With Dustin Pedroia away from Fenway Park after the birth of his second child, the already thin lineup fielded by the Red Sox took on a translucent quality Thursday night.
James Loney, who has three extra-base hits since joining the Sox Aug. 25, batted third, and Daniel Nava batted fifth for the first time in his career. Ivan De Jesus Jr. made his first start in place of Pedroia.
The results were predictable. The Yankees held the Sox to six hits and beat them, 2-0, on a quiet night at Fenway Park.
It was the sixth time the Sox have been shut out this season, the first time since Aug. 2. Five of the hits were singles and the Sox were hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position against Phil Hughes and three relievers. They drew one walk.
Hughes (15-12) allowed five hits and struck out seven over 7⅓ innings. Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth inning for his 38th save.
“Hughes pitched up in the strike zone and we couldn’t lay off of it,” Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “Made a lot of quick outs swinging at some of those pitches. We were a little immature in our approach at times.”
Cody Ross, who was 1 for 4 batting cleanup, agreed with Valentine.
“You fall victim to it. You just try for quality at-bats and not grinding. When you do that you get quick outs,” he said. “It’s one thing to be aggressive, but another thing to be smart about it. We just weren’t smart the whole night.”
Hughes retired the first 10 batters before Scott Podsednik drew a walk in the fourth inning.
With two outs, Ross got the Sox’ first hit, a single to left field. Podsednik took third on the play. Nava had a chance to tie it but grounded to second base.
The Sox had another chance against Hughes in the sixth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to center field before Podsednik struck out. Loney followed with a single to left field. Ross had the opportunity this time, but hit a fly ball to right field.
Nava singled off Soriano with two outs in the ninth before Jarrod Saltalamacchia grounded to second.
Felix Doubront (10-9) pitched into the seventh inning and gave up two runs. Four Sox pitchers allowed five hits but received no support.
There was some doubt Doubront would make the start. The 24-year-old lefthander was 0-4 with an 8.27 earned run average in his previous seven starts and there were concerns he was wearing down in his first full season as a starter in the majors.
But Doubront pitched well in a bullpen session on Monday, convincing the team to give him another shot, and it paid off.
“I was trying to think less and make pitches. That’s what I did,” Doubront said. “It was the mental part I worked on. I tried to throw the first pitch for a strike.”
The Yankees had only one hit over the first three innings. Alex Rodriguez singled to start the fourth and stole second. Doubront walked Robinson Cano and Russell Martin to load the bases.
Andruw Jones lifted a fly ball to right field. Ross made an accurate throw that was cut off and Rodriguez scored.
Curtis Granderson lined to first base and Loney stepped on the bag for a double play to end the inning.
Doubront ran into trouble against the bottom of the New York order in the seventh inning.
No. 8 hitter Steve Pearce walked before Eduardo Nunez singled. With Doubront at 105 pitches, Valentine went to Junichi Tazawa.
Derek Jeter fought off a 3-and-2 fastball and dumped a single into center field to score Pearce.
It was Jeter’s 3,283d hit, tying the legendary Willie Mays for 10th place all time.
Tazawa struck out Nick Swisher and Rodriguez looking to end the inning and keep the Sox within two runs.
Doubront allowed four hits and struck out five with five walks. He has pitched well against the Yankees in four starts this season, giving up seven earned runs over 25 innings.
“I thought he was excellent,” Valentine said. “He had a good fastball, breaking ball. Good competitiveness. Just missed on some pitches.”
Doubront, who said he has two starts remaining, hopes to end his season on a good note.
“Finish strong and healthy, those were my goals the whole year,” he said. “I think I can do it and I’m going to do it.”
Said Valentine, “Talking with him, he was very determined to right his ways. I think today was a good step in that direction. If we scored some runs, we would have gotten a win.”
The Yankees took two of three from the Red Sox but remain tied for first place in the American League East with the determined Orioles. Baltimore beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2, Thursday afternoon in 14 innings.
The Sox have lost six of their last seven games and 13 of 15. They have 80 losses for the first time since the 1997 team finished 78-84.
The Sox start a seven-game road trip in Toronto on Friday. Pedroia will join the team there sometime this weekend.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.