Turning New York into the big easy
Another night, another buffeting of the Bombers. It's just no fun beating these New York Yankees anymore.
Led by Josh Beckett, channeling his October 2007 self, the Red Sox pasted their Biblical brothers, 7-0, at the Fens last night.
Too bad all the local college students have left town. Your Red Sox this year are 6-0 against the team you love to hate, and this would be a good time for some New York-baiting in the dorms of Boston University and Northeastern.
"They've taken it to us pretty good this year, and we're definitely not happy about that," said Johnny Damon, who has looked at clouds from both sides now. "We've got 13 more against them [12, actually]. Hopefully we'll mix in a win soon."
"We're 0-6, and that's not where we want to be," added manager Joe Girardi. "You don't like to be 0-6 against your rival. But we're even after 57 games [58, actually] and here we go."
Last night's victory puts the Sox in a first-place tie with the Yankees, but that little detail should be addressed tonight, because in this strange spring of 2009, the Sons of Tito cannot lose to their ancient rivals.
How did we get here? The Yankees, after all, have a payroll north of $200 million and committed almost a half-billion free agent dollars last winter. They came to Boston with 19 wins in their last 25 games. The Yankee lineup is Thunder Road, and it looks as if New York's beleaguered pitching staff might finally be taking shape.
No matter. The Yanks cannot beat the Red Sox. New York mustered only two hits last night against Beckett, Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and Daniel Bard. Yankee pitchers walked seven and hit a batter. Sloppy.
So the strange streak continues. It's Bizarro Baseball. The mighty Yankees suddenly are the Washington Generals and the Sox are the Globetrotters. The Yanks are the nail and the Sox are the hammer.
The Yankees couldn't beat Boston when Mariano Rivera had a two-run lead in the ninth (Sox, 5-4, in 11). They couldn't win when A.J. Burnett was staked to a 6-0 lead (Sox win, 16-11). They couldn't win when Jacoby Ellsbury stole home (Sox, 4-1). They couldn't win in two tries at their new home against the Sox (6-4, 7-3).
Last night they had no chance against Beckett, who dazzled the slumdog millionaires, striking out eight and allowing only one hit over six innings.
This was supposed to be a nifty duel between ex-Marlin baby bulls Beckett and Burnett ("two of the better arms in the game," according to Sox manager Terry Francona), but it never materialized. Burnett looked like a man afraid to throw the ball over the plate (84 pitches, 40 strikes in 2 2/3 innings) and was gone before the Lakers and Magic tipped off.
On most nights in most seasons, Beckett's masterpiece would have been the highlight for the home team, but this is 2009, and Boston baseball is consumed by the struggles of David Ortiz, so we must report that Ortiz's two-run homer off Burnett was the signature moment of the night.
It was a blast from the past; a bolt from a guy tangled up in blue.
With the weight of the Nation on his back and history ever on his side, Big Papi turned on a 95-mile-per-hour 2-and-2 fastball and launched one of his old-timey moon shots into the center-field bleachers in the bottom of the second. It was a true feat of strength. There was an Edgar Allan Poe fog over Fenway in the early innings and the ball wasn't going anywhere - until Ortiz swung.
It was Papi's third homer of the season (three homers, three Fenway curtain calls), it extended his hitting streak to seven games, and it probably will have cynics wondering if the pitch was tipped by Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod is baseball's human piñata, an easy target for haters and conspiracists across the land. This was Rodriguez's first game at Fenway since his spring steroid bombshell. He went 0 for 4 with an error, much to the titillation of the fandom. Still, you can't pin this one on Rodriguez. In the words of Derek Jeter, "It's kind of hard to win when you only have two hits. We didn't have too many good swings."
Jeter has been around long enough to see all the swings in this series. He was here when the Yanks were king and he was here when the Bombers swept five at Fenway late in 2006. Six losses at the start of '09 aren't going to rattle the Yankee captain.
"Those are over and we can't do anything about them," said Jeter. "It's important for us to play well tomorrow, but I'd say that no matter who we were playing. We can't think about what happened before when we take the field."
Selective amnesia always has been useful in this feud. The more you forget, the better you play. And right now the Yankees are trying to forget that the Red Sox own them in the spring of 2009.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.