When the Yankees dumped 13 runs on the Red Sox in the first three innings of Monday night's contest it was the largest early-game outburst in the rivalry's history. Last night's game didn't start out quite so promisingly for the Yanks. Chien-Ming Wang needed 47 pitches to get through first two innings, pitching into and out of jams in both frames. Then David Ortiz smacked Wang's fourth pitch of the third inning off the facing of the upper deck in right to give the Red Sox an early lead 1-0. Red Sox rookie David Pauley, meanwhile, kept the Yankees scoreless through the first four innings, stranding four Yankee baserunners including the station-to-station Jorge Posada in scoring position twice.
But Wang settled down in the fourth, needing just sixteen pitches in the fourth and fifth combined and getting five of the six outs in those two innings on grounders. Bernie Williams then hit Pauley's first pitch of the fifth over the fence in right center to knot things up at 1-1. The shot was Bernie's first left-handed homer of the year and just his third overall.
From there, Wang and Pauley emptied their tanks to keep things locked up, Wang with a bit of help from Manny Ramirez, who decided to try to stretch a single into a double with one out in the sixth only to be easily thrown out by Johnny Damon of all people. Pauley again stranding Posada in the bottom of the sixth (Jorge was 2 for 3 with a double and a walk on the night).
Pauley finally ran into a mess he couldn't escape in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Miguel Cairo hit a low hopper back to the mound that skipped right under Pauley's glove for an infield single. As if distracted by the inning-ending play he should have made (after Cairo reached, Pauley stared at his glove searching for the hole that wasn't there), Pauley proceeded to surrender a single to Damon and walk Melky Cabrera on four pitches to load the bases.
With the rookie up to 98 pitches, Terry Francona called on Rudy Seanez to face Jason Giambi, only to watch Seanez issue a full-count walk to the man with the highest on-base percentage in the American League, forcing in the go-ahead run. Seanez then struck out Alex Rodriguez on three pitches to end the threat.
With Wang having thrown his season-high 108th pitch to end the seventh--saving Scott Proctor, who leads the majors in relief innings and had been warming in the pen, from what would have been an American League-leading 29th appearance--Joe Torre turned to Kyle Farnsworth to face the heart of the Red Sox line-up in the ninth.
Mark Loretta flied out to Damon in center on Farnsworth's first pitch, bringing Big Papi, the man responsible for the lone Red Sox run of the night to the plate. The highlight of Farnsworth's season to this point has been his bases-loaded strike out of Ortiz in Boston on May 24. That K came on a high slider that dropped into the strike zone for called strike three. This time out, Farnsworth fed Papi cheese, pumping a pair of 97 mile per hour heaters past Ortiz up in the zone to come back from a 2-1 count and strike out the big man.
All seemed to be going the Yankees way. Then Manny Ramirez cracked a 1-0 pitch from Farnsworth some 400 feet to the gap in left center. As the ball rocketed off of Manny's bat, Melky Cabrera broke for the gap, eventually leaping right at the 399 foot sign, colliding with the window in front of the Yankee bullpen and bringing Manny's game-tying homer back, turning it into the third out of the inning as he landed back on the warning track and stumbled forward, landing chest-first on the grass, his glove extended with Manny's shot tucked firmly in the webbing.
Johnny Damon, who had leapt at the wall several feet to the right of Cabrera (imagine and outfield defense that actually overlaps on a 400-plus-foot bomb), immediately started celebrating Cabrera's catch, throwing his arms in the air as he came down on the warning track and throwing a round-house fist pump as Cabrera fell onto the outfield grass. Ramirez meanwhile had rounded second by the time Cabrera had completed the play and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw that Cabrera had the ball, removing his helmet in a daze and muttering to himself in Spanish.
At that, all that was left was for Mariano Rivera, showing no ill effects from the back spasms that held him out of action over the weekend, to set the Sox down on five pitches in the ninth, which he did. The 2-1 victory gives the Yankees a guaranteed split in the current series, wins in their last four confrontations with the Sox, a 5-4 lead in the season series, a game and a half lead in the AL East, and ties them with the White Sox for the second best record in the major leagues, just a game and a half behind the Tigers, from whom they just took three of four last week. The Yankees, who have won nine of their last eleven and eleven of their last fourteen, are the hottest team in baseball right now despite a list of injuries and illnesses that would make Def Leppard blanch.
In other news, the Yankees designated Terrence Long for assignment before the game, promoting futility infielder and former Devil Ray Nick Green to give them an extra infielder with Derek Jeter still nursing his right thumb, which was hit with a Rodrigo Lopez pitch on Sunday. Jeter, who is still having trouble throwing and swinging with that hand, is expected to miss the remainder of the current series. Assuming he will be able to play against Oakland this weekend, Nick Green will be demoted in favor of Bubba Crosby, who is currently rehabbing his hamstring in Tampa.
The Yankees also expect to activate Shawn Chacon to start on Friday. One fears Matt Smith will be the victim of that move, but as Smith has only allowed one baserunner (a walk) in 3 1/3 major league innings this season and has been dominant with Columbus (16 1/3 IP, 16 H, 3 BB, 16 K) there's no reason that Scott Erickson (7.59 ERA, 7 BB, 2 K in 11 2/3 IP) or Aaron Small (9.67 ERA, 39 H and 9 HR in 22 1/3 IP), both of whom have long track records of failure, should be favored over the 26-year-old homegrown lefty. Should the Yankees make the right call here, dropping Small or Erickson in favor of Smith, all that will remain to trim the fat from the 25-man would be replacing the other half of that dismal duo with Ramiro Mendoza (with Columbus this year: 2.01 ERA, 31 1/3 IP, 25 H, 0 HR, 4 BB, 22 K in seven games, five starts). It's so close I can taste it.