NEW YORK — The Yankees had never been kind to Clay Buchholz, last season especially. He lost both times out, giving up 15 hits, 13 runs and eight homers. Overall, he was 2-5 against the Bombers.
But, coming away confident after a strong spring, this was the team he wanted to face in his first start of the season.
For seven innings, he was in complete control, feeding the Yankees lineup heavy doses of the hard stuff and occasionally chasing it with beautiful breaking balls to help him earn his first win over the Yankees in two years, 7-4.
Over seven strong innings, he struck out four and gave up just six hits. His only blemish was a solo home run to Travis Hafner in the fourth inning.
He was able to pitch with a lead from the time he took the mound, thanks to Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 for 5) who had an RBI single in the first inning.
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda lasted just 2.1 innings. He was buzzed in the hand by a Shane Victorino line drive back up the middle in the second inning.
The effects were obvious as he hit Jackie Bradley Jr. walked Jacoby Ellsbury on four pitches then dotted Daniel Nava to plate Bradley Jr.
But he came back out in the third and struggled before being lifted for Cody Epply who gave up four runs over 1.1 innings. Kuroda would later be diagnosed with a right middle finger contusion.
Between Jacoby Ellsbury (1 for 4, 2 RBIs and a run) Daniel Nava (2 for 3 with a walk, an RBI and a run) and Dustin Pedroia (2 for 5 with an RBI) the top of the order fueled the Sox, who improved to 19-19 at the new Yankee Stadium.
Bottom of the eighth, Red Sox 7, Yankees 4: Nothing pretty about the bullpen. Andrew Miller hit the first batter he saw, pinch hitter Ben Francisco. Then got the hook after getting Robinson Cano to line out to center.
Alfredo Aceves came in and immediately got tagged by Kevin Youkilis for a single, then gave up a three-run home run to Vernon Wells (his first as a Yankee). And that quickly the Yankees have some life, albeit slim.
Bottom of the seventh, Red Sox 7, Yankees 0: For the first time all night, Clay Buchholz looked like he was laboring. He threw 20 pitches, walked Eduardo Nunez and midway through the inning, Andrew Miller and Alfredo Aceves are both started warming up in the bullpen. But he’s gone seven strong innings, tied with a May 2011 start for his second-longest outing against the Yankees.
Top of the seventh, Red Sox 7, Yankees 1: The weather and the score are probably equally to blame, but the fans have been filing out of Yankee Stadium in a steady stream for at least a couple of innings with the Sox in command.
Aside: Overheard one fan on his way out saying, “Thank God for the Rangers.”
Bottom of the sixth, Red Sox 7, Yankees 1: After smacking a solo homer in the fourth, Travis Hafner was pretty much baffled by a 3-2 fastball that ran back and caught the inside of the plate for a called third strike. He shook his head, but it was clearly a good pitch by Buchholz, who’s gone six strong for the Sox.
Top of the sixth, Red Sox 7, Yankees 1: The Sox tacked on another run after Dustin Pedroia drove in Jacoby Ellsbury. The top of the order now has five of the Sox’s 13 hits tonight and has driven in four runs.
Bottom of the fifth, Red Sox 6, Yankees 1: The deep sigh of relief that Clay Buchholz let out after Jackie Bradley Jr. tracked down Chris Stewart’s loud fly ball to left said just about everything. It was a small scare in a start that’s been more or less free of any real turbulence.
Bottom of the fourth, Red Sox 6, Yankees 0: Buchholz left one over the plate and Travis Hafner gladly deposited it over the fence in center for his first homer as a Yankee. Still, it was one of the few mistakes Buchholz has made so far tonight.
Bottom of the third, Red Sox 6, Yankees 0: As good as Clay Buchholz looked in a 1-2-3 inning, the Yankees just look lifeless.
Ichiro’s at-bat might’ve been the most futile. Buchholz started him off with a big, gorgeous curveball that he couldn’t do a thing with. The next pitch, he fed him a high fastball and got an inning-ending pop-up to third.
Top of the third, Red Sox 6, Yankees 0: RBI singles from Shane Victorino and Jackie Bradley Jr. helped the Sox bust things open early.
Bradley Jr.’s first hit was a roller straight up the middle that Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez couldn’t get to even though he was shading Bradley Jr. close to the bag.
One interesting thing: Saltalamacchia put together another high-quality at-bat. He saw 29 pitches in the opener and so far he’s seen seven pitches today with two singles to show for it.
On the injury front, Hiroki Kuroda’s got a contusion on his right middle finger.
Bottom of the second, Red Sox 2, Yankees 0: Jose Iglesias looked like a goalie using his body to stop a sharp Lyle Overbay grounder and making the quick toss to Dustin Pedroia to start the double play.
After giving up a leadoff single to Vernon Wells, it kept Clay Buchholz out of a possible jam.
Top of the second, Red Sox 2, Yankees 0: Shane Victorino buzzed Hiroki Kuroda on the fingers with a low line drive up the middle, and the ill effects made themselves obvious the rest of the inning. Kuroda pegged Jackie Bradley Jr. in the leg and walked Jacoby Ellsbury on four pitches.
When he dotted Daniel Nava with the bases loaded (again, in the leg), Yankees manager Joe Girardi had no choice but to lift him. It was Kuroda’s shortest outing since he gave up three runs in 1.1 innings against Milwaukee in 2009. It’s easily his shortest start as a Yankee. Before that, he had two 4.1 inning efforts early last season.
Cody Eppley immediately came in and got a double-play ball to end the inning.
Bottom of the first, Red Sox 1, Yankees 0: Ichiro Suzuki worked a six-pitch walk out of Clay Buchholz and Kevin Youkilis pulled a single to left, but Buchholz got out of the inning with no harm done, throwing mostly fastballs and cutters.
Top of the first, Red Sox 1, Yankees 0: A nice piece of two-out hitting by Jarrod Saltalamacchia put the Sox on the board early. With Daniel Nava on third and Dustin Pedroia on first, he shipped a 2-and-1 sinker to right field.
Hiroki Kuroda threw 25 pitches to six hitters, 15 for strikes.
Pregame: The chatter in the Sox clubhouse today revolved more or less around two things: the absurdity of the story of Rutger’s fired basketball coach Mike Rice and the weather here in New York. With ESPN on the flatscreens, everyone had a take on Rice. At the same time, with the possibility of snow tonight, everyone was looking for ways to bundle up.
Too bad Rutgers doesn’t have a dodgeball team… I know the guy for the job.
— Will Middlebrooks (@middlebrooks) April 3, 2013
Meanwhile, the Sox need can move to .500 at the new Yankee Stadium with a win today.
Stay tuned for updates, and feel free to comment.