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06/12/09 1:35 AM ET

Sox rally to stay perfect against Yanks

String of late singles sets up eighth win in as many meetings

BOSTON -- When Dustin Pedroia steps to the plate with the game on the line, he usually does so with a mind-set of swagger and aggression. But this time was different.

This at-bat, the one that proved to be a game-changer in a memorable 4-3 comeback win by the Red Sox over the Yankees on Thursday night, was all about survival.

After beating New York for the eighth time in as many tries this season and sweeping its rival for the third time in one season for the first time since 1974, Boston talked mostly about Pedroia's 10-pitch at-bat, in which one star outlasted another.

"Unbelievable," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "Great at-bat. Pedey was on. I guess that's what made the difference in this game -- that at-bat."

Consider the circumstances that occurred in that bottom of the eighth inning.

CC Sabathia had been at his dominant best and seemed determined to finally get the Yankees a win against the Red Sox. Meanwhile, Pedroia was in a rare slump, with just three hits in his past 25 at-bats.

The Red Sox opened the inning trailing, 3-1, and when Nick Green led off with a single up the middle, Pedroia made something happen. He fouled off five pitches -- three that were clocked 95 mph or higher -- before finally walking on a 3-2 changeup.

Things were in motion for a comeback, with Sabathia suddenly at 120 pitches.

"I was just fighting," said Pedroia. "I haven't been feeling that well at the plate. Obviously, facing CC, he's one of the best in the game. I'm just trying to put a good at-bat together and hit the ball hard -- just trying to find a way to get on base. That's pretty much it."

There were more heroes to come on Thursday for the Red Sox, but Pedroia was the jump-starter.

J.D. Drew sliced the lead to one with an RBI single up the middle, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to reliever Alfredo Aceves. Boston's biggest obstacle -- Sabathia -- now gone, the whole complexion of the game changed.

Kevin Youkilis came through with a single to right on a 3-2 pitch, loading the bases with nobody out. Jason Bay followed with his latest big hit, an RBI single to left that tied the game.

Fenway Park now in a certifiable frenzy, Mike Lowell stepped up next and lofted a fly ball to medium-depth center. Amid a steady rain, center fielder Brett Gardner's throw to the plate was short, and Drew scored easily for the go-ahead run.

"I would say it's the pitch I wanted to get in that situation," said Lowell. "He threw me a two-seamer down and in on the first one, and with the infield in, I don't want to swing at a pitch that's a possible ground ball. I feel like I took a good swing and just missed it. As he caught it, I was happy Melky [Cabrera] had moved to right. I think it might have been a lot closer. It worked out. It wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, but it worked out."

And how.

"There were a lot of key things," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "CC pitched like we don't want him to pitch. He was strong an using all of his pitches and really good. We get down by a couple, and then all of a sudden, Greenie gets the hit and Pedey has an extended at-bat and things happen like we've seen happen here before -- good players doing some pretty special things in a pretty special place. It was electric. You could feel it."

The Red Sox are doing it every way possible against the Yankees. Boston last won the first eight games of a season series against New York in 1912, the year Fenway Park opened. Good thing for the Red Sox's head-to-head dominance against the Yankees. Even with it, the lead over New York in the American League East is a mere two games.

"This is baseball," said Ortiz. "You never know what can happen in baseball. I know we've had years where we've played good against the Yankees, but I don't remember anything like this."

Victories an early indicator?
Here how the Red Sox and Yankees have fared in years in which one has opened with four or more wins against the other at the start of the season series.
Opening H2H Streak
Final H2H record
Final overall record
Final overall finish
2007BOSW48-1096-661st in AL East, won WS
NYYL410-894-68AL Wild Card, lost in ALDS
1994NYYW67-37-431st in AL East (no postseason)
BOSL63-754-614th in AL East
1990BOSW49-488-741st in AL East, lost in ALCS
NYYL44-967-957th in AL East
1985BOSW55-881-815th in AL East
NYYL58-597-642nd in AL East
1973BOSW49-989-732nd in AL East
NYYL49-980-844th in AL East
1964BOSW49-972-908th in AL
NYYL49-999-63Lost WS
1956NYYW414-897-57Won WS
BOSL48-1484-704th in AL
1945NYYW416-681-714th in AL
BOSL46-1671-837th in AL
1933NYYW914-891-592nd in AL
BOSL98-1463-867th in AL
1923NYYW414-898-54Won WS
BOSL48-1461-918th in AL
1920BOSW49-1372-815th in AL
NYYL413-995-593rd in AL
1912BOSW1419-2105-47Won WS
NYYL142-1950-1028th in AL

In the ninth, there was another big play. With Derek Jeter looking to jump-start his team the way Pedroia did, Green made a brilliant play over the middle to rob him, finishing with a pirouette to open the inning.

"I told him after the game," said closer Jonathan Papelbon. "I said, 'That play won the ballgame.' In my opinion, that play by getting that first out of the inning kind of set the tone. That's a great play."

The Red Sox's run of near unprecedented fortune against the Yankees nearly ended, thanks in large part to a clutch two-out, two-run double to the base of the wall in center by Alex Rodriguez in the top of the seventh. A-Rod had been 0-for-9 in the series.

The hit came against Manny Delcarmen, who had come into the outing with a 1.07 ERA.

The Yankees trailing, 1-0, Cabrera started that seventh-inning rally with a single to left. Francisco Cervelli followed by rifling a double into the corner in left that took a bad bounce and allowed Cabrera to score the tying run all the way from first.

"I thought it was a really good situation for him, and he did not command the fastball very well," said Francona. "And because of that, it ended up costing him. Sometimes, you have got to give credit to the other team."

But the Red Sox didn't get down. Rocco Baldelli, subbing in center field for Jacoby Ellsbury, denied the Yankees a chance to extend their lead further, making a brilliant, tumbling catch on the soggy grass to rob Cabrera of a hit in the eighth.

"I know it was pretty wet out there, but the closer I got to it, I figured I had a chance at it," Baldelli said. "I didn't know [I'd get there] off the bat for sure -- it was like a water-park ride."

Over the first seven innings, Sabathia's only blemish was a solo homer into the Monster Seats by Ortiz in the bottom of the second. It was Ortiz's fourth homer of the season, and all have come at Fenway. Just like after the first three, the slugger -- who has spent most of the season in a slump -- came out for a curtain call.

"When I hit the ball [to the opposite field] like that, it's a sign that I'm waiting for the ball good," Ortiz said. "I'm trying to stay through the ball. I've been feeling a lot better at the plate."

Brad Penny turned in a strong performance for Boston, firing six shutout innings, allowing six hits while walking one and striking out five. In the first inning, A-Rod was belted on the back by a 97-mph Peny fastball. The umpiring crew conferred and decided to issue a warning to both sides. It was the third time a Boston pitcher has hit a New York batter this season, while Yankees pitchers have hit nine Red Sox hitters.

By the time the eventful contest was over, the Red Sox and Yankees parted ways until Aug. 6, when they will open a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.

"Like I said, we're not even to the All-Star break right now," Papelbon said. "We had a lot of balls bounce our way in this series and we got a lot of breaks, and we played good baseball at the same time. When you put all those things together, you're going to have a good outcome."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.