Bronson Arroyo, the Red Sox pitcher whom Alex Rodriguez twice referred to as Brandon Arroyo last week, promised that he would pitch inside against the Yankees last night. He calmly explained why it was a necessity. Do it or be destroyed, Arroyo intimated.
There was no reason for Arroyo to be clandestine about his approach. If he did not push batters off the plate, and make them feel uncomfortable, he knew it could be a forgettable night because it would be like operating without one of his pitches. Arroyo was right.
Whether it was Bronson, Brandon or Brendan, it did not matter to the Yankees. All that mattered was that Arroyo did not intimidate the Yankees and did little to make them feel even slightly uncomfortable. The Yankees attacked Arroyo with smart, patient at-bats and made him look worse than Kevin Brown, which, on this night, was an accomplishment.
The Yankees played a better version of arena baseball, Derek Jeter's name for the pinball-like atmosphere at Fenway Park, in steamrolling the Red Sox, 19-8, in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. The ending to this drab series is almost inevitable now that the Yankees need just one victory to squash the Red Sox and extend their painful streak without a championship to 86 seasons.
Call last night Rodriguez's revenge: he had a homer, two doubles, three RBIs, and five runs, some of it off a pitcher he does not like and all of it off a team he dislikes.
The Yankees scored 11 straight runs from the fourth inning to the top of the eighth and made Fenway Park as sedate as a closed bar.
Arroyo plunked Rodriguez with a pitch here July 24, and that led to a memorable tussle between Rodriguez and Boston catcher Jason Varitek; Varitek shoved his mitt into Rodriguez's face and both dugouts emptied. The Red Sox rebounded to win that game, 11-10, and gushed about how that confrontation ignited them.
When the Red Sox set up a few computers in the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium during a series last month, the image of Varitek's mitt in Rodriguez's face was a screen saver. But Rodriguez helped make sure that Boston's season could end tonight.
If pummeling Rodriguez inspired the Red Sox, Rodriguez can laugh about who feels inspired now. He is batting .429 in the postseason.
The Red Sox expected the games would be different in their stadium because they won 55 of 81 contests at Fenway.
Eight of the Red Sox starters had batting averages here that were 14 to 119 points better than on the road, so the Red Sox hoped to exploit Brown and make it a series. The Red Sox did trash Brown with four runs in two innings, but it was irrelevant because the Yankees treated Boston's pitchers like Brown clones.
The Yankees used a pesky approach against Arroyo, the 27-year-old with the cornrows under his cap. Derek Jeter, who is as aggressive as any Yankee, battled through a seven-pitch at-bat for a leadoff walk. Arroyo tried to nudge Jeter off the plate, but Jeter was not fazed.
Arroyo said the Yankees would be waiting for his outside breaking pitches if he was unsuccessful in getting a piece of the inside corner. That is exactly what happened as Rodriguez lined a 3-and-2 curveball to left field for a run-scoring double.
After Gary Sheffield's 400-foot flyout to center field, Arroyo shifted to fastballs against Hideki Matsui. That was a terrible idea, because Arroyo is not overpowering. Matsui gazed at one fastball, fouled off the next two and drilled the fourth for a two-run homer to make the score 3-0.
Boston clipped Brown for four runs in the second inning, but the Yankees pounced on Arroyo again in the third. Arroyo tried to throw Rodriguez another curveball, another mistake, and he smashed it beyond the Green Monster.
Two more runs were charged to Arroyo in an inning he never finished, and the Yankees had a 6-4 lead.
The Red Sox tied the score at 6-6 off Javier Vazquez in the third, but it was a tease. The Yankees were persistent and added five more runs in the fourth to push the Red Sox closer to elimination. That was a relief for the Yankees and a relief for Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was supposed to be the shortstop for the Red Sox but ended up as the third baseman for the Yankees. If the Yankees could not stifle Boston, which they often do, with Rodriguez, he would have received some of the blame. There are no excuses in George Steinbrenner's world, which is Rodriguez's world, too.
The clubhouse screen saver validated that the Red Sox had not forgotten how Varitek and Rodriguez fought almost three months ago. Rodriguez's bungling of Arroyo's name proved he remembered that day, too. The Yankees were pleased about that. They need Rodriguez to stay feisty in October. So far, so good.