Well, okay, give the the Boston Red Sox credit for doing what they had to do in this very important four-game series against the New York Yankees in the Bronx. The Sox did not get swept or lose three of four games to the first place Bombers. They held on to take the final game 2-1, to earn a split, powered by excellent pitching by their starter Jon Lester (W,12-7), and great bullpen work by Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon, who closed out this Boston victory with his 28th save.
Thus, the AL East race remains close, with the Yankees (69-42) in first place by 1.5 games over the second place Rays (68-44), who ended their five-game losing streak with a 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers. And six games ahead of the third place Red Sox (64-49). And ten games ahead of the surging fourth place Blue Jays (59-52). Even the last place Orioles (38-74) could be a spoiler down the stretch, as they are (6-1) under the new leadership of Manager Buck Showalter. The AL East is certainly the toughest division in baseball.
Both starters delivered great efforts in this game. But, Lester was the better pitcher in this battle against Phil Hughes (L,13-5), as he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning that was broken up by a one-out single by Austin Kearns.
The Sox scored all their runs in the second inning when they took an early 2-0 lead. With one out, Ryan Kalish hit a single, then stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Jorge Posada, before scoring the first run on an infield hit by Bill Hall. J.D. Drew drove home the second run on a RBI groundout.
Hughes struggled early on, but made adjustments while throwing a total of 114 pitches over six strong innings, giving up the two runs on six hits and one walk. He ended his time on the mound by getting 14 outs on the last 15 hitters he faced in this game.
The Yankees had plenty of chances to make a comeback, starting in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with no outs.
For sure, the Bombers had some bad luck while loading the bases in the seventh. After Jorge Posada led off with a single, a blast belted off the bat of Marcus Thames landed on top of the right-centerfield wall just inches from being a game-tying two-run homer [the ball bounced back on the field for a double]. There was also a play in the inning in which a fan distracted the Red Sox leftfielder Ryan Kalish from making a catch that could have been a sacrifice fly with Kearns batting.
At any rate, after all these exciting events, Austin Kearns was then hit-by-a-pitch which did load the bases with no outs, giving the Yankees a golden opportunity to score some runs and take the lead in this game. This would have given the Yanks a great chance to win Game Four, and drop Boston eight games out of first place.
Lester stayed composed, and struck out Curtis Granderson who has been a big disappointment for the Yanks this season, for out number one.
Terry Francona then brought Daniel Bard into the game. And Bard promptly struck out both Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher to end the Yankees threat. The score remained Red Sox 2, Yanks 0.
The Yanks finally broke through in the bottom of the eight when Mark Teixeira led off the inning by blasting his 26th homer, to cut the score to 2-1. This was Teixeira’s fourth lifetime hit in eleven at bats against Bard, including three homeruns. Interesting stat, since no other batter has hit more than one homer against Bard.
Alex Rodriguez continued the rally with a single. And, then, Joe Girardi sent Brett Gardner to first to pinch-run for A-Rod with Robinson Cano up at the plate. For some reason, though, Gardner did not attempt a stolen base, but did advance to second on a groundout by Cano. Posada then walked to set-up a first and second situation with Lance Berkman [pinch-hitting for Thames] now the batter. Berkman did not deliver [once again] for the Yanks, hitting an easy pop-up to left-field on a (2-0) pitch for the second out.
Francona then called Papelbon into the game to face Kearns, hoping for a four-out save by his closer. Papelbon threw one pitch that resulted in a ground ball to second base for the third out of the eight, ending another Yankee rally, and keeping the score 2-1 in favor of the Sox.
Yankee relievers Wood, Logan, and Chamberlain delivered scoreless pitching performances from the seventh through the ninth innings, to bring this [classic] game into the bottom of the ninth with the Red Sox still holding a 2-1 lead.
With Papelbon on the mound, Granderson led off the ninth by striking out.
Jeter then walked, and stole second, to put the tying run in scoring position and the winning run at the plate.
Nick Swisher was the next batter, and was struck out for the second out of the inning.
The Yanks were now down to their final out with Mark Teixeira coming up to the plate.
Teixeira battled Papelbon.
Another Ball. (2-2).
Foul Ball. Still (2-2).
And, the pitch.
Ball Game Over.
Red Sox 2, Yankees 1
Well, not much more to say.
It was a great series. And the race in the AL East continues.
Now, onto Texas for the New York Yankees.
– Jimmy Curran “BY&L” – Baseball, The Yankees, and Life …