Just like they did the last time he pitched against them in the Bronx, the Yankees hit three home runs off Curt Schilling last night. This time, however, all three were solo shots (by Johnny Damon leading off the game, Bernie Williams again batting lefty, and Robinson Cano snapping a 158 at-bat homerless streak). Otherwise, Schilling faced the minimum, walking none and allowing only one other hit, a Damon double in the third that was erased when Damon wandered off second expecting a Melky Cabrera fly out to center to drop in front of Coco Crisp.
Still, the Yankees carried a 3-1 lead into the sixth thanks to Jaret Wright's first-inning Houdini act. After giving up singles to three of the game's first four batters, the last off the bat of Manny Ramirez driving Coco Crisp home with the game's first run, Wright walked Trot Nixon to load the bases with one out. With his team on the verge of giving Curt Schilling a big early lead, Jason Varitek hit a ball right back to Jaret Wright, who body-blocked the ball, picked it up and threw home to start an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.
From there Wright settled down until the top of the sixth when he walked Ramirez, and allowed singles to Trot Nixon and Varitek, the latter plating Ramirez. Wright then clipped Mike Lowell on the jersey to load the bases, ending his day. With none out, the bases loaded and the Yankees clinging to a slim 3-2 lead, Joe Torre called on Scott Proctor to face the bottom of the Red Sox order.
Proctor got ahead of Kevin Youkilis 0-2 before getting him to fly out to center for the first out. That tied the game at three. Proctor the got ahead of Alex Gonzalez 0-2 only to have Gonzalez foul off three pitches and take what looked like strike three on the inside corner to everyone but home plate ump Tim McClelland and Gonzalez for ball one. Gonzalez then fouled off one more pitch before yanking a fastball down the middle past Alex Rodriguez for an RBI double. The ball, which was hit hard and took a sharp hop over Rodriguez's glove, actually tipped off the pinky of Rodriguez's mitt. Initially ruled a double, the scoring was briefly changed to an E5 before being reversed yet again. Proctor then fell behind Crisp 3-0, but the Red Sox's lead-off hitter swung at the 3-0 pitch and grounded out and Mark Loretta flew out to left on Proctor's next pitch.
Down just a run, the top of the Yankee order went down on seven pitches in the bottom of the frame, capped by Giambi striking out on three pitches.
Joe Torre stuck with Proctor to start the seventh against the Sox big guns. David Ortiz lead off with a double and the Yankees somewhat wisely decided to walk Manny Ramirez rather than let Manny's personal whipping boy, Proctor, pitch to him. A better move likely would have been to pull Proctor there and then, but as was revealed after Proctor surrendered a game-breaking three-run homer to Jason Varitek five pitches later, the next man in line was Scott Erickson.
Erickson started his day by giving up a single to Lowell and cracking Kevin Youkilis on the elbow with a wildly errant fastball. He then allowed both runners to score on a two-out Crisp single, running the score to the eventual 9-3 final.
Mopping up in the eighth, Matt Smith ended his career-starting no-hit streak at four innings by giving up two-out singles to Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek before stranding them by getting Mike Lowell to foul out to end the inning. Aaron Small pitched a perfect ninth.
In other news, Gary Sheffield has decided to have surgery on his wrist, officially eliminating any chance of his returning before September. Brian Cashman said the decision was made because the injury did not appear to be healing on its own and having surgery was the only option that might allow Sheffield to return this season.
While Melky Cabrera's unexpectedly high on-base percentage and rapidly improving defense have greatly reduced the impact of Hideki Matsui's injury, the Yankees current plan to replace Sheffield with a platoon of Bernie Williams and Bubba Crosby will not suffice, even if removing Bernie from the DH picture has made room for Andy Phillips to assume the starting first base job. It was clear at the beginning of the season that Bernie was going to be a problem that needed fixing, and despite his two left-handed home runs in the last two games, he remains one.
Despite hitting .301 in May, Bernie, once an on-base machine, continues to walk at half his career rate and despite those two dingers (half of his season total) his power remains a memory. The result is a still dismal .266/.312/.382 line on the year. Then there's the fact that his defense in right has been worse than his play in center ever was. Bernie's range in center may have completely dried up in his final years at the position, but in right field he regularly misplays outs within his limited range into hits. Bubba Crosby is quite the opposite on defense, but more of the same (which is to say, less) at the plate.
The Yankees recently surprised (and impressed) many by demoting Terrence Long in favor of Kevin Thompson. Now is the time to give Thompson an extended look in right. Thompson may ultimately be nothing more than a fourth outfielder, but the Yankees need to know what they have before the trading deadline, which is less than two months away, and it's rather apparent what they have in Bernie and Bubba, the former of whom should be retired and the latter of whom has maxed out as a speed and defense fifth outfielder.
Speaking of Bubba, he'll start a rehab assignment today rather than rejoining the team as originally expected. Octavio Dotel will start his rehab assignment on Sunday. Crosby should play just a few games before being activated next week. Dotel is looking at a longer rehab stint and is expected to work his way up through the Yankees' minor league system and join the team in a couple of weeks.
In other minor league news, Eric Duncan has finished rehabbing his strained back and has been assigned to double-A Trenton, where he should have started the season anyway as he failed to deliver at that level last year. Duncan is listed as a third baseman on the Trenton roster, suggesting he's been moved back to his original position, if so it would imply that the Yankees are now thinking of Duncan less as Jason Giambi's successor than as potential trade bait. Matt DeSalvo, who has been just plain awful thus far this year with Columbus despite a tremendous minor league track record, was also reassigned to Trenton. Further down in the system, Marcos Vechionacci and Tim Battle, neither of whom hit a lick with high-A Tampa, were sent down to low-A Charleston. That isn't as bad as it sounds for Vechionacci, who is actually younger than last year's number one pick C.J. Henry, who is also with Charleston, but is problematic for Battle, who is nearly a year Vechionacci's senior and barely more than a year younger than Melky Cabrera. On the flip side, Stephen White and T.J. Beam have been promoted to Columbus after strong showings with the Thunder. The latter just might be a worthy late-season replacement for Scott Proctor, who's looking more and more like the old Scott Proctor in part because his curve ball has gone missing. Finally, Ben Davis and Erubiel Durazo have both joined the Clippers after brief stays in A ball.