Struggling Yankees walk off with win
Exciting Sox rally ruined by bullpen
NEW YORK — It was there for a moment, the season- saving four steals in the ninth inning, the hope the Red Sox wouldn't end things quite yet. And then it was gone.
The win started to slip away in the bottom of the ninth, when Jonathan Papelbon blew yet another save and the Yankees tied the game at 3. It slipped away completely an inning later as the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs against Hideki Okajima before the lefthander walked in the winning run.
So, there will be no epic comeback, no miraculous finish. While the Sox are still one game away from being officially eliminated after their 4-3 loss last night, it already feels over. It was a game that had gone from elation to depression in half an inning, in the space of a few pitches from Papelbon, who blasted home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi for his strike zone after the game.
And, still, there was pride in the Boston clubhouse. There was disappointment, too. But heads were high, based on the fact that the Sox did just about everything they could to take out the Yankees and make things as difficult as possible in the Bronx.
''We're still not out of it,'' Bill Hall said. ''Obviously, it's a big loss. We definitely needed to win. But at the same time, we need to go to Chicago and take care of our own business, and hopefully, we get some help from Toronto.
''We definitely put a little fear in their heart. They planned on starting somebody else [Dustin Moseley], and they wound up going with one of the aces of their staff [Phil Hughes]. Like I said, that gave us a lot of respect going into this game. They knew it was almost a must-win for them. They rolled their best guy available. They really battled and had a big game, and unfortunately, we came up on the losing end.''
It happened quickly in the 10th, with Curtis Granderson hitting a leadoff single and Brett Gardner putting down a bunt single. Victor Martinez's throw was wild, sending Granderson to third. Derek Jeter was intentionally walked and, after one out, Juan Miranda stepped to the plate.
He waited patiently, and that's all had to do. And so, the Yankees took out the Sox as Okajima walked Miranda on five pitches.
''When I fell behind 3-1, I tried to be really fine with my location and tried to spot my pitch, but I missed it,'' Okajima said. ''I let it sail a little bit, and I'm disappointed.''
He wasn't alone, especially after the roller-coaster ninth.
As much good as Ryan Kalish and Hall had done against Mariano Rivera in the ninth, with each stealing second and third, as the Sox scored two runs and pulled ahead, Papelbon reversed it all. All of the sudden, the Yankees had the bases loaded on two singles and a walk to Alex Rodriguez, as they attempted to pick up the pieces.
They did, getting a single from Robinson Cano to tie the game at 3. Both closers now had recorded blown saves, some of that, Papelbon laid at the feet of Cuzzi, especially on a pitch to Rodriguez that appeared to be strike three.
''Really tough tonight, considering the fact that I'm not only pitching against the hitter, I'm pitching against the umpire,'' Papelbon said. ''When you've got to do that against this lineup, you'll never be successful.''
Papelbon's performance followed closely one of the more electrifying innings of Boston's season. With one out in the ninth, Kalish singled. He stole second. He stole third. And that was when Hall hit a single past Rodriguez, bringing home Kalish. So Hall stood on first, but not for long. He stole second. He stole third. And Mike Lowell hit a sacrifice fly, bringing Hall home.
''I don't know what happened there,'' Rivera said. ''It happened so fast. It's just part of the game but they were aggressive and they did a good job. That usually doesn't happen, not like that.''
Yankee Stadium was stunned. But the Yankees didn't crumble.
''Lot of emotions going on right there,'' said Sox manager Terry Francona. ''That's pretty good top of the ninth. We did a lot of really good things - veterans, young guys, and then you're on the verge of feeling like you're going to get out of here with a win and to not obviously hurts.''
The nervousness had been palpable in the Bronx since hours before the game, when word got out that manager Joe Girardi had decided to go with Hughes over Moseley.
It appeared a bit of panic was seeping in for the Yankees. And during the game, it seemed as if Daisuke Matsuzaka would outduel Hughes, with the enigmatic righthander pitching as well as he has all season. His lone blemish was Rodriguez's two-run shot in the seventh.
''You hear all the time somebody say, 'Well he only made one mistake.' I think that's what he did,'' Francona said. ''He left an 0-2 pitch to Alex, tried to get in and it didn't get in enough. He was really good.'' Matsuzaka had been in complete control, throwing just 68 pitches over the first six innings and getting to three-ball counts on just three of 19 batters faced. The Sox owned their one-run lead, courtesy of Hall in the third inning, and
Matsuzaka had thrown his one bad pitch in eight innings of four-hit, one-walk, seven-strikeout baseball.
Then came the ninth, the excitement and the dashed hopes.
And now, with one more loss or one more Yankee win, Boston will be eliminated.
''We came in here and showed people what kind of character this team has,'' said Hall. ''I'm proud of the way the guys played this weekend.''