Youth prevails in twin-bill opener
Murphy blasts first homer; Pedroia drives in go-ahead run
NEW YORK -- If the pennant race had gone anything like the Red Sox hoped it would, David Murphy and Dustin Pedroia would not have been in position to be key contributors to Sunday's 6-3 victory over the Yankees.
But given that postseason hopes have been reduced to a near impossibility for the Sox, it has to be gratifying for all doing the evaluations to witness the kind of success Pedroia and Murphy have had in their first weekend at historic Yankee Stadium.
Murphy led off Game 1 of the day-night doubleheader -- the second in as many days between the rivals -- with his first Major League homer. And Pedroia stepped up as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the top of the seventh inning and promptly lashed an RBI double to break a 2-2 tie and put the Red Sox ahead for good.
"It's great, just having the guys doing well, having some big hits," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "[That's huge] just for a confidence booster, and it's good for the veterans. The veteran guys are excited to see it."
Sunday's heroics by the kids came on the heels of Saturday, when Murphy belted an RBI double in Game 1 -- the first RBI and extra-base hit of his career -- and Pedroia hammered a double off the wall in the nightcap.
Perhaps the biggest hit of Sunday's Game 1 came from Youkilis, who followed Pedroia's hit and an intentional walk to David Ortiz by clearing the bases with a double, giving Boston a suddenly commanding four-run lead.
The Yankees' magic number for clinching the American League East remained at four, thanks to the Blue Jays and Red Sox both winning. That ended the possibility the Yankees had of clinching the division against the Red Sox.
But the Red Sox didn't take any added joy in being able to avoid watching a Yankees party. They still trail the Bronx Bombers in the American League East by 10 1/2 games.
"There's no glory here," said Youkilis. "They're still in the driver's seat to win it. That doesn't make us happy at all. Our goal this year was to win the division, and we didn't accomplish that, barring a miracle. But finishing in second or third place in the division, nobody is going to say, 'Well, at least they didn't celebrate in front of us.' It's not good. Our goal every year is to make the playoffs."
Another goal, of course, is to get Ortiz to the plate in as many crucial situations as possible. And it was Big Papi who tied the game at 2 in the sixth, unloading for a solo shot to right-center against Yankees starter Jaret Wright. It was No. 49 of the season for Ortiz, leaving him just one shy of Jimmie Foxx's club record, set in 1938.
|By smacking a solo homer in the sixth inning on Sunday afternoon, |
Everything came together in that top of the seventh. Doug Mirabelli started things innocently with a one-out walk. Coco Crisp then pinch-ran for Mirabelli and was nearly picked off. The throw back to first by lefty Ron Villone got to first baseman Craig Wilson in plenty of time to nail Crisp, who was caught leaning the wrong way. But Crisp, in desperation, dodged the tag and apparently stayed in the baseline. Wilson missed the tag.
After that near miss, Mark Loretta pinch-hit for Murphy and drew a two-out walk. Francona then called on Pedroia to hit for Alex Cora, and the diminutive rookie banged a 1-0 pitch into the corner in left to put Boston in front for good.
"That's an interesting spot for Pedroia," Francona said. "He had a good at-bat and I thought Loretta's at-bat to get to that point was as professional an at-bat as you're going to find. And Coco's footwork to keep it going was interesting."
Pedroia, who is hitting .151 over 53 at-bats, is starting to look more comfortable.
"I'm starting to settle down, finally," said Pedroia. "Every at-bat seems like I'm having a long at-bat and a good one. It took time. To get called up here and everything's going so fast and you're obviously nervous, right now, it's kind of like I'm settling in and playing good."
Murphy, who belted the fourth pitch of the game over the wall in right, can say the same thing.
"It's really fun to watch young kids have a little bit of success," Francona said. "He was obviously very excited. David [Ortiz] said he was waiting for a hug [from Murphy] and he blew right by him."
Pardon Murphy for the overexcitement.
"That feels great," Murphy said. "A lot of guys said it's a good place to hit your first one. Just like Fenway Park, with all the history and all the great players that have played here, it's good. It will be interesting to look back some day and say, 'Hey, I hit my first home run at Yankee Stadium.'"
Kyle Snyder gave the Red Sox five strong innings, holding the Yankees to seven hits and two runs while striking out seven. Bryan Corey got four big outs to earn the win, and Keith Foulke and Mike Timlin (seventh save) took it home.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.