In rare Fenway shutout, Yanks fall to Sox 4-0

On a chilly Sunday night with rain falling by the late innings, the Yanks’ bats fell silent at Fenway Park. For just the fourth time since Pedro Martinez arrived in Boston, the Yankees failed to score a run in Beantown as the Red Sox won the rubber match of the three-game set 4-0. While CC Sabathia, without his best stuff, held the Sox to just a run, Josh Beckett was absolutely masterful, and the Yanks will head back to the Bronx at 5-4 on the young season.

Kevin Youkilis scores a rather enthusiastic insurance run. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Beckett on the black

Yankee fans know what Josh Beckett can do. We remember the 2003 World Series, and those of us who could stomach it watched Beckett put on a pitching clinic during the 2007 playoffs as well. Every now and then, Beckett reminds baseball why his stuff once made him a guy with tremendous potential, and tonight was an every now and then.

With a fastball averaging over 93 miles per hour and touching 94 at times, Beckett pounded the edges of the strike zone as though he were threading a needle. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 27 batters he faced, and he issued just one free pass all game. The Yanks’ bat, struggling right now and particularly vulnerable with A-Rod on the bench, could do nothing about it. That’s just one of those days where you tip your cap to the opposing pitcher and move on to the next game.

For Beckett, this game places him in a unique position. Since 1998 when the Red Sox acquired Pedro, Beckett is the only Red Sox hurler to take part in two shutouts against the Yanks in Fenway Park. Brian Rose, Mark Guthrie and Jim Corsi did it on May 19, 1999; Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe struck out 15 combined en route to a 3-0 victory over Mike Mussina on May 30, 2001; and Josh Beckett, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez and Daniel Bard sent down the Yanks quietly on June 9, 2009. For what it’s worth, the Yanks reached the World Series in the three previous seasons in which they were shut out in Boston.

Key Moment: The wild pitch that wasn’t

The Yankees didn’t have many offensive chances tonight, and their third-inning rally that fell short proved to be a turning point. Eric Chavez singled with one out, and Russell Martin reached when a fastball grazed his jersey. During Brett Gardner‘s at-bat, a ball squirted behind Jason Varitek, but Chavez froze at second.

A few pitches later, Brett Gardner hit a grounder up the middle, and Dustin Pedroia, who had shaded up the middle, grabbed it, stepped on second and threw to first. Inning over; rally over. Had Chavez and Martin moved up on Varitek, not a strong defensive catcher, Gardner’s grounder either would have driven in a run or would have gone through as Pedroia would have been shading more toward the second base hole. The complexion of the game changed as Chavez stayed at second. It was a little moment but one with a large impact.

CC bears down

On the mound, CC Sabathia wasn’t sharp tonight. He threw first-pitch strikes to just 15 of the 30 batters he faced, and the Red Sox pounded grounders up the middle off of him all night. Yet, despite four walks and 14 base runners, he kept the Yanks in the game. He now has a 1.45 ERA on the season and is 0-1. That will begin to correct itself soon.

Random Notes
Joba Chamberlain, pitching on back-to-back days and for the third time in four days, wasn’t sharp. He came in to protect a 1-0 deficit and got pulled after the Sox plated a pair on a Marco Scuatro hit. In the 8th, Freddy Garcia made his Yankee debut and gave up a run on a David Ortiz double to deep center that would have been a home run three years ago. After the game, Joe Girardi spoke a bit about his late-inning bullpen usage. Had the Yanks’ relievers kept the game at 1-0, Rafael Soriano would have pitched the 8th. I wonder whether Soriano should have come in with a few runners on base and Joba in trouble. Soriano, a former closer, can be a fireman out of the pen, but in the early going, Girardi has deployed him in the 8th inning only and with a lead.

As Sweeny Murti noted, no Yankee starter had a 1-2-3 inning this weekend. The Red Sox’s slumping bats made this series look closer than it could have been, and it’s proof that, despite a 2-7 start, the Red Sox are far from out of it.

With A-Rod out of the lineup, only two starters ended the game with OBPs over .340. The Yankees are clearly struggling to get on base and have been able to mask that deficiency by hitting 18 home runs this season. Soon, the on-base percentage will climb, the homers will slow and the runs will come. It’s early yet.

WPA Graph and Box Score

ESPN has the box score while Fangraphs has the rest.

