A Classic Between Rivals: Red Sox Eek Out Win Against Yanks

June 11, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

J.D. Drew trotted back to the dugout sporting a smile. Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, on the top step of the dugout, returned the favor and slapped him on the helmet.

Moments earlier, Drew socked a fastball from New York Yankees relief pitcher Phil Hughes high off the Green Monster in center field, raced around the bases, and evaded a diving tag attempt by third baseman, sliding in safely for a triple.

With that hit, he forced Francona to open his pocketbook and shell out 10 bucks. See, they have a bet going: whenever Drew hits a ball off the Green Monster, therefore to the opposite field, Francona’s wallet gets a little lighter.

Francona should have never been forced to fork over the cash. Hughes missed the strikezone on three of the first four pitches of the at-bat. The next pitch, a fastball, was well outside the strikezone.

Drew started to walk to first base, but umpire called the pitch a strike. Drew stepped into the box, and proceeded to tattoo the pitch Hughes immediately wanted back.

Hughes wanted an offering to the next hitter, Kevin Youkilis, back as well.

Youkilis, perhaps the best hitter in the American League, crushed the third pitch, and the first fastball of the at-bat into Boston’s bullpen for his tenth home run of the season.

The Red Sox lead ballooned to four. Though it was only the fourth inning, Boston appeared on its way to their seventh straight victory over the Yankees.

Their offense tormented New York starting pitcher Chien Ming-Wang, who was making his return to the rotation. A year ago, the Yankees could feel confident heading into a start by Wang, a 19-game winner in both 2006 and 2007 with the team.

He was their ace, but, after sustaining a foot injury rounding the bases in a blowout win over the Houston Astros in 2008, he hasn’t even been a shadow of his former self.

The 29-year-old Japanese righthander was shellacked in his first three starts of this season, allowing an unheard-of 23 runs in six innings.

After being placed on the 15-day Pavano to get his head on straight and fix his mechanics, he returned, making three decent appearances in long relief. His return to the rotation was not a good one, as he relinquished five earned runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Texas Rangers.

With nothing positive to build from, Wang entered this start at Fenway Park with the hope that he would wake up from this horrible nightmare. Yet, he just kept tossing and turning.

A groundball pitcher, he got the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia, to pound a sinker into the ground for the first out. At this point, manager Joe Girardi had to think “Okay, if he can keep the ball down and locate his pitches on a regular basis, we may be able to get five innings out of him.”

The old Wang would have kept creating divits in the infield and build upon Girardi’s presumptive hope and throw seven or eight innings. The new Wang had a tough time getting through the first inning.

He walked Drew, then Youkilis, missing badly throughout each at-bat. He was trying to miss bats rather than locate. He was aiming a majority of the time, clearly favoring his once shredded foot. Jason Bay plated Drew for his 56th RBI of the season, squibbing a straight fastball into left-field.

With two out, David Ortiz watched as pitch after pitch woefully missed the strike-zone, taking his base on Wang’s third walk of the frame. He was in danger of walking another, throwing three straight balls to Mark Kotsay, yet somehow managed to get him to groundout to end the inning.

He was lost on the mound. His mechanics were in tatters. In spite of this, the Red Sox only managed to score once in the inning. Yet, because it could have, and should have been a lot worse, Girardi knew he wouldn’t last.

His bottom of the second inning backed this up, as Boston continued to make his life a living hell. Nick Green started the frame with a single, then George Kottaras, Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher, doubled him in.

Either Wang’s pitches missed badly or were served to the Red Sox on a gold platter right in the heart of the plate. He couldn’t hit the corners or make them chase. Pedroia took advantage of his inability to locate, then preyed on the tentative nature of right fielder Nick Swisher.

The second baseman tagged the fastball, lacing it into the corner. Swisher had plenty of room to track it down, but saw the wall draw near, taking his eye off the ball. He made a stab, but caught nothing but air. Instead of falling into his glove, as it should, it bounced into the stands for a double.

Wang wasn’t helped out in this instance by his defense, but, nonetheless, finished the inning strong, striking out the final two hitters. His outing was over midway through the following inning after allowing a home run to Mike Lowell on the frame’s first pitch.

Two and 2/3 innings was all he could muster, the same length of A.J. Burnett’s start the night before. He was a mess, with no sign of improvement. His ERA as a starter increased to 21.61, the highest in the history of major league baseball after the first five starts of a season. His overall ERA managed to decrease, but that won’t save him.

Wakefield began the struggle, allowing runs in the fourth and fifth, while Hughes, who will undoubtedly take Wang’s spot in the rotation, settled down. The knuckleballer was relieved by Ramon Ramirez in the seventh.

Ramirez quickly gave the Yankees life, serving up back-to-back home runs by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira to begin the inning.

Suddenly, a game once a nightmare for New York, turned into one they could win.

Hideki Okajima kept the lead intact, leaving a runner stranded at second base in the eighth inning by striking out both Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon. The Yankees would have to defeat Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth if they wanted to end their skid.

As he has throughout this season, Papelbon made things interesting, giving New York every reason to think they would break through. Alex Rodriguez strode to the plate.

Faintly in the background, a chant could be heard. It grew louder as thousands joined in. It was the most clever chant I have heard, and epitomized not only the hatred the Red Sox fans felt for the Yankees, but Rodriguez in particular. “You do steroids!” became deafening. I couldn’t help but laugh; even ESPN’s announcers chuckled.

Yet, Papelbon ruined the hilarity of the moment by walking the former PED user. After the ensuing heart-pounding few minutes, I was able to bask in the chant engraned in my mind, once more, as Papelbon retired Jorge Posada on the deceptive flyout that couldn’t come down and fall into Bay’s glove soon enough.

Papelbon celebrated, the fans cheered, and the Yankees walked somberly down the tunnel and into the clubhouse. It was priceless, and another win over their ever-so hated rival.

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