Red Sox stymied by Wang's Yanks
Buchholz duels for six innings; Drew's homer one of two hits
BOSTON -- Their bats pretty well placed on silent mode by Chien-Ming Wang, the Red Sox renewed their storybook rivalry with the Yankees in rather ordinary fashion on Friday night, taking a 4-1 loss in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
The two-hit, complete-game gem put forth by Wang was a bit of an oddity in that the sinkerballer usually specializes in getting ground-ball outs. But the Red Sox had quite a bit of liftoff, only to have the misfortune of hitting several balls right where defenders were standing.
Case in point: In the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox got a two-out bunt single by Coco Crisp, and Dustin Pedroia stung a line drive to left field. If it had fallen in, David Ortiz would have come to the plate representing the tying run in what would have been a roaring Fenway Park.
But the baseball hung up just long enough for left fielder Hideki Matsui to field it for the final out of the game. Wang threw just 93 pitches and faced 29 batters -- just two over the minimum.
In all, the Red Sox hit 12 outfield flyouts, several of which had New York outfielders racing to the warning track.
"Yeah, we hit a lot of balls good," said Pedroia. "It's frustrating. Any time you lose, it's frustrating."
Despite the lack of firepower -- J.D. Drew's solo homer in the fifth was the only hit against Wang in the first eight innings -- the Red Sox still found themselves in a 1-1 tie at the start of the seventh inning. But it was then that Mike Timlin had a rude awakening while thrust into his first appearance of 2008.
Timlin, who had been sidelined with a laceration of his right ring finger, surrendered a solo homer to center by Jason Giambi, the first batter he faced.
That proved to be the difference.
In typical Timlin fashion, he looked at nobody but himself for blame.
"It was terrible -- absolutely terrible," Timlin said. "I came back and pitched terribly. That's not how I was looking forward to opening up 2008."
Was it a case of too much adrenaline?
"It could have been," Timlin said. "To me, that's an excuse. I don't deal in excuses. The result speaks for itself. [It was a] bad location, and I got beat up. To me, I should have pitched better, but I just let my team down and that's not me."
Giambi greeted Timlin by belting his second pitch, a 91-mph fastball, just above the wall in center for a solo shot to put the Yankees back on top, 2-1. Timlin then gave up a double to Jose Molina and a sacrifice bunt before being removed in favor of Hideki Okajima. Melky Cabrera boosted New York's lead to 3-1 with a sacrifice fly to right.
The best development of the night for the Red Sox was the strong performance from No. 5 starter Clay Buchholz. The righty took a no-decision, giving up four hits and a run in six innings. Buchholz walked three and struck out three before giving way to Timlin.
It was the first time Buchholz pitched against the Yankees.
"I think it's a step that you'd want to take," Buchholz said. "I don't know if it's one I had to take. But at the same time, this is what you dream about doing. You dream about pitching in the big rivalries when you're growing up."
Buchholz started with four shutout innings, but he found himself in a hole in the fifth, walking Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada to open the inning. After striking out Giambi, Buchholz surrendered a double to center by Molina, making it 1-0 in favor of the Yankees.
Wang faced the minimum of 12 batters over the first four innings. It looked like the Red Sox had their first hit when Pedroia stung a grounder to third that Alex Rodriguez snagged on a half-dive. Rodriguez's throw to first was wide, and Pedroia was safe. However, it was called an error on A-Rod. The slumping Ortiz followed by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Wang still had a no-hitter going.
Drew, however, ended it loudly with a solo homer to right that appeared to tip off the glove of Yankees right fielder Bobby Abreu as he tried to pull the blast out of the Red Sox's bullpen to tie the game at 1.
The relievers stationed in the bullpen had the best view of all of Drew's third homer of the season.
"Abreu, it just came off the edge of his glove," said Timlin. "He could have actually caught that ball. He jumped up and ran into the wall."
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, that was about the only thing that went their way all night.
"It was a well-pitched game," said Kevin Youkilis. "Tip your cap and move on to the next day."
One thing the Red Sox haven't done with any consistency thus far this season is hit.
"Obviously, [Wang] was pretty good," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We weren't really able to get anything started, aside from J.D's home run. We hit some balls well. He outpitched us. It's there, it's just a matter of time."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.