Red Sox strand 15 but survive to take 2 of 3 in New York
Mark Loretta singles to shortstop in the seventh inning, plating the tying and go-ahead runs. (Reuters Photo)
NEW YORK -- When Mark Loretta came to bat in the seventh last night against Kyle Farnsworth, the Yankees' sixth pitcher in a game managed like this was October, the Red Sox had two men on and two outs. They'd left 13 runners on base, and were in danger of threatening the major league record of 20, established by the Yankees against the Red Sox 50 years ago (Sept. 21, 1956).
The second baseman, down to .207 recently, hit a hard two-hopper to shortstop Derek Jeter's right. Jeter, diving, snared it, and threw off one knee, giving the ball more loft than he'd have liked. Miguel Cairo had to leave the bag and jump to catch it. He reeled it in but when he went to tag Loretta, the ball popped loose.
The play was scored a hit, giving Loretta four hits in the game (he's 17 for his last 32) and the Sox a 4-3 lead in a 5-3 victory as they overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 before 54,956 at Yankee Stadium, most of whom waited out the occasional drizzle to bear witness to Jonathan Papelbon's 13th save in 13 chances, in a nine-inning game that came within a minute of lasting four hours.
The Sox took two of three in the series and have won three of four this season against New York, but last night felt like the first close-game encounter.
The Sox had won, 7-3 and 14-3, and lost, 7-3. But last night was a scrappy affair, case in point being the sixth inning, when Joe Torre used four pitchers to face four Red Sox batters (Scott Proctor on Loretta, Mike Myers on David Ortiz, Tanyon Sturtze on Manny Ramírez, and Ron Villone on Trot Nixon) with the Sox behind, 3-2. Last night it was a legitimate showdown that, finally, felt like Sox-Yankees.
''I guess you could say that, since both managers were really managing pretty tight there, not leaving anything to chance," said Loretta, whose average has climbed rapidly, to .280.
The Yankees looked for much of the night to have the game in control, despite losing left fielder Hideki Matsui in the first inning. Matsui broke his left wrist diving for Loretta's fly ball and could be out three months.
The Yankees scored twice in the first against Tim Wakefield, forcing him to throw 33 pitches in an inning in which he fanned two, walked two, gave up two singles, and allowed two runs (on Jorge Posada's single). They made it 3-1 in the fourth on a Jeter RBI single, scoring Bubba Crosby, who'd singled and stolen second (one of four steals against Wakefield).
The Sox, meanwhile, were piling up base runners and leaving them on base (15 for the game). They left the bases loaded in the first, fifth, and sixth but had only one run to show, mostly because of the Yankees' defense.
Mike Lowell, who left seven men on base through six innings, flied to right in the first with the bases full. In the third, with a man on and two outs, he hit one deep to left, where Crosby drifted back, pacing himself, before leaping and bringing back what would have been a two-run homer. If that ball had cleared the fence, it would have extended Lowell's streak of hits without a single to 10 (he began the night with eight doubles and a homer accounting for his last nine hits).
In the fourth, Wily Mo Peña banged out a leadoff double and Doug Mirabelli, up next, launched one to dead center. Johnny Damon (1 for 16 vs. the Sox this season) leaped at the 408-mark and hauled the ball in. It might have gone for a homer if he hadn't caught it, though it probably would have caromed off the top of the wall for at least a run-scoring double.
''We hit a couple balls that left the ballpark but just didn't leave the players," Sox manager Terry Francona noted.
Loretta, though, knocked in Alex Gonzalez, who'd singled, in that interminable sixth inning, pulling the Sox within 3-2.
Then, in the seventh, off Proctor, Mirabelli singled to center. Gonzalez then hit one high and deep down the right-field line, a ball that appeared to bend back into play.
Paul O'Neill, the former Yankee right fielder, said on television after the game that it was the type of ball he always feared. Bernie Williams, who hasn't had much experience in that part of this stadium, overran it. The ball dropped in -- the play was scored an error but later changed to a double -- and put runners on second and third.
''I had a great angle on that one," Francona said. ''It came back and I think fooled everybody. It definitely came back severely. That's a tough play."
Kevin Youkilis came up, the Sox still behind, 3-2. He crushed one but right at second baseman Robinson Cano. Youkilis, in anger and disbelief, clutched his helmet with both hands and yelled.
''Pretty self-explanatory," he said, when asked what he was thinking at that moment. ''You fail so much. It's a game of failure. To do everything perfect, hit the ball hard, and it's right at him, nothing to show for it."
Up came Loretta, who banged out the hit to Jeter, one of only three Sox hits in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position. His second and third RBIs of the night gave the Sox a 4-3 lead.
''Once he got that, I forgot all about it," Youkilis said. He'd get his, though, in the ninth, when he lined a single off Mariano Rivera for an insurance run.