Welcome to Fenway Park, kiddo.
Going up against Phil Hughes in the rubber match of their 3-game series with the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox weren't exactly gracious hosts. Boston pounded Hughes, the youngest player in the American League, early and often, tagging him for 3 runs in the first inning and 4 runs in the third before he was finally pulled, not having recorded a single out in that inning. Almost everyone pitched in for the 7-run outburst, too: Jacoby Ellsbury, Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Sean Casey all either scored or drove in runs during the offensive explosion. When the dust settled on Hughes' outing, the Red Sox had a commanding 7-1 lead.
As it turns out, they would need almost all of it to come away victorious. Coming off two good starts (including a spectacular one against Detroit last Tuesday), Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled with his command almost from the word 'go' versus the patient Yankee lineup. All told, Dice-K handed out six free passes to New York's hitters; only 62 of his 116 pitches were strikes. In typical Daisuke fashion, he was not throwing the first pitch for a strike -- he's only done that for 46% of batters faced this season -- and consequently had to go deep into counts and ran the pitch count incredibly high. On average, he threw an unconscionable 4.64 pitches to New York hitters per plate appearance last night.
But despite his laborious outing, Dice-K did manage to make it through 5 innings. And he only allowed 4 runs, which was pretty good for a start in which you post a 3:1 BB:K ratio. After Dice-K left in the sixth, David Aardsma turned in his best performance as a Red Sox reliever, tossing 2 scoreless innings, and Javier Lopez came in to clean up another Mike Timlin mess in the top of the 8th (thanks to a little defensive wizardry by Dustin Pedroia).
Against Kyle Farnsworth in the bottom of that inning, the Sox manufactured a little insurance when Coco Crisp got on, stole second (Jorge Posada's weak, injured arm helped), and took both third and home on sac flies. With an 8-5 lead going into the 9th, Lopez and Manny Delcarmen set down the Yankees 1-2-3, and the Red Sox had their second win of the 3-game series with New York.
They did it without the struggling David Ortiz, too -- Ortiz was given what Joe Morgan described as a "mental health day" last night by Sox manager Terry Francona. Mired in a 3-for-43 slump, maybe the day off will do Big Papi good as Boston gets set to travel to Cleveland.
7-6, 3rd in AL East, 0.5 games back
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