Rare drought comes at wrong time for Sox
Scoreless stretch of 31 innings Boston's longest since 1974
NEW YORK -- Thirty-one innings, in any setting, in any context, is an awfully long time to go without scoring a run. But in this setting, in this context, where everything is examined and amplified until the Yankees and Red Sox quit playing and part ways, it seemed longer still.
Yet there were the Red Sox, scoreless from their final out in Thursday's 13-6 loss until Victor Martinez blasted a two-run homer over the left-field wall in the eighth inning of Sunday's 5-2 loss. Thirty-one innings, and nothing to show for it.
It was a baseball rarity of the stingiest kind. Not since 1974 had the Red Sox gone 31 innings without scoring a run, a streak that ended at 34. And not since 1952 had the Yankees held their historic rivals quiet for so long, also doing so for 33 innings.
But those Red Sox teams finished in third place and sixth place, respectively, a combined 26 games out of first. This team, even after enduring a four-game sweep in the Bronx, still has designs on reaching the postseason. The Red Sox can hit, and they can hit well. But from Friday through Sunday, they did not begin to show it.
"You look at this offense on paper -- we should score runs," Sunday's Sox starter, Jon Lester, said.
"It goes to show you that good pitching is going to beat good hitting," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter explained.
The streak, it seems, was part chicken, part egg. Certainly, the Red Sox were scuffling, having played 24 of the 31 innings without injured slugger Jason Bay and having come into this series with a losing record since the All-Star break.
But credit must also be given to the Yankees, who used their four top starters and one of baseball's best bullpens in this series against the Red Sox -- and quite simply did not relent. From A.J. Burnett's first pitch on Friday to CC Sabathia's standing ovation in Saturday's 5-0 game -- all the way to Andy Pettitte's vintage performance on Sunday, the Yankees simply did not allow the Sox even a whiff of an offensive threat.
"It just kind of feels that our pitching staff is almost having a competition within themselves," Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. "It's like, 'I did this; what can you do today?'"
Oh No, No O
|A breakdown of Boston's offensive stats from the start of Friday's 2-0, 15-inning loss through Dustin Pedroia's single on Sunday night ahead of Victor Martinez's home run. In between, the Red Sox were shut out for 31 innings, their longest streak since a 34-inning drought in 1974 and their longest against the Yankees since a 33-inning streak in 1952. New York's longest scoreless streak against Boston hitters was 45 innings in 1906.|
|*22 strikeouts swinging|
If the Red Sox were searching for solace, they could look to their 1906 team, which went 45 straight innings against the Yankees without scoring. But the Sox, beaten and bruised following their loss in Sunday's finale, were not searching for sympathy. They were searching for answers.
"Crazy stretch not scoring," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who was 0-for-11 during the streak before he singled and scored to help end it. "I think guys were trying too hard. I was. I'm not going to lie about it. I want to score more runs, more than anyone in the world. There's not a guy in the world that wants to score more runs than the other team than me. It's tough when you don't score. We will."
Before Burnett, Sabathia and a host of relievers did it this weekend, it had been seven years since any team had shut out the Red Sox in back-to-back games -- former Yankees David Wells and Mike Mussina turned that trick at Fenway Park back in 2002. And before Martinez launched his home run off Phil Coke, this current group of Red Sox was edging perilously close to becoming the first Boston team to remain scoreless in three straight games since April 1981.
They were none too pleased to join the annals of history.
"We don't think about that," Martinez said. "We just take it inning by inning, pitch by pitch, game by game. We don't put any kind of extra pressure on ourselves like that."
If any team was to create such a streak, it seemed fitting that it would be the Yankees -- so far in 2009 as streaky as they come. Prior to their current run -- six consecutive wins and counting -- the team had enjoyed winning streaks of nine, eight and seven games this season, to go along with stretches of as many as five losses in a row. This is the same team that earlier this season even went 18 straight games without an error, before committing at least one for seven days in a row.
The Yankees, for their part, hadn't received three straight scoreless starts of at least seven innings since Pat Dobson, Mel Stottlemyre and George Medich did it in 1973. And at this ballpark, labeled everything from a "homer haven" to "hitter-happy" in its first season, the Yankees shattered their previous record of 15 straight scoreless innings, set back in June against the Mets and Nationals.
"I was fortunate to be able to continue to do that," Pettitte said. "A.J. and CC's stuff is just so dominant. When they're on, it's going to be tough to score on them. When you've got those two guys on with the stuff that they have, and then I was able to get out of a couple of jams tonight and hold them scoreless also -- we've got a good team. It's impressive what we were able to do."
The Yankees were able to do it, as Pettitte alluded, against a Red Sox club that -- even after scoring just two runs over the final three games of the series -- still ranks fifth in the Majors in offense.
"That Red Sox team is a very good team," Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon said. "For our pitchers to shut them down for as long as they did, it says something about our pitching staff. I know Phil Coke was a bit disappointed, but he's going to come up big for us down the stretch."
Coke, for his part, was indeed a bit disappointed -- "angry," even, if you take his word for it. But the left-hander admitted in the moments after he accepted Sunday's victory that he could still appreciate it just as much. The Yankees, after all, had not beaten the Red Sox in eight tries this season before streaking to four in a row in the Bronx.
"For a minute, I was the one crying, and then luckily I got this wonderful offense that picked me up tonight," Coke said. "I can't be mad anymore because we got the 'W' in the right column.
"So much for 8-0, huh?"
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.