A nice turn by Sox
Crucial double play helps deflate Yankees
Wakefield talks about the Sox victory
Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield answers questions about his outing on Tuesday and about pitching for what was likely the last time at Yankee Stadium.
NEW YORK - When Alex Rodriguez strode to the plate in the seventh inning, the bases full and a rookie on the mound, the four-run Yankee deficit must have been echoing in his ears. With one good stroke, Rodriguez could lift his team, lift its playoff hopes, lift the 55,058 (always) ready to boo their third baseman.
All it took was two pitches.
Two sinkers from Justin Masterson, and Rodriguez had grounded to Alex Cora for the double play that ended the inning. A-Rod had it in his grasp, had the chance, and couldn't do it. All chances of a sweep over the Red Sox vanished in one ground ball, and the Yankees fell, 7-3, last night in the Bronx.
"It was obviously maybe the biggest pitch in the game," manager Terry Francona said. "We got ourselves in a position where one pitch can turn the game around, and Masterson comes in and makes one pitch and gets out of the inning. That was huge."
Coming in after Manny Delcarmen loaded the bases, Masterson knew his best pitch would be needed to get Rodriguez out. So there it was - sinker, sinker, ground out. That is, after all, exactly what that pitch is designed to do.
"That's what the game's about," Masterson said. "In my respects, he's a good righthanded hitter, and when I'm called upon, I'm supposed to get the job done. I won that time.
"Obviously, I love that stuff. That's why you play the game."
Fun for him maybe. Not for Rodriguez. The fans booed later, too, even though Rodriguez converted a grounder from Dustin Pedroia into an out. But in that one at-bat, they saw the Yankees' postseason hopes take yet another blow.
For the Red Sox, the news was all good. Their team was feeling better, with the exception of J.D. Drew. Josh Beckett threw a side session, and is on target to pitch Friday. And the Rays lost at home to the Blue Jays.
"That's how we roll here," David Ortiz said. "We don't panic here. You hit the panic button, you just get worse. Right? Right."
With a win in the first game of the third stop on this three-city tour, the Sox have guaranteed a winning record for the nine-game trip. And perhaps much more. The Yankees can finish this series no closer than four games in the wild-card race, with just a month left to play. Even if they win the final two, their hopes cannot be very high.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, seem ready. They won a killer game Sunday in the finale in Toronto, and last night they rode an ostensibly weak bottom third of the order - seven hits, two runs, and three RBIs - to victory.
Plus, they gave Jeff Bailey one heck of a story to tell his grandkids.
On the same day he was named MVP of the International League, Bailey scored the first run for the Sox after an infield single, then added the biggest hit in the fifth inning. With the Sox having already scored four runs, Bailey put the game further out of reach with a quirky shot up the third base line. Instead of heading into the outfield, instead of the double Bailey was expecting, the ball took a bit of an odd bounce.
Kicking off the bag, it jumped right to Rodriguez. But his throw to first was not in time, and Jason Giambi missed his chance to keep the Yankees closer. As Giambi held the ball, Coco Crisp headed home from second behind Jed Lowrie with the sixth run of the evening.
If Bailey seemed awed ("It was unbelievable," he said of playing in Yankee Stadium. "I thought I was dreaming"), Tim Wakefield was far more grounded. In his first start since coming off the disabled list, Wakefield was touched for three runs in five innings, including two solo home runs by Johnny Damon, but said he felt great.
And for him, this was about more than just returning to the mound. For a pitcher who has had both great and devastating moments in Yankee Stadium, Wakefield took a moment to appreciate the situation and the historical significance.
"I got a couple game balls from tonight," Wakefield said. "Lou Cucuzza, the clubhouse guy, got me some dirt from the mound. It's pretty special. Playing in this league the last 14, 15 years, and pitching here for such a long period of time, it's such a cathedral of sports.
"To walk the hallowed grounds that such great players before us have played their game and walked and ran and hit, it's pretty special."
Meanwhile, a player with far less perspective - or at least less longevity - was making two pitches to keep Wakefield on the road to a win, his first win over the Yankees since May 23, 2006. That, for reference, was before Masterson was even drafted.
Not that Francona, or anyone else, thought Masterson wasn't the right pitcher in the right situation. One who, even with little on his résumé, will continue to get the ball at those moments. At the biggest moments.
"He deserves it," Francona said. "That's about as big a situation as you're going to find. Poise is not a problem. He deserves to be used in those situations.
"That was probably what we were hoping for. Getting one pitch and getting out of that inning is the best-case scenario. He made a very good pitch, and we got out of that inning."