Offense sizzles, pitchers fizzle
Six-run fifth-inning rally can't help Sox avoid loss to Yanks
NEW YORK -- It started out with the two American League East heavyweights taking that distinction literally, trading offensive haymakers as if this were some sort of slow-pitch softball game.
There was no reason to think that trend would stop at any point in Wednesday's night's game, not when the Red Sox and Yankees -- rivals always -- had combined for 20 runs over the first five innings.
But when the scoring finally slowed down for a while, it was the Yankees who had the lead, and they held it. In fact, they added on, downing the Sox by a score of 15-9 in the opener of this two-game series.
With Chien-Ming Wang firing a two-hitter against the Sox five days earlier in Boston and Clay Buchholz also reeling off a strong performance in that one, there was no reason to believe the rematch would go like this. But both starters were gone early this time, victims of the heavy hitters on both sides.
"I think we battled back and made that a game twice," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We did a great job getting [Wang] out of there. They just kind of punched the ball on us today."
In a big way. The 15 runs by the Yankees were the most they've scored in a game against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium since July 7, 1954.
Buchholz took the brunt of the punishment, giving up eight hits and seven runs over 3 2/3 innings.
The Yankees didn't waste any time. Bobby Abreu belted a two-run blast in the first and Alex Rodriguez made it back-to-back by putting a towering solo shot into the Boston bullpen. Suddenly, Buchholz was down, 3-1.
"After the first home run, I felt a little out of sync," said Buchholz. "The first home run, I left the ball up. But I felt fine. Everybody knows with A-Rod what he does when he gets extended. That's a prime example of it right there."
The Red Sox were able to stay in it only because Wang, the Yankees' ace, was equally shaky, allowing nine hits and eight runs over four-plus innings.
"To do what we did against Wang to get back in the game was great, but we were at a disadvantage because we were in our bullpen early and needed to stay away from some people," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
With the game locked in a 3-3 tie, the Yankees got to Buchholz again in the fourth. Chad Moeller was fortuitous, dropping a broken-bat bloop double down the line in left to get a run home. Derek Jeter knocked Buchholz out of the game, rifling a line single to right on a 3-1 pitch to make it 6-3.
"I had to throw him a pitch," said Buchholz. "I didn't want to walk a run in -- [you] never want to walk a run in. I had to throw him a strike, and he knew that. He's a veteran hitter. He's going to do what he does."
On came Julian Tavarez, and the Yankees made it a four-run lead on a wild pitch.
But on a night like this, a four-run deficit was nothing. The Red Sox certainly made it look like nothing when they again got to Wang in the fifth. With two on and none out, Manny Ramirez roped an RBI single up the middle. Kevin Youkilis -- who later left the game with a bruised left toe -- loaded the bases with a single and J.D. Drew got the Sox within one on a two-run single to center that knocked Wang out.
Sean Casey tied it up at 7 with an RBI single to center against Ross Ohlendorf. Jacoby Ellsbury kept the rally alive with a two-out walk, setting up Dustin Pedroia's second hit of the inning, a two-run single that gave the Red Sox their first lead since the top of the first.
But Boston's lead was gone in a hurry as Tavarez couldn't hold down the Yankees. Jorge Posada got New York within one on an RBI double and Robinson Cano tied it up yet again on an RBI single.
The Red Sox tried to get out of the inning on a grounder to first by Melky Cabrera. Casey fired to second for the force, but Julio Lugo made a wild throw to first for an error that allowed two runs to score on the play and give the Yankees an 11-9 lead. In all, the teams scored 10 runs in that one inning.
"Tonight, we go to Tavarez, and if he struggles, that's what happens. We really didn't have anywhere else to go," said Francona.
And just like that, all the fun stopped for the Red Sox. LaTroy Hawkins did what no Boston reliever could do, stifling the Sox for two innings and putting the momentum on the side of the Yankees.
"They did a good job there, because we were coming," Francona said. "You could feel us coming. At some point, you just need to catch a break."
Instead, the Yankees broke it open, scoring four runs off Mike Timlin in the bottom of the eighth to turn the game into a romp.
"Timlin gives up runs late, but I actually thought the damaging pitches were good ones," said Francona. "We just need to get him in games and get him on a roll."
All in all, it was a forgettable night for the Red Sox.
"I thought last year at the beginning of the year, we really were consistent," said Francona. "We've won games, but they've been hard games to win. We've gotten to our bullpen early."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.