Up Next

The Yanks have Monday off as they travel back to the Bronx. The first-place Orioles come to down for a three-game set beginning Tuesday. A.J. Burnett will face Chris Tillman at 7:05 p.m., and you can get some (really cheap) seats on RAB Tickets.

Game Nine: Rubbah Match

Pffft, and they say the Yankees are desperate for pitching. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

These Yankees-Red Sox series seem to follow a pattern. The first game is a wild, back-and-forth affair and the second a blowout, but the third is usually a close game. With CC Sabathia on the mound and both Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera well-rested in the bullpen, I like New York’s chances if that pattern holds true. Here’s the starting nine, which is missing a sick Alex Rodriguez (flu-like symptoms)…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Curtis Granderson, CF
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Eric Chavez, 3B
Russell Martin, C

CC Sabathia, SP

It’s a Sunday night game, so you know what that means: ESPN has the broadcast at 8pm ET. Hooray for no Joe Morgan though, he’s been replaced by Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine. Enjoy the game.

Heathcott keeps hitting, but River Dogs lose

Triple-A Scranton (7-5 win over Rochester)
Greg Golson, CF, Jorge Vazquez, 1B, Brandon Laird, 3B & Justin Maxwell, LF: all 1 for 4 – Golson walked & scored … JoVa homered & drove in three … Laird scored a run … Maxwell stole a base and whiffed
Chris Dickerson, DH: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB
Jesus Montero, C: 2 for 5, 1 R – hitting a cool .400 in the early going with a ten-game hit streak that dates back to last season … made a nice diving defensive play as well
Jordan Parraz, RF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – second straight game with a jack
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 4, 2 K – 0 for 15 with 7 K so far
Ramiro Pena, SS: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB – hitting .462 so far
Adam Warren, RHP: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 4-5 GB/FB – just 54 of his 93 pitches were strikes (58.1%) … ugly AAA debut, and frankly I’m not 100% sold on him being here yet … yeah he’s polished, but 54.1 IP in AA is nothing
George Kontos, RHP: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-2 GB/FB – just 11 of 24 pitches were strikes (45.8%)
Andy Sisco, LHP: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-2 GB/FB – 15 of 22 pitches were strikes (68.2%) … very nice
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 12 of 19 pitches were strikes (63.2%) … rebounded from yesterday’s blown save quite nicely

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Mo: ‘I have another year, and after that, there won’t be any more’

Via Buster Olney, Mariano Rivera recently said flatly that the 2012 season will be his last. “I have another year, and after that, there won’t be any more,” said Mo, who signed a two-year deal this offseason. Or course, he qualified it by saying “That’s me talking [now].”

Mo has indicated many times in the past that the end was near, but yet he’s still here with that new contract. He’ll turn 42 years old after the season, so he’s already way past the point where he should stop being effective. “My will is one thing,” he said, “and the good Lord’s will is another. And I will follow his will.” Mo has defied he odds for so long that it seems like he could do it forever, but who knows what will happen over the next two seasons. Just make sure you appreciate whatever’s left of his career.

Medical Updates: Cervelli & Feliciano

Via George King, Francisco Cervelli has increased his rehab work since having the boot removed from his fractured left foot, but Joe Girardi says a realistic return date is early-May. “He has been running under water, doing agility drills and hitting but he is still a few weeks [away],” said the skipper. “He has yet to run on the field.” The schedule has been favorable when it comes to not playing Gustavo Molina, but that will change next week. Oh well.

As for Pedro Feliciano, he’s scheduled to see a doctor next week when the team returns to New York. With any luck, he’ll be cleared to throw and be able to start his rehab work. The good news is that the injury is not to his actual rotator cuff, but a muscle close by. Given Boone Logan‘s early struggles, I think we’re all looking forward to Feliciano’s return to health.

The poetic stylings of John Sterling

With new Yankees on the team, one rite of spring involves John Sterling’s home run calls. We wait to hear what the announcer dubbed Pa Pinstripe can come up with, and invariably it will make us groan. We’ve heard “Russel has muscle” and “Andruw Jones makes his bones” already this year, and Eric Chavez has yet to homer. As part of The Sports Section’s coverage of Opening Week, New York Magazine writer Joe DeLessio explored the seven types of Sterling’s home run calls. It is, well, something.

I’m pretty sure DeLessio hit on the entire oeuvre. He talks rhymes, plays on players’ names, alliteration, foreign languages (that make little sense in English), the ever-popular Granderson cultural references, references to Babe Ruth and, of course, made-up words. At least it’s not Hawk Harrelson.