NEW YORK — From minor league journeyman to Yankee slayer, on a short list with the home run king, Pedro Ciriaco took another bite out of the Big Apple on Saturday and furthered his ephemeral lore as one of New York’s enemies.
In the past 55 years, only Barry Bonds has a better career average against the Yankees with at least 25 plate appearances. Bonds batted .533. After a 4-for-4 performance in Boston’s 4-1 win on Saturday, Ciriaco is at .517 (15 of 29).
Not bad for a midseason call-up who spent portions of the 2011 season as a backup with Pittsburgh’s Triple A affiliate. Not bad at all.
“Damn,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “You think they’re going to try and trade for him?
“It amazes me that he is who he is with that kind of talent it hasn’t been utilized before.”
Ciriaco kicked down the rivalry door on June 7, when he went 4 for 5 with four RBIs in the back end of a doubleheader at Fenway Park, just hours after he put on a Sox uniform for the first time. The next day he went 3 for 4.
During Boston’s last visit to Yankee Stadium, Ciriaco provided the go-ahead spark on consecutive days, first with an RBI triple in the ninth inning on July 28, and a run-scoring single in the 10th the following night. Both games were on national television.
“He’s gotten us all year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Ciriaco spent most of his postgame media session shrugging his shoulders, the same shoulders on which he’s helped carry the Sox against their bitter rivals.
“I enjoy every time I’m in the lineup,” Ciriaco said. “Doesn’t matter what team. When we play against the Yankees, it’s like the finals. We do the best we can.”
In seven games against the Yankees this season, Ciriaco has seven RBIs, three doubles, and nine runs. On Saturday, he helped give the Sox a 3-1 cushion in the fifth inning by singling to left and scoring on Nick Punto’s double to deep right. Ciriaco also singled and stole second in the second inning, dropped down a perfect bunt single in the seventh, and laced a double down the left-field line in the ninth, putting Scott Podsednik in position to score on a Cody Eppley wild pitch.
“I feel like any part of the plate we throw the ball at, he’s getting the bat on it and getting a hit,” Yankees starter David Phelps said. “He bunts and it’s a perfect bunt. The guy’s on fire against us.”
The infielder is the first Boston player since Wade Boggs in 1989 to have multiple four-hit games against the Yankees in the same season.
“I think they gave me good pitches to hit today,’’ Ciriaco said. “I tried to do the most, hit the ball to the middle, try to make something happen.
“I took advantage of that. I don’t think it’s anything else. Probably a little bit lucky, too.”
Ciriaco turned heads in spring training with a .419 average. But such numbers can be deceiving. So Ciriaco was sent to Triple A Pawtucket. Then the Sox called him up and he delivered.
“Why is he having success? Because he’s a good player,” said catcher Ryan Lavarnway, a former teammate in Pawtucket. “He’s putting great swings on the ball. He’s real fast, so he puts pressure on the defense. Laid a great bunt down today. When a guy’s hot, a guy’s hot.”
Often referred to by enthusiastic admirers as “one of the kids” on the Red Sox, Ciriaco is actually 26. He’ll turn 27 in late September. The Dominican native wasn’t familiar with the term “late bloomer,” but recognized that his path to the majors took some time.
“Like I said, I’ve been able to be more consistent this year,” Ciriaco said, once again shrugging his shoulders. “That’s just baseball, you know? I hope I keep doing what I’m doing.”