Last of Boston's homers finishes Yanks
Sox stay ahead on Lowell homer after early six-run hole
BOSTON -- There were more dizzying dramatics for the Red Sox against their rivals on Saturday, when the truest form of a slugfest unfolded.
Even after sustaining an early 6-0 deficit, the Red Sox found a way to outbash the Yankees, 16-11, in a wild contest at Fenway Park.
In a game billed as a pitchers' duel between Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett -- two right-handers who were phenoms on the same Marlins staff a few seasons ago -- neither power pitcher had much of anything.
This was a game dominated by the bats, as the American League East heavyweights traded haymakers all afternoon and into the early evening.
"It was one of the more unbelievable games I've been involved in as far as back and forth," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "It was a little bit of everything, and the bullpen again held and we got some timely hits."
No hits were timelier than Mike Lowell's. The veteran third baseman's three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning was the one hit that stood up, giving the Red Sox their ninth straight win -- a franchise record for April -- and a chance to sweep the Yankees in this three-game series on Sunday night. The homer from Lowell, who finished with six RBIs, came against right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo and put the Red Sox in front for good.
Making the big knock even sweeter for the third baseman is that Yankees manager Joe Girardi -- with first base open -- opted to walk Bay intentionally to face Lowell. As he rounded first, Lowell pumped his fist in triumph.
The six RBIs tied a career high for Lowell. Where did it rank in his list of personal accomplishments?
"I'm going to have to say the birth of my kids might rank a little above that," quipped Lowell. "The way I started, [hitless in the first three at-bats], it was a little extra satisfying finishing this way. I think especially in a situation where they walk the guy in front of you and you're able to come through, that's extra special."
Making the loss more painful for the Yankees was the fact they held a two-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning on Friday night, only to lose that game in 11 innings.
That made it all the more sweet for the Red Sox, who are not only winning but finding different ways to do so every day.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the comeback from six runs down was Boston's biggest in a game against New York since May 16, 1968.
"They don't stop playing," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's gratifying."
Leaving nothing to chance, Lowell cleared the bases with a three-run double in the eighth that gave Boston a five-run cushion.
"That was terrific," Francona said. "He was fired up. He ended up getting two huge hits and giving us a little breathing room."
Breathing room was all but a foreign concept on a day the Yankees scored in six of their nine innings and the Red Sox scored in their final five frames.
Aside from Lowell's game-winner, perhaps Boston's most clutch hit of the day came from Jason Varitek. The captain turned on Burnett's 96-mph heater and launched it into the visitors' bullpen for his third career grand slam with two outs in the fourth inning to cut New York's lead to a mere run at 6-5.
"Like I said, A.J. is one of the best in the game," said Bay. "You want to get guys on base and chip away. Ideally, that's what you want to do. The grand slam is the best-case scenario you could ever ask for in that situation. The way that we've been playing the last few days, it definitely didn't seem out of the question."
Burnett didn't settle down in the sixth, as the Red Sox went right back at him. Jacoby Ellsbury opened the inning with a game-tying homer, again into the Yankees' bullpen. Dustin Pedroia (single), David Ortiz (double) and Kevin Youkilis (hit by pitch) then combined to load the bases with nobody out.
Though Burnett got a brief reprieve when J.D. Drew hit into a 3-2-3 double play, Bay lofted a two-run double off the Green Monster to give the Red Sox their first lead of the day, 8-6.
Improbably, Beckett had a chance to get the win. But the right-hander's misery continued when the Yankees jumped right back on him, getting a Derek Jeter walk and a two-run homer by Johnny Damon that tied the game.
Pitching for the first time in a week after serving a five-game suspension, Beckett -- who went five-plus innings, allowing 10 hits, eight runs and four walks while striking out three -- may have been too strong.
"I felt good physically," Beckett said. "Obviously, the results were not exactly where you want them to be. Your team scores eight runs, and with anything less than a win, you feel pretty dismal. The guys kept fighting and battling. It shows the kind of character in this clubhouse. But from a personal standpoint, it's just frustrating."
But the two teams just kept swinging, and back and forth it went.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox took the lead again on a sacrifice fly to right by Ortiz. The bad news of that go-ahead run was that Pedroia tried to tag and go to second and was thrown out to end the inning.
It turns out that Jeter deked Pedroia, causing the unusual baserunning mistake by one of Boston's smartest players.
That was just the first unfortunate event for Pedroia, who uncharacteristically let a routine grounder from Damon with two outs go through his legs in the top of the seventh for a two-run error that put the Yankees back ahead, 10-9.
"I overran it," Pedroia said. "It was hit real hard. I thought I was going to have to backhand it, and I kind of got to it quicker than I thought I was, and I kind of turned my glove over when I did that and it went between my legs. It's one of those things where he might have hooked it a little. It's kind of weird. I got to it too fast."
Again, though, the Red Sox would have an answer. It came loudly from Lowell, who is probably Pedroia's best friend on the team.
"That's what teammates are for," Pedroia said. "You never want to make errors. Obviously they happen, but you never want to make them in those situations. But he picked us up. Six RBIs in his last two at-bats? That's picking everybody up."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.