Bay's early homer holds up in Bronx
Long ball helps Sox stay undefeated vs. Yankees in 2009
NEW YORK -- There are 13 clashes to go this season in the rivalry, but the Red Sox have made an early statement in head-to-head competition with the Yankees.
Not content with their sweep at Fenway Park April 24-26, the Red Sox left the Yankees winless once again, departing the new Yankee Stadium with a 7-3 victory on Tuesday night in the finale of a two-game series.
The Red Sox are 17-10 overall, and 5-0 against the 13-13 Yankees. It was the last meeting between the teams until June 9, when Boston will host a three-game set.
"A lot of those games could have gone either way," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's nice that we've been on the winning side of them. We've won a lot of tight games. It's definitely big when you look up at the end of the year."
Seldom does a hit in the first inning prove to be the difference-maker, particularly between these two teams. But Jason Bay's three-run homer proved to be just that, as it bumped the Red Sox's lead to 4-0 before ace Josh Beckett threw even one pitch.
"It was a big one," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He crushed it. It was big, because after that, Joba [Chamberlain] really settled in."
Though Beckett gave up 10 hits, including a three-run homer to Johnny Damon in the third inning to cut the lead to one run, the Yankees trailed for all nine innings. After getting belted around in his previous two starts, Beckett got back on track in this one to improve to 3-2.
"I had some [laborious] times, but I made pitches when I had to, and we scored a bunch of runs," said Beckett.
The Red Sox did well to get to Chamberlain early, because there was no touching the power righty after that. Jacoby Ellsbury -- who exited in the fourth inning with tightness in his right hamstring -- led the game off with a single and stole second base. Pedroia followed with an infield hit, and David Ortiz put Boston on the board with an RBI single up the middle.
Bay, thrust into the cleanup spot on a night Kevin Youkilis was out with tightness in his left side, played the part well, crushing that three-run homer to left.
"Wherever we hit him, I think we all think he's a good player," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That's part of what makes this team have a chance to be good. There's some flexibility, and guys do it. They just kind of look up where they're hitting and go about their business."
It was Bay's second long ball in as many nights and his team-leading seventh of the season.
"He got a fastball up, and I didn't miss it," said Bay. "Ultimately, it ended up being enough."
Chamberlain allowed six hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings but registered a career-high 12 strikeouts. Other than the mistake to Bay, it was a dominant performance.
"It seemed like his stuff kicked up a notch," said Varitek. "He was locating and he was up closer to 94, 95 [mph] quite a bit and had a good mix of his pitches."
As for Beckett, he did what it took to win, albeit in a performance not likely to go on his highlight reel. One potential rally was snuffed out in the fourth, when Melky Cabrera drilled one into the right-field corner with one out. Sox right fielder J.D. Drew picked it up quickly and fired a relay to Pedroia, who then made a perfect throw to third to nail Cabrera.
Pedroia credited the boisterous fans at the new Stadium for helping him be alert enough to get the throw to Mike Lowell in time.
"J.D. just gave me the ball -- I didn't think he was going to go for three, and then I kind of heard the crowd's reaction," Pedroia said. "That kind of meant he was going, so I didn't have to look back and know. That kind of helped me out."
The Red Sox got some insurance in the eighth, thanks to a sacrifice fly from Varitek and a blooped RBI single by Nick Green.
On a night Francona didn't have dominant setup man Ramon Ramirez or closer Jonathan Papelbon due to recent usage, Hideki Okajima came up big, retiring all six batters he faced.
Takashi Saito worked a scoreless ninth to finish the road trip, which the Red Sox completed with a 5-4 record.
"For us, right now it's winning games, no matter who we're playing," said Varitek. "We came here after losing three out of four. It was big for us to come in here and get some games."
But the Yankees have plenty of more chances to exact revenge on the Red Sox.
"It's nice to have five in the bag, but it has no bearing on the next 13," said Bay.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.