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Bob Ryan

As beatings go, it wasn’t that bad

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / August 31, 2011

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Did the Yankees really win this game?

Weren’t there Red Sox on base from the first pitch (well, actually the fourth) until the last? Was there so much as a single 1-2-3 Sox inning? The answer would be no. Wasn’t there a 33-pitch second inning? The answer would be yes, and, no, the Sox did not score.

It takes a special effort to waste 13 hits, four walks, and two hit batsmen, but the Sox were up to the task, losing a 5-2 series opener to the Yankees and thus waking up this fine late August morning tied in the All Important Loss Column (AILC) with their most important rival.

The Sox made CC Sabathia work, but you must admit he deserved the W, his first this season against the Sox after losing his first four. The Big Guy was forced to throw a season- and Yankee career-high 128 pitches, a formidable total for a complete game and a staggering total for six innings, which is all manager Joe Girardi asked of his ace.

Ten was his magic number in this one: 10 hits, 10 strikeouts, and 10 men left on base. That would be 10 of the Boston final total of 16, which is rather hefty total for a nine-inning game, wouldn’t you say?

“We worked CC and made him throw a lot of pitches,’’ pointed out Terry Francona. “But when he needed to, he made ’em. We stranded a lot of runners. We had our chances.’’

The Sox left someone on in every inning. They left men on against Sabathia. They left men against Corey Wade and Boone Logan in the seventh. They left a man on against Rafael Soriano in the eighth, when the game may very well have been saved as Brett Gardner made an absolutely amazing running catch of a blast by Marco Scutaro, somehow catching up with the ball at the intersection of the National League portion of the scoreboard and the F.W. Webb sign. Considering he is a left fielder, that’s the baseball equivalent of catching a ball in Saugus that left someone’s bat on Boston Common. Had he not caught that ball, Jacoby Ellsbury would have scored from first and there would have been a man on second with no one out in a two-run game.

And to make the frustrating evening complete, they left two men on against Mariano Rivera in the ninth, the last out coming on a fairly well-struck liner to left by pinch hitter Josh Reddick.

Rivera picked up his 594th career save, and 35th of this season. He got to savor the postgame handshakes for a three-run save, but the Yankee reliever who deserved the most praise was Logan, who was summoned to relieve Wade with two on and one out in the seventh inning of a 5-2 game. True, he did give up a solid base hit to Carl Crawford, the first man he faced, and, true, he’s lucky David Ortiz was unable to pick up the ball in the lights and was thus unable to score from second on that hit. But he responded to a bases-loaded challenge by striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia on three consecutive nasty sliders and then fanned Darnell McDonald on a 3-2 high hard one to leave the Sox with the bases loaded for the second time.

The loser was John Lackey, whose numbers (7 IP, 7 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned) were an accurate reflection of his evening’s work. Just when he was starting to look like a reliable third starter, he came up with a classic pitch-well-enough-to-lose outing, the low point being a fifth inning leadoff homer he surrendered to No. 9 man Francisco Cervelli after the Sox had closed a 3-0 deficit to 3-2 with a pair of runs in the fourth.

He didn’t distinguish himself the next time Cervelli appeared at the plate, either, drilling the catcher to start the seventh. This triggered one of those classically silly bench and bullpen-emptying scenes, the end result being the ejection of Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild by third base umpire Mark Wegner. Hitting the No. 9 man to honor a tired code when you’re behind, 4-2, is ridiculous, and the baseball Gods made Lackey and the Sox pay when a bunt single by Gardner, a passed ball, and a 6-3 double play off the bat of Derek Jeter (five infield grounders in as many at-bats) produced the final New York run.

Sabathia was dazzlingly effective against the heart of the Sox order. He struck out Adrian Gonzalez the first three times he saw him, and if the AL batting leader has had worse at-bats this season no one could recall them. He also got Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi twice each. The Sox reached him for those fourth inning runs on a homer to right by Crawford, followed by Saltalamaccha and McDonald singles in front of an RBI double by Scutaro. But with men on second and third, Gonzalez went down on a 2-2 slider.

Asked if anyone had made Gonzalez look this bad before last night, Francona basically took the fifth. “I don’t know,’’ he said. “He was tough on him; that’s for sure. He’s got different ways to go. He can bend it. He threw some really good pitches to Gonzo. He made it hard on him.’’

The entire evening was hard on the Sox. But baseball players have short memories and the Sox have Josh Beckett tonight and Jon Lester lined up for the rest of the series. Things could be a whole lot worse.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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