The Boston Red Sox finally got that 0-6 monkey off their backs with a 9-6 victory over the New York Yankees in their home opener at Fenway Park, Friday. The home bats found some pop at last and despite the lacklustre starting pitching the bullpen shone like a beacon coughing-up four scoreless relief innings – allowing just three base-runners – to see the Red Sox home.
The Yankees got off to a bright start with three runs of the first two John Lackey innings. But the home side rallied to see off the Yankees’ struggling starting RHP, Philip Hughes, with a five run second-inning. The Red Sox struggled to contain the New York bats though with John Lackey again lacklustre, too often pushing the fast ball high in the zone.
Bartolo Colon stifled the hot Red Sox bats when he took the reins in the third inning and slowly but surely the Yankees ate into the home side’s 6-3 lead to tie the game at 6-6.
RBI from Jarrod Saltalammachia (1) and then JD Drew (2) edged the Red Sox into a decisive 9-6 lead though as Alfredo Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard and finally Jonathon Papelbon shut-out the Yankees’ power-hitters.
It all started with a ragged first inning from Lackey, with two walks turning-up on the scoreboard as a result of Robinson Cano’s double to the deepest part of Fenway. This after Lackey was ruffled by what appeared to be a missed strike call on at least one of those walks. The troubled Red Sox righty left the mound at the end of the innings without a glance at home plate umpire Mark Wegner.
The Red Sox re-reshuffled line-up pegged one run back in the top of the innings though. Feisty second-baseman Dustin Pedroia backing-up yesterday’s emotional post-game outburst with a homer that just barely climbed into the first row of the stands. Yankees’ pitcher Hughes continued to struggle to find the velocity that marked an 18-win 2010 season.
Another double, this time from Brett Gardner, drove in the Yankees’ third run (Curtis Granderson) from third base with 2 out in the innings. And with Lackey’s pitch count already climbing into the 40s it looked like a long day ahead.
Thankfully for the Red Sox, Hughes’ woes continued in the second-innings. Successive hits from Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Elsbury loaded the bases with nobody out. And Marco Scutuaro’s dribbling infield hit to Derek Jeter was enough to score Drew, with Saltalamacchia forced out at third.
The stage was set for Pedrioa again and his double to centre field drove-in Elsbury and Scutaro for a 4-3 Sox lead. Pedroia then slid under the tag of Russell Martin at home to beat Granderson’s throw after Adrian Gonzales ripped his first pitch to left-field for his sixth RBI in seven games.
And in an inning that just kept on giving David Ortiz drove in a fifth run (Gonzales) after Kevin Youkilis had singled, with Youk then caught-up in a run-down at second to end the innings with the home side 6-3 ahead.
The pitching roller-coaster continued in the bottom of the third with Lackey getting a favourable call to strike-out Mark Teixeira before hitting the next batter he faced (Gardner). Another Cano double laid the table for NIck Swisher with two-men in scoring position. Sure enough Swisher’s weak infield hit to second was enough to score Gardner.
Yankees’ skipper, Joe Giradi, had seen enough of the struggling Hughes though, with Colon replacing him in the home half of the third.
The Yankees clawed another run back in the fourth, Gardner led off the inning with a triple that almost got by Drew in the right-field corner, with Jeter driving him in with a single.
Colon pitched a scoreless fourth but Lackey opened the top of the fifth with a hanging fast ball that Alex Rodreguez deposited into the Green Monster seat to level the score a 6-6. And so the Red Sox frittered away another lead.
Ortiz punched a single by Teixeira in the 5th to push Youk round to 3rd with one out; but Drew was caught out in foul territory, Next up was Saltalamacchia who fought off a couple of Colon fast balls before bouncing a double off the wall to score Youkilis and put Ortiz and himself in scoring position. Elsbury gave his first pitch a long ride with Swisher just clinging to the ball after colliding with Granderson in centre field.
Alfredo Aceves made his Red Sox debut in relief of Lackey in the top of the sixth. He struck-out Granderson on a full-count and escaped with a scoreless inning when xxxx hitting into a double play. Colon replied in style with his third 1-2-3 inning.
And then the first of the vaunted Red Sox closing-trio took the stage. But Bobby Jenks struggled to find the strike-zone as he pitched the seventh; walking the first batter, Gardner, and throwing his first strike on pitch seven. Once he found it he wiffed A-Rod and just missed-out on an innings ending double play with Cano just beating out the throw back to first. Swisher’s long fly ball to left was coralled by Crawford up against the foul pole wall though to end a scoreless inning.
Colon’s stint ended after Gonzales started the home 7th with a bunt down the third base line to beat the shift. Ortiz then advanced Gonzales to third when he caromed a double off the wall. Drew’s sharply hit single between 1st and 2nd drove in two runs (Gonzales, Ortiz) for a 9-6 lead with one out. Saltalamacchia popped one up for a cheap out though and Elsbury ripped-one just foul before hitting one weakly to first for the out.
Daniel Bard stepped into the fray in the eighth for Jenks and sent Granderson down with 96mph strikeout ball, moving-on to mop-up a sweet 1-2-3 inning.
With the Red Sox going down cheaply in their half of the eighth the game was set for closer, Jonathon Papelbon. A 3-run lead. A home crowd hungry for the first win of 2011 and a contract-year in the offing. Two strikeouts and a 1-2-3 inning later the game was won.
Time to put the dreadful 0-6 start in the rear view mirror.