Can we agree that the Red Sox have no business beating the Yankees and the Yankees have no business losing to the Red Sox?
So why would the Yankees allow a 4-3 walkoff win Tuesday night to one of the worst teams in baseball ?
Until Derek Jeter’s bloop double to right field in the sixth inning off Jon Lester scored a pair of runs to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead, Boston’s early 2-1 lead was a case of a blind squirrel finding an acorn. As it turned out, that squirrel feasted. Dustin Pedroia tied it, 3-3, in the bottom of the sixth with a home run.
And then Jacoby Ellsbury won it with a ninth-inning single, scoring Yankee-killer Pedro Ciriaco.
The Yankees were trying to stay in first place, a perch they’ve held every day since June 12, so it seemed a good thing that the Red Sox were on the schedule. By the end of the night, though, they were tied with the pesky Orioles again in the American League East and scratching their heads trying to figure out what had just happened.
They all realized the opportunity they squandered. Lester walked seven. The Yankees left so many chances on the table (nine left on base).
The big joke entering the series was that while Baltimore and Tampa Bay were going to clobber each other (Baltimore won Tuesday night, 9-2), the Yankees had a rocking chair series vs. Boston. They also face the Red Sox in the final three games of the season.
As Boston general manager Ben Cherington would say, the Sox have earned being the brunt of jokes.
It’s a stretch to think the horrible Red Sox could even be considered a spoiler, but they were Tuesday night.
“Of course they have pride,” Jeter said. “Forget the record, they have guys who want to win and finish strong. They want to be spoilers. It’s Red Sox-Yankees. There’s a lot of pride and emotion in these games. I don’t care what the record is.”
Jeter said the Yankees need to begin to be more consistent and string together wins.
“We win a game and we lose a game and we win a game and we lose a game,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. We have to try to string together some wins. If we win and lose and win and lose they’re gonna gain ground on us. We have to battle through times when you’re not playing as well as you’d like but we have to string together some wins.”
The Red Sox may have awoken a sleeping giant in Nick Swisher, who stroked two hits and broke an 0-for-28 skid, but Swisher, who is replacing the injured Mark Teixeira at first base (calf injury), likely for the remainder of the season, said, “I would have rather gotten no hits and won the game. That’s the mentality right now. It’s all about wins. I could care less about what I’m going through. We ran into a tough stretch. We’re a no-excuse type of team. It’s a tough one to lose tonight.”
And Yankees manager Joe Girardi is presiding over all this.
His team had a 10-game lead on July 18, and now he’s in a dead heat with the Orioles.
“We had a lot of opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in,” Girardi said.
Losing Teixeira has made managing a little tougher.
“You have to pinch hit a little bit more than you normally would,” Girardi said. “I said he was a big loss. He’s a big middle-of-the-order guy. He’s had a lot of success against lefthanders as well, so we miss him.”
He watched Alex Rodriguez strike out three times in four at-bats. Rodriguez had come into the series 8 for 26 and was one of New York’s more productive hitters since coming off the disabled list.
“[A-Rod] needs to play well, but there’s a lot of guys who need to play well down the stretch if we want to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Girardi said. “We haven’t been able to get on a roll and we haven’t been consistent.”
Unless we’re witnessing a catastrophic collapse, the Yankees are still in the best position.
Before Tuesday night’s results, the Orioles had the toughest road with their opponents sporting a 31-19 record. The Rays’ opponents the rest of the way were 31-26 and New York’s were 25-24.
It hasn’t been often that the Yankees and Red Sox have played in September where something wasn’t on the line for both teams.
In this case there’s only something in it for New York.
But fielding one of their least-talented teams in recent memory, it didn’t look on paper that the Red Sox had much of a chance of beating the Yankees in many of those six remaining games, unless one of their pitchers threw a gem.
And that has seldom happened over the last two months.
Besides Teixeira’s absence, the Yankees haven’t pitched very well either. CC Sabathia hasn’t shown his usual No. 1 stuff, and that could cause the Yankees to not make the playoffs, or if they do, limit their ability to do damage once they get there.
Ivan Nova threw a simulated game Tuesday and he’ll be New York’s starter Saturday against Tampa Bay.
Andy Pettitte has a simulated game scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Fenway, and he could be back by next week, which could help solidify a shaky rotation that can do without Freddie Garcia and David Phelps.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was asked before the game whether he, being out of the race, would treat games against contenders any differently than other games.
All you can do is shake your head at such a question. The Sox are just trying to win a game against anyone, period. The lowly Jays just swept them.
With their Triple A lineup, the Sox might have problems beating their Pawtucket affiliate, which is currently in the International League playoffs. Don’t think they can pick and choose which series they can turn it up a notch.
Beating the Yankees is really all they have left.
Don’t know if they did it subconsciously in Tuesday’s game, but the Yankees can’t look past the fact that the Red Sox are struggling. The Yankees likely realize after this loss that they can’t throw their gloves out there and win, though most teams since Aug. 1 have been able to do that against the Sox, who had won only 10 of their last 27 games before Tuesday.
The Yankees have to be happy they’re playing the Red Sox. But they can’t be too giddy.
Every once in a while, the underdog, the team nobody thinks can win, rises up.
All the Red Sox have left is to be that underdog.Nick Cafardo can be reached at Cafardo@Globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo