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Yankees didn’t show much fight

A.J. Burnett gives up a two-run homer to David Ortiz (background), adding to his recent misery against the Sox. A.J. Burnett gives up a two-run homer to David Ortiz (background), adding to his recent misery against the Sox. (Al Bello/ Getty Images)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / June 9, 2011

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NEW YORK — While manager Joe Girardi is correct that the Yankees aren’t yet digging themselves a hole after losing their second straight game to the Red Sox to fall a game behind them in the AL East standings, he is presiding over a team he should be concerned with.

One of the reasons the Yankees signed righty A.J. Burnett to an enormous five-year, $82.5 million deal is because he used to be a Red Sox killer when he pitched for the Blue Jays — 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA against the Sox over a three-year span.

Now he gets killed by the Sox. He is winless in his last nine starts against them, 0-4 with an 8.01 ERA, including a horrible outing last night in which he allowed a season-high seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in an 11-6 loss.

When asked why he was so good vs. Boston as a Blue Jay and has been so bad as a Yankee, he dismissed the question.

The other issue the Yankees must deal with is the comfort level that David Ortiz seems to have when facing them. His two-run homer in the first inning got the Red Sox off and running again.

Not that retaliation is the only way to get a team jump-started, but the night before the Yankees’ third hitter, Mark Teixeira, was plunked in the knee and had to leave the game. In the same game, Ortiz flipped the bat after a back-breaking home run and took a leisurely trot around the bases, showing up a kid pitcher (Hector Noesi) to the point that Girardi called him out.

And the next day, nothing?

The Yankees are not ones for the eye-for-an-eye method of baseball. It seems not to be Girardi’s style. But when the team had lost six out of seven to its rival entering the game, it seemed the Yankees needed some inspiration, a kick in the pants, something.

And they just stood there.

The Yankees’ hands-off strategy benefited the Red Sox, who didn’t have to worry about one of their top stars getting hurt by an errant pitch.

The irony was that Burnett hits a lot of batters, and not one pitch made its way toward the inside part of the plate in his problematic outing. If you’re going to pitch that badly, don’t you need to leave having done at least something positive for your team? There was nothing. Red Sox hitters were able to dig in and didn’t have a care in the world.

Girardi took the high road on the Sox, and particularly Ortiz’s comfort level, indicating that poor location always will get pitchers in trouble. As will the eight walks pinstripe pitchers allowed.

The Yankees mantra after the game seemed to be, “CC Sabathia is pitching the finale and the Yankees and Red Sox could be in a dead heat by the time the Sox leave town.’’ And with the wobbly Indians coming to Yankee Stadium, the Yankees still have a chance to have a good homestand. But right now they’re getting their behinds kicked by Boston.

Everyone knows Jon Lester didn’t mean to injure Teixeira the night before. And perhaps because Teixeira made it back into last night’s lineup, the feeling of needing to get back at the Sox was less pronounced. It was more about New York’s $207 million payroll showing some life, and there was none of it.

The Yankees didn’t start the day very well.

Jorge Posada, who had three hits the night before, was not in attendance but rather with his son, who recently had surgery.

Catcher Russell Martin, who has been fading anyway, came up with a stiff back and was unavailable. That left the Yankees with one catcher — Francisco Cervelli — who committed throwing errors in the first two innings which helped lead to runs. He also took a foul ball in the groin area and almost had to leave the game, though he couldn’t because it would have been tough to bring in Martin.

The Bombers’ bullpen took a hit when they had to place setup man Joba Chamberlain on the disabled list, after having put Rafael Soriano there last week.

The only good news was that Teixeira was back.

Then Brett Gardner, who is supposed to win games with his legs, fell asleep in the sixth inning when Tim Wakefield threw one past Jason Varitek. It should have scored Gardner from third base; it was an 8-5 game at the time. Right after that, Jeter knocked into an inning-ending double play.

“I wished I’d gotten a better read,’’ Gardner said. “The ball caromed back to Tek. I didn’t want to take the chance. The way things played out that was an important play. I thought the ball hit [Jeter]. I don’t know what else to say.’’

Alfredo Aceves, who was discarded by the Yankees because they were so frustrated about not being able to get him off the disabled list most of 2010, pitched the final 3 2/3 innings to earn the save. Given the mess the Yankees bullpen is now in, Aceves would have been a key component.

The Red Sox are very happy to take advantage of the Big, Bad Yankees in these vulnerable times.

Especially when the Yankees elect not to help themselves.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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