oh, boy, did this advance billing live up to all the hype.
Both pitchers were brilliant, engaged in an old-fashioned pitchers duel matching zero for zero on a perfect night for baseball in the Beautiful Bronx.
Josh Beckett thew 115 pitches over seven solid innings, allowing no runs, on four hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts.
A.J. Burnett was just as dominant, tossing 118 pitches throughout seven and two-third innings without allowing a run; while giving up only one hit, to Jacoby Ellsbury leading off the game; and, six walks, and six strikeouts.
The game entered the eight inning still tied 0-0 with the bullpen now in control of the outcome, as the sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium was mesmerized by what was taking place on the basebll diamond in front of them.
Watching this game at home on the YES Network, I could feel the same tension and excitement as the faithful at the Stadium.
This game was like a Championship Fight, round by round, inning by inning, both the Yankees and Red Sox were battling for the prize — a victory, and another game up in the AL East standings.
Phil Hughes got the final out in the top of the eight inning, and it was now the battle of the bullpens as seven Red Sox relievers would continue the duel, pitch by pitch, out by out, with five pitchers out of the Yankees pen.
Mariano Riveria struck out two batters and closed out the ninth inning.
Alfredo Aceves turned in a solid effort pitching the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings, allowing only one hit, one walk, and striking out three, for the Yanks; while, Okajima, Bard, Ramirez, Papelbon, and Delcarmen also delivered scoreless performances for the Red Sox.
At the end of the 9th: 0-0
Extra innings ..
At the end of the 10th: 0-0
At the end of the 11th: 0-0
At the end of the 12th: 0-0
Brian Bruney, who has not been pitching well, took the mound for the Yanks in the top of the 13th; and, once again, the bullpen kept zero’s up on the scoreboard, as he retired the side in order, including two strikeouts. Saito also pitched a scoreless inning in the bottom of the 13th, moving the game into the 14th still tied: 0-0.
Bruney came out to start the 14th inning, and got into a little trouble when Kevin Youkilis doubled with one out. Then, after David Ortiz grounded out, the Yankees intentionally walked J.D. Drew that put two runners on base with two outs. But, Bruney retired the next batter Jason Varitek on a grounder to second for the final out of the inning.
In the bottom of the 14th, it looked like the Yankees would win the game when Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back singles with one out against rookie reliever Junichi Tazawa who was making his first appearance in the Major Leagues.
Eric Hinski was up next and stroked a solid line drive to right field that had “game-winning” hit all over it. But, J.D. Drew made a great running catch for the second out that saved the game for the Red Sox at that point.
Melky Cabrera was now up, and lined a shot right down the right field line that landed just inches from being a fair ball RBI single that would have won the game. Oh, so close to winning the game. Tazawa then struck out Melky to end the inning, sending the game into the 15th still tied: 0-0.
Phil Coke pitched an easy one-two-three top of the 15th, moving the game into the bottom of inning still tied: 0-0.
The way this game was going, it looked like it would go on forever. But, if that was the case, I know, I for one, would be there for every pitch right to the end because this was one of the most exciting baseball games that I have ever seen, and the longer it went on, the more exciting it became.
The “Captain” Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the 15th with a bloop single to center field; and, after Damon grounded out, and Teixeira struckout, Alex Rodriguez was the next batter up with two outs and Tazawa still on the mound.
The crowd still could not believe what a special game and event they were watching, as Rodriguez stepped up to the plate to face the rookie reliever with the winning run on base.
First pitch. Ball
Next pitch. Strike, looking. (1-1)
Outside. Ball. (2-1)
The crowd is on its feet, cheering for a game-winning hit.
Tazawa sets himself on the mound.
The pitch, breaking ball over the middle off the plate …
And, there it goes …
A-Rod has done it,
A HOMERUN TO LEFTFIELD INTO THE RED SOX BULLPEN !!!
THE YANKEES WIN, THE YANKEES WIN, THE YANKEES WIN
The Yankees win one of the greatest games ever played, 2-0 !!!
And, all it took was five hours and 33 minutes, and two days to earn the victory.
— Jimmy Curran, “BY&L” – “Baseball, The Yankees, and Life”