Carlos Beltran's two-run home run off John Lackey got the Yankees off and running Saturday as the Red Sox allowed five home runs in all and lost another game to the Bombers in the Bronx.
By Michael Parente
This is probably going to be a hockey town for a few more weeks, or at least until it’s safe to break out the floaties and sunscreen.
On the same day in which the Boston Bruins wrapped up the President’s Trophy with the NHL’s best record for the first time in 25 years, the Red Sox slipped two games below .500 following a 7-4 loss to the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
Once again, the offense was anemic with runners in scoring position while John Lackey and Burke Badenhop combined to yield five home runs to a Yankee lineup that had only hit seven all season entering Saturday’s matinee.
The four-game set concludes Sunday night with Boston sending Felix Doubront to the mound against Ivan Nova in hopes of leaving New York with a split.
With closer Koji Uehara possibly heading back to Boston to get more testing done on his stiff right shoulder and the details of lefty Jon Lester’s contract negotiations leaking to the press this weekend, there’s no telling what this team will look like – or where it’ll be in the standings – once hockey season ends and fans turn back to baseball.
The Sox and Yankees were deadlocked at two apiece Saturday after Carlos Beltran and A.J. Pierzynski exchanged two-run home runs, but New York took the lead for good in the fourth inning when Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano hit back-to-back solo blasts to right off Lackey. McCann added a two-run bomb off Lackey in the sixth to break the game open and Kelly Johnson added an insurance run with a solo home run off Badenhop in the eighth.
As bad as Boston has been offensively at times (.196 batting average with runners in scoring position), the Yankees were experiencing an unusual power outage with only seven bombs through 11 games. Keep in mind this is a franchise that has hit 200 or more home runs in 13 of the last 16 seasons. Saturday was a chance for the team to exhale, especially McCann, who, in the first year of his five-year, $85-million contract, entered Saturday with no home runs and a .162 batting average.
Until Mike Carp’s bases-loaded single in the seventh, the Red Sox were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position Saturday and 1-for-20 in the series, and the hit by Carp was somewhat of a gift thanks to Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi inexplicably shifting his infield to the right side and leaving a 90-foot space between second and third, which Carp took advantage of with a single to left. David Ortiz had an opportunity to snap the 2-2 tie in the fifth with a runner on third and only out, but he popped out against starter Hiroki Kuroda, who then finished the inning by retiring Mike Napoli on a fly out to center.
With Yankees’ closer David Robertson on the disabled list and Girardi still struggling to find the right fit, the Red Sox figured to have a puncher’s chance of getting back in the game after Carp’s two-run single pulled them to within 6-4, but Carp killed the rally moments later when he mysteriously took off for second base on an 0-1 pitch to Xander Bogaerts and was thrown out by McCann.
Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley cleaned up the final two innings in just 29 pitches to finish off New York’s 7-4 win. Despite the question marks without Robertson, the Yankee bullpen has been masterful in this series, allowing only two hits in 7 2/3 innings with 12 strikeouts. Arguably the most impressive reliever has been 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances, who struck out the side Friday in his only inning of work and had Bogaerts behind in the count 0-2 Saturday when McCann gunned down Carp at second in the top of the seventh. Along with Warren and lefty Matt Thornton, the 26-year-old Betances gives the Yankees three relievers who consistently throw in the low- to mid-90s, which might help ease the transition in the post-Mariano Rivera era.
Tomorrow’s starter, Doubront, is coming off a horrible outing against Texas in which he allowed five earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings, but his counterpart, Ivan Nova, has been worse. Nova is 0-2 with an 8.68 ERA, and while his infield defense (or lack thereof) let him down in Tuesday’s 14-5 loss to Baltimore, he’s been New York’s worst starter through the first two and a half weeks of the season and is the main reason the team is wallowing near the bottom of the American League with a 4.41 ERA.
The Red Sox need some key hits with men on base and with the sinkerball Nova pitching in front of an infield defense – with or without Derek Jeter at shortstop – that might be the worst in baseball, they figure to have plenty of base runners and plenty of opportunities to right the ship. Another lousy game in the Bronx might prompt Boston fans to keep those hockey playoff beards until August.
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