The Boston Red Sox are a good baseball team. They have a potent offense which, despite a slump after the All-Star Break, ranks up there among the best in the league. They have two of the top starters in the league. Their bullpen, though not as good as it was in April, is still solid. Yet despite how good they are, they’ve run into a team playing even better.
The Yankees flexed their bats once again last night, hammering Sox ace Josh Beckett for eight runs, including five home runs, in eight innings. Derek Jeter started the assault, belting the first pitch of the game into the Red Sox bullpen. Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez each added a blast, and Hideki Matsui had two for the second time in the series. Those five hits accounted for seven of the eight Yankee runs.
The Josh Beckett on the rubber last night was not the Josh Beckett who has pitched most of this season. His funk started last time out in Toronto, when he allowed seven runs in 5.1 innings. He labored a bit in that one, throwing 99 pitches. Last night it seemed a bit different. He ran into more issues with the long ball, but was still able to keep his pitch count at a decent level, and also kept throwing strikes. Though he gave up nine base hits, Beckett walked no one.
CC Sabathia steered clear of the free pass as well. Like Beckett, CC wasn’t at the height of his game, but he was much closer. Trouble brewed in the second, after the Yanks had staked CC to a two-run lead. Again it happened with two outs, after CC struck out the first two batters in the inning. Lowell, Baldelli, and Varitek went double-single-double, tying the score and prompting a collective groan from the Yankees faithful.
That’s as bad as things would get. After a double play helped avert trouble in the third, Robinson Cano made his second error of the night, this one costing the Yanks a run. They had built a 5-2 lead by that point, so the run didn’t hurt as much, but there’s simply no reason to hand the Red Sox additional opportunities. As said in the opening paragraph, they are a good team. They will hurt you if you let them.
Four runs over 6.2 innings might not look great in the box score, but it was still a quality effort by CC. He didn’t walk anyone, and kept his strike to ball ratio in good standing. The Sox did knock out eight base hits against him, but just three of them were doubles. There were no homers. Sabathia also beared down with runners on, as he held the Red Sox to just 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
(Oddly, the Yankees just put three men in scoring position all night, one of whom, Derek Jeter, scored on a Mark Teixeira single. Hey, when you hit five dingers, who needs runners in scoring position?)
The win caps a 7-3 road trip and gives the Yanks a 7.5 game lead in the East. That’s the same lead they had after the previous series. Again, Boston’s a good team that’s run into a team that’s playing just as well if not better. They’ve shaken the 0-8 stigma for good, and even put a dent in the “they can’t win at Fenway” argument with two wins this weekend.
You can say that the Yanks have sealed the division, and on October 4 you might prove to have been right. But there are still a number of good teams in the AL that the Yanks will have to face along the way, and they won’t tread lightly. They’ll have another test right away, as the Rangers, a game behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card, come to town starting Tuesday. Unfortunately, it looks like the Yanks will have to do the Sox a favor.