NEW YORK — The Red Sox were eying their first opening-series sweep since 1999. Andy Pettitte made sure it didn’t happen.
Pounding the strike zone, Pettitte buzzed through the Sox lineup, scattering eight hits over eight innings and ending the Yankees early woes before they became a bona fide streak with a 4-2 win.
Lyle Overbay (1 for 3) had a two-run double in the second to get things started for the Yankees, and Brett Gardner (2 for 3) and Francisco Cervelli (1 for 2) both homered. Mariano Rivera made his first appearance of since last May to record the save.
After scoring 15 runs the first two games, the Sox struggled to muster any offense against Pettitte. Jackie Bradley Jr. upped his RBI total to three with a run-scoring double in the seventh. Otherwise, the Sox were relatively quiet. With the Sox trying to rally late against, Bradley Jr. struck out on three pitches in his first ever at-bat against Rivera.
Still, for the first time since 2008, the Sox won their season opening series.
Bottom of the seventh, Yankees 4, Red Sox 1:The Yankees get it right back with a Francisco Cervelli homer. It was the fifth pitch Clayton Mortensen threw, a 3-and-1 fastball that Cervelli sent to the ER.
Top of the seventh, Yankees 3, Red Sox 1: All the people in love with Jackie Bradley have one more reason to fall all over themselves. He knocked an double off he fence in right-center to get the Sox on the board.
But David Ross is having a really solid game, too. He’s thrown out a pair of runners and nearly evened the game up with a long shot to right-center that Brett Gardner managed to run down on the warning track.
Top of the sixth, Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: The Sox can’t conjure up a thing off Pettitte. The best they got this inning was a bunt single from Jose Iglesias. The only time they really threatened was in the first when Victorino tried to sneak home on a wild pitch, which feels like ages ago.
Bottom of the fifth, Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: The inning ends with one of those weird baseball moments where Vernon Wells hits the ball once and it barely rolls beyond the batter’s box, then catches it again on his backswing and David Ross, the Sox player to the ball, gets one weird putout.
Junichi Tazawa’s up in the bullpen.
Bottom of the fourth, Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: You could see Dempster start to take his time on the mound, and even though he still had some issues (walking Ichiro and Francisco Cervelli), he was able to notch a couple more strikeouts (Lyle Overbay and Brett Gardner) to get out of the inning unscathed.
Also, an update on Stephen Drew from Pete Abraham:
Drew started at shortstop for Double A Portland and played five innings in the first of what the Red Sox are planning on being a four-game rehabilitation assignment. Drew suffered a concussion on March 7. He drove in a run with a groundout in his first at-bats. He then lined to shortstop and struck out. The Sox are hopeful that Drew will rejoin the team for the home opener on Monday.
Bottom of the third, Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: It’s really been a mixed bag with Ryan Dempster. He’s got five strikeouts, but he’s also gotten himself into bad counts, walked batters on four pitches, lost hitters after being ahead 0-and-2, and gave up a first-pitch home run to Brett Gardner to start the inning.
Top of the third, Yankees 2, Red Sox 0: Pettitte’s doing what he does, throwing strikes (20 of them on 27 pitches) and leaving the Sox with no real choice but to try to jump on him early in the count. They just haven’t had much luck. Pettitte’s faced two over the minimum so far. The longest Sox at-bats are a couple of five-pitch ABs by Jonny Gomes and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Bottom of the second, Yankees 2, Red Sox 0: Travis Hafner may have got things started with a bloop single to center, but some really good two-out hitting got the Yankees their first lead of the series. Eduardo Nunez got turned 1-and-1 fastball into a ground rule double and Lyle Overbay jumped on the very next pitch, hitting a liner that ran tailed from Jacoby Ellsbury as he tried to track it down in left center.
Top of the second, Red Sox 0, Yankees 0: Andy Pettitte got off pretty easy that inning, throwing just eight pitches. Jackie Bradley Jr. did him a huge favor with an inning-endind double-play ball.
Bottom of the first, Red Sox 0, Yankees 0: A lot of talk before the game with John Farrell was about his use of defensive shifts, and Farrell said with so much information out there it just makes sense to play the percentages. He was actually asked whether he’d use one on Robinson Cano, and he said, “You’ll see it tonight.” As odd as it seemed to see Will Middle-brooks in shallow right making a play on Cano’s grounder, it works.
Top of the first, Red Sox 0, Yankees 0: Aggressive move by Shane Victorino, trying to take home on Andy Pettitte’s wild pitch. That’s been the Sox’s MO so far, though, this season. But this time there’s no reward for the risk.
Pregame: A pair of three-and-a-half hour games to open up the season taught David Ross his first extended lesson about the American League.
“The games are a lot longer,” said Ross, a National League lifer before signing with the Sox in November. “Geez, Louise. I had enough trouble staying awake over there in the dugout.”
He spent the first two games of the season as a quiet observe ahead of his first start behind the plate tonight in the opening series finale against the Yankees, trading notes with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Napoli, who throughout their combined 15 seasons have known the American League almost exclusively.
“It’s just one of those things where I’m constantly trying to pay attention, pick guys brains,” Ross said. “Salty’s been pretty good these first two games. I’ve learned a lot from him. So it’s nice to have.”
The strategic differences between the two leagues are still pretty stark, Ross noticed. In the National League, obviously, you can maneuver around hitters until you get to the hollow spot in the order. In the American League, not so much, which explains a few things.
“Here you replaced the pitcher with a guy like David Ortiz,” Ross said. That’s a little bit tougher, and that’s generally why the games will go longer … It’s going to be a little different. We’ll feel it out and hopefully it goes our way.”
First pitch is on the way. Enjoy the game. Feel free to comment.