After spending the past two and a half weeks on the DL with stiffness in his lower back and tendinitis in his pitching shoulder, Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox 42-year old pitcher, looked like he hadn’t missed a beat Tuesday night hurling five innings and allowing only three runs on eight hits which was good enough to lead Boston past New York 7-3 in front of a Yankee Stadium crowd of over 55,000 fans.
Besides a pair of Johnny Damon solo homeruns, his 10th and 11th of the season, Wakefield shut down the potent Yankees lineup with knuckleball after knuckleball. He was able to keep himself out of trouble most of the night by working ahead in the count and not allowing leadoff men to reach base. The Boston bullpen was able to preserve Wake’s 8th win of the season by pitching four shutout innings in which they allowed only two hits.
“Phenomenal job,” Wakefield said of his teammates who were able to finish the game off.
The Yankees jumped in front when Johnny Damon led off the bottom of the first inning with his 10th homerun of the year off of Wakefield but the Sox quickly answered scoring a run in the top of the second inning on an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury, tying the score at 1-1. Jose Molina connected on a two out single in the bottom of the second inning to drive in Hideki Matsui, putting the Yankees back ahead 2-1, but again, the Sox would come right back with the answer scoring twice in the top of the third with three consecutive hits off of Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte. DH David Ortiz led off the inning with a double and scored when Kevin Youkilis drove him home in the next at bat with a double of his home. Jason Bay got into the hitting action connecting on an RBI single to plate Youkilis to put Boston ahead for good 3-2.
The Red Sox chased Pettitte from the game in the fifth inning when they were able to score three more runs on four hits. Coco Crisp knocked an RBI single to right-center field to put Boston a head 4-2 and then the big blow came when Bay drove home two more runs on his second hit of the night to put Boston on top 6-2. Bay would later add another RBI on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning to round out the Red Sox scoring.
New York did have some chances in the later innings to get back into this one, and they had the right guys up at the plate but just could not get the clutch hit they needed. Reigning AL MVP Alex Rodriguez went 0-5 on the night including grounding into two double plays, once with the bases loaded, and striking out twice, once to end the game. He was loudly booed by the Yankee Stadium crowd as the loss dropped New York 6 games behind the Sox for the Wild Card race and 9.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the division race.
“Tonight, you can put it on me,” Rodriguez said. “It was a lousy night. We pretty much screwed it up every way you can screw it up. There’s absolutely no excuse.”
Sox relief pitcher Justin Masterson was summoned to face Rodriguez with the bases loaded and only one out in the seventh inning. Masterson who is known as a groundball pitcher was able to force A-Rod to ground into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
When manager Terry Francona was asked about whether or not he thought twice about making the move to the rookie he said, “Poise is not a problem for him. He gives us options. We feel comfortable using him late in the game and he deserves it.”
After the big out last night, A-Rod is now 1-10 on the season with the bases loaded and 0-7 with the bases loaded when there were less then two outs in the inning. He’s now grounded into nine double plays over the last 19 games.
“I want him in that situation,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’ve seen him change a game with one swing.”
Rodriguez and the Yankees will get a chance to even the series tonight when they face RHP Paul Byrd. Byrd is 1-1 since being traded to Boston from the Cleveland Indians and is probably thrilled to face another team besides the Toronto Blue Jays, whom he has faced in his last three starts going 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA. Since the All-Star break, Byrd is 5-1 and sporting a 2.55 ERA over that span. Byrd is excited to pitch against the Yankees with his new team, especially with All-Star catcher Jason Varitek calling his pitches.
“I knew he was a good catcher, but he’s a great receiver,” Byrd said. “He’s really good. He blocks the ball better than I thought he did. What he brings behind the plate, a wealth of knowledge against the hitters is great. I’ve enjoyed throwing to him. I think we’ve jelled pretty quickly.”
The Yankees will counter with RHP Sidney Ponson who is 7-4 on the year with a 4.67 ERA. He’s lost his last two decisions and is coming off his shortest outing of the season when he lasted only 2+ innings against Toronto allowing eight hits and seven earned runs in the Blue Jays 14-3 win over New York last Thursday.
Tonight’s first pitch is at 7:05pm EST.