NEW YORK — Pedro Ciriaco looked twice at the lineup the first time Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine used him as the designated hitter earlier this month.
A 170-pound middle infielder who has yet to hit a home run in a major league game, Ciriaco is not the kind of player usually suited for that role, especially on a team like the Red Sox.
Ciriaco laughed when asked whether any other manager had tried it in his career.
“No,” he said, “that happened just this year. It’s the first time.”
It was right move for the Red Sox on Saturday night. Ciriaco, the unlikely slugger, drove a ball over the head of Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson in the ninth inning to give the Red Sox a thrilling 8-6 victory.
The Red Sox blew a five-run lead, the Yankees coming back to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth inning on a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira off his nemesis, Vicente Padilla.
The Yankees used closer Rafael Soriano to start the ninth inning. He walked Jacoby Ellsbury with one out before Ciriaco came to the plate.
Soriano threw a low fastball that Ciriaco put all 170 pounds into. The ball flew straight to center field. Granderson, understandably, didn’t expect it to go as far as it did. He could not get back in time and the ball sailed over his outstretched glove.
“I broke in for it at first. I just thought it wasn’t hit as hard as it was,” Granderson said. “He usually doesn’t hit the ball that way.”
Ellsbury advanced as far as second base and paused to see if Granderson would catch the ball. When it fell in, he took off like a sprinter out of the blocks and scored the go-ahead run.
“I thought it would drop because it was over his head,” Ellsbury said. “I was just waiting to see if he could dive and catch it.”
Ciriaco ended up at third with his fourth career triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Pedroia. Alfredo Aceves then closed out the Yankees for his 22d save.
Ciriaco is hitting .356 in 17 games since being called up and is 10 of 18 against the Yankees.
“He gave me a good pitch to hit and I had a little bit of luck, too,” he said. “I thought he was going to make it. But when I saw him running back, I thought I had a chance.”
It was only the second win in eight games against the Yankees this season for the Red Sox. The final game of the series is Sunday night. Adrian Gonzalez was 3 for 5 with an RBI double and a three-run homer off CC Sabathia.