With some help from Jason Giambi, the New York Yankees avoided a three game sweep by beating the Boston Red Sox 3-2 yesterday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Giambi hit a pinch hit homerun in the seventh inning to tie the game at 2-2 and then delivered in the clutch once again in the ninth inning, knocking home the game winning run off of Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. The game was the last meeting between the two teams at Yankee Stadium before the park is set to close following the culmination of the 2008 season.
The Yankees who had dropped to 7 games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race following Wednesday night’s defeat needed a win badly to keep the thought of the playoffs alive, and with Giambi’s heroics, they still have some life.
“We have a pulse,” Giambi said. “Hopefully, this will jump-start this ballclub.”
The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning when they were able to piece together two hits and a hit batsmen off of Yankees starter Mike Mussina to go ahead. Jason Varitek collected an RBI single and Jacoby Ellsbury drove in the second run on a fielder’s choice.
Sox starter Jon Lester was brilliant through 7 2/3 innings allowing only five hits while striking out eight over the outing. He was removed after allowing a two-out double to Cody Ransom on his 119th pitch of the afternoon. Hideki Okajima came on in relief to face Jose Molina, but in an odd move, Yankees manger Joe Girardi called for the lefty Giambi to pinch hit against the left handed pitcher.
Turns out Girardi knew what he was doing. Giambi sent Okajima’s second pitch over the center field wall to even the score and energize the stagnant Yankees lineup.
“We’ve been stale. We haven’t been able to get the big hit. We haven’t been able to make a big pitch,” Giambi said. “Hopefully, this turns it around.”
The Yankees bullpen was able to keep the Sox at bay in the eighth and ninth innings setting the stage for some fireworks in their bottom of the ninth. Justin Masterson was on the mound for the Sox and allowed a leadoff single to Xaiver Nady. After a line out by Robinson Cano and a stolen base by pinch runner B Gardner, the Sox chose to intentionally walk Hideki Matsui to set up a double play or force out at third. Sounds like a good plan but Masterson followed up by issuing another walk to Ivan Rodriguez to load the bases for Giambi with only one out.
Sox manager Terry Francona summoned his closer in Papelbon to try and get out of the jam but even he could not work his way out of this one. Giambi laced the game winning RBI single up the middle on an 0-2 96 mph Papelbon fastball.
“I don’t care about the first two games—this one hurt,” Francona said. “We played our hearts out. We lost a really tough game.”
The Sox head back to Boston after going 6-3 on their nine game road trip, winning all there of the series 2 games to 1. Of their 29 remaining games, 20 of them will be played at Fenway Park where they’ve collectively gone 43-18 this season for a .705 winning percentage, the second best home percentage in the American League behind Tampa Bay.
Tonight, the Red Sox welcome the Chicago White Sox to town for a three game series. Pitching for Boston will be Dice-K Matsuzaka (15-2, 2.98 ERA) vs. Chicago’s Javier Vazquez (10-11, 4.37 ERA). Dice-K currently has as many wins this season as he posted in his MLB rookie campaign last year, and is looking to surpass that mark for the second start. This past Sunday, he did not factor into the decision of Boston’s 6-5 extra inning victory over Toronto.
Tickets are still available for this weekend’s games vs. Chicago as well as next week’s series vs. Baltimore. The Sox will break MLB’s consecutive sellout streak of Fenway Park this coming Wednesday afternoon and ACE has your seats to the game!