The Yankees and Red Sox combined to put 23 men on base yesterday afternoon, but just three of them came around to score as the Yankees pulled out a slim 2-1 victory.
The Sox set the tone in the top of the first inning. With one out, Dustin Pedroia lined a ball down the left field line that kicked out to left fielder Brett Gardner. Pedroia attempted to stretch the hit into a double, but was nailed at second base by a perfect throw from Gardner. Two pitches later, J.D. Drew doubled, but with Pedroia already in the dugout, Boston had nothing to show for their back-to-back hits. Yankee starter Mike Mussina then moved Drew to third on a wild pitch and lost control of a 3-2 changeup which slipped behind Manny Ramirez and hit him in the rump to put runners on the corners, but rallied to strike out Mike Lowell to strand both runners.
The Yankees took an early lead against Boston's rookie starter Justin Masterson in the bottom of the second on a four-pitch walk to Jason Giambi and two-out singles by Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera, but Jose Molina grounded out to strand two more runners. An inning later, they loaded the bases with one out when Derek Jeter singled, Bobby Abreu walked, and Alex Rodriguez was hit on the right thigh by a pitch, but Giambi struck out and Wilson Betemit grounded out to strand all three.
That third inning featured two key defensive plays by the Red Sox's infield. With Brett Gardner leading off the inning, third baseman Mike Lowell was playing several steps in on the grass to protect against the bunt. When Gardner instead hit a would-be double down the third base line, Lowell made a great diving stop to his right to retire the rookie. Betemit's inning-ending groundout was also hit hard and required second baseman Dustin Pedroia to range far to his left and make a spinning catch and throw to kill the Yankee rally.
Hit batsmen, sharp defensive plays, and runners left on base would continue to be the order of the day. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Alex Rodriguez singled and stole both second and third. Jason Giambi ripped a liner down the first base line that was ruled fair by first base umpire Laz Diaz at the exact same moment that it was snared by a tumbling Kevin Youkilis for the final out.
In the meantime, Robinson Cano was hit in the right ankle by a Masterson slider and Ramirez was hit again by Mussina, this time in the hand. Before the game was over, the Yankees and Red Sox would tie a record by hitting a combined seven batters. To the good fortune and credit of both teams, no one was hurt, and no one took offense to any of the HBPs, all of which were clearly unintentional, particularly given the close score throughout the game.
Despite hitting Ramirez a second time, Mike Mussina settled down after his shaky first inning. He allowed just four baserunners over his next five innings, never more than one in a single inning, and didn't allow any of them to get past first base. Unfortunately, he started to feel lightheaded in the sixth inning and didn't come back out to pitch the seventh despite having thrown only 89 pitches.
It was thus all the more advantageous that the Yankees were able to add to their lead against Masterson in the bottom of the sixth. Wilson Betemit, who is hitting a sub-par, but respectable .276/.323/.414 over his last ten games, led off with a single. With one out, Melky Cabrera, who is 5 for 10 since getting Wednesday's game off, also singled to put runners at first and second. Masterson's first pitch to Jose Molina then went wild to move the runners up, and three pitches later Molina became the fifth batter hit by a pitch in the game, loading the bases. Facing a crucial bases-loaded, one-out situation, Brett Gardner lifted a sac fly to deep left field to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Derek Jeter, who is hitting .302/.380/.421 since the start of June, grounded out to strand the remaining two runners.
In relief of Mussina, Jose Veras and Kyle Farnsworth worked perfect seventh and eighth innings, respectively, to get the ball to Mariano Rivera with the Yankees' 2-0 lead still intact. (Since June 5, Veras has an 0.55 ERA with 16 Ks in 16 1/3 innings and Farnsworth has a 2.53 ERA with 11 Ks in 10 2/3 innings and "just" two home runs allowed.)
Rivera's last appearance had come four days earlier when he entered a 2-2 game against the Rangers in the ninth and gave up the winning run to the first two batters he faced. This time it took three batters for Rivera to surrender a run as J.D. Drew singled, Manny Ramirez was hit by a pitch for the third time in the game, and Mike Lowell singled to plate Drew and put the tying run on second base with no outs. Rivera then plunked Kevin Youkilis to push that run to third, load the bases with no outs, and tie an American League record.
In the clubhouse, Mike Mussina couldn't keep still. "When things are happening bad you try anything you can," he said after the game. "When things are going good you don't move and when they're going bad you do. So I just kept moving around."
With the tying run dancing off third base, Rivera struck out Coco Crisp on three pitches, got Jason Varitek to pop out to Betemit at first base, and struck out Julio Lugo to preserve the tense 2-1 win.
"I was standing up when he got the last two outs," said Mussina, who picked up his eleventh win and the 261st of his career.
Mussina said he was feeling better after the game, but there's some concern that there might be a bug going around the Yankee locker room as Jorge Posada was unavailable for the game due to illness. The Yankees are expected to put Johnny Damon the DL for the first time in his career today as a result of his memorable collision with the left field wall in Friday's game. Pete Abe reports that Brian Cashman would likely call up a pitcher to take Damon's spot on the roster, though that makes little sense with the Yankees already down to three bench spots, two of which are occupied by catchers, one of whom was too sick to play yesterday, so I'll believe it when I see it. Either way, that means that Brett Gardner will be the everyday left fielder and leadoff man at least through the All-Star break.
In other news, Brian Bruney has started his rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League. Chris Britton has been activated off the DL and optioned to triple-A. Ben Broussard has rejoined Scranton as a replacement for Shelley Duncan, who's likely out for the year with a separated shoulder. Chien-Ming Wang is starting upper body exercises, but won't get out of his cast for another month. Phil Hughes is doing some long tossing, and Ian Kennedy's return to triple-A was rained out on Thursday.
Tonight the Yankees look to salvage a split behind Joba Chamberlain, who had better have no-hit stuff the way this offense continues to scuffle.