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Yankees 7, Red Sox 2

Heartbreak hill

Beckett can’t lift Sox over Yankees

J.D. Drew walks away as Yankees fans celebrate a homer by Mark Teixeira. J.D. Drew walks away as Yankees fans celebrate a homer by Mark Teixeira. (Al Bello/ Getty Images)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / August 9, 2010

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NEW YORK — When Josh Beckett walked off the Yankee Stadium mound last night, it was as it had been in too many of his starts against the Yankees lately in his career. He was exiting far too early for a pitcher of his stature and his stuff, marking the third time in four starts against New York this season that he had come one out shy of getting through the fifth inning.

His ERA, already high, soared to an embarrassing 6.21. And it sent Beckett reeling back to the way it was earlier in the season, before his extended stay on the disabled list, when he was pitching poorly and searching for answers. He had looked better since returning from the DL, turning in three good performances and two consecutive wins. That was the Beckett who was needed by the Red Sox, especially against the Yankees, and especially on a day when the Rays lost again.

But Beckett had little in his 4 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs as the Sox fell, 7-2, to the Yankees.

“The ball was finding barrels,’’ Beckett said. “It’s hard for guys to catch balls that are hit that hard. I think I just threw too many balls over the fat part of the plate. I think it’s pretty simple. Like I said, they don’t hit balls out of the strike zone that hard.’’

Not only did the loss prevent them from moving up against New York and Tampa Bay, but it also dropped them into a tie for second in the wild-card race with the rapidly charging Twins. It left the Sox in desperate need of a win today from Jon Lester to salvage a split of the series.

So, three games into a 10-game road trip that Bill Hall had labeled the most important stretch of the season, the utilityman was asked where the team stands at this point.

“We’re still right there,’’ Hall said. “Obviously today would have been a big game for us to win. Obviously tomorrow we need to go out and at least split this series and head to Toronto and continue to take care of business.

“We’re right there. Just one week and a half of a hot streak — obviously Tampa Bay’s not playing that well, and these guys we feel aren’t playing to their capability as well. All we’ve got to do is just get hot for a week and a half and we’re going to be right there, right where we need to be.’’

Coming off perhaps his best start of the season, Beckett did not do nearly as well against the Yankees. Beckett, who entered with a career 5.95 ERA against the Yankees, allowed two runs in the second and five more in the fifth.

Most of that was him. Still, he wasn’t helped by a defense that again betrayed its starter, though all of the runs were earned.

“Lot of hits, some not so hard, some [hard],’’ manager Terry Francona said. “They’re certainly not afraid to work the count or hit deep in the count. That’s what they do well when they’re on their game. Regardless of what the count is, you leave the ball over the middle, they hurt you. Then if you give them extra outs or extra opportunities, that’s not the lineup you want to do it against.’’

The Sox had two errors, both of which contributed to runs. In the second, after Lance Berkman hit a double, Brett Gardner singled to Hall, who made a great stop and a bad throw, enabling Berkman to score. Gardner eventually scored on a two-out single by Derek Jeter.

“If I threw it close to the bag, he’s probably out,’’ Hall said. “That’s one of those plays, obviously, where speed [made] a difference. I had to rush to throw it a little bit, but it’s a play that as an infielder you feel like you’re going to make. I feel like I can make that nine times out of 10, at least make a good throw. If he’s safe, he’s safe.’’

In the Yankees’ other big inning, the fifth, Kevin Cash added another error. With Robinson Cano on third, Cash had him picked off. But his throw bounced off Cano’s helmet and into left, bringing the second baseman home.

“At the time it would have been a big play, because it could have maybe stopped the bleeding a little bit, got us out of that inning,’’ Cash said. “I’ve got to make that throw on the inside of the bag. It nicked right off his helmet. Got to make a better throw.’’

That was echoed by Francona, who said, “He’s out. That’s a big swing right there. It was actually a great play, and a little bit unfortunate.’’

In the end, though, it was Beckett, who was outpitched by Dustin Moseley, the fill-in for A.J. Burnett, who was scratched because of back spasms. Beckett followed the error by Cash by allowing the back-breaking hit of the night, a two-run double by Jeter.

Mark Teixeira had led off the fifth with a homer, and then Beckett walked Alex Rodriguez, hit Cano with a pitch, gave up a double to Berkman, and walked Curtis Granderson. He struck out Gardner, but then Cash made his errant throw, three runs were in, and Jeter was up with two outs. The Yankee captain’s double marked the end for Beckett, who has yet to work more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his four starts against New York this season.

“He’s never a fun guy to face because he throws so hard,’’ Jeter said. “But we were able to make him work and get to the pitches we wanted to swing at. I thought we were pretty patient against him.’’

“He left too many pitches that caught too much white,’’ Cash said, noting that happened especially with Beckett’s cutter. “I think any time he goes out there and gets hit around a little bit — which he did, he gave up his hits tonight — it’s a little surprising. But you also have to look at who he’s throwing against.’’

“It didn’t matter,’’ Beckett said about the errors. “You give up seven runs, who else are you going to blame? It’s not anybody else’s fault in here.’’

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