|Mark Teixeira got the Yankees rolling with an RBI single off Clay Buchholz in the third inning. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)|
Red Sox have zero response
NEW YORK - Under a wan, gray afternoon sky at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox let their season continue its bleak unraveling yesterday without even a whimper of offense. They have not scored in 24 innings, and that does not adequately assess the impotence. If the baseball gods let the Red Sox play under different rules over that span and reaching third base counted as a run, their total would be one.
Their bats powerless against hulking Yankees ace CC Sabathia, the Red Sox slogged to a 5-0 loss, their fifth consecutive defeat, all against their foremost division rivals. The Red Sox fell a season-high 5 1/2 games out of first place and dropped to 8-13 since the All-Star break before a crowd of 48,796 that was quiet by the end, not needing to express relief their team had won.
The Red Sox replaced the drama of Friday night’s bitter, 15-inning, 2-0 defeat with depression. They managed no hits until Jacoby Ellsbury broke up Sabathia’s no-hit attempt with a line-drive single to center with two outs in the sixth inning. The Red Sox managed four hits, all singles, silenced again after A.J. Burnett mastered them Friday.
“The last two nights, we’ve done nothing,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We’re in one of those things right now. We’ve faced two really good pitchers and we’ve done nothing. Because of that, we’re sitting on a couple of losses here.’’
The slump has infected all of the Red Sox. They are playing with a tattered lineup - Jason Bay and Rocco Baldelli, two righthanded bats that would have been useful against Sabathia, sat on the bench with injuries - but their drought the past two days has been astounding.
The Red Sox are 8 for 76 in the past two games, and Ellsbury has four of the hits. Even typical cogs are misfiring; Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew are both 0 for 8. Aside from Ellsbury, the Sox batted .059 Friday and yesterday.
“You go through periods like that,’’ Pedroia said. “We’re not trying to get outs. Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we’d like it to, but we’re going to grind. There’s a lot of heart on this team. Nobody’s going to quit. We’re going to play as hard as we can every day. I promise you guys that.’’
No segment of the Red Sox can claim innocence for their post-break slide, but the offense bears the largest burden. The pitching matchup yesterday favored the Yankees, Sabathia facing Clay Buchholz, who the hapless Orioles ousted after four innings last weekend.
Buchholz provided the kind of gutsy start that could have pulled the Sox out of their morass. Relying on his slider and a sharp two-seam fastball, he surrendered two runs despite grinding through 11 base runners (six hits, five walks). He did not scatter hits, but he scattered runs, one in the third and one in the sixth.
The Red Sox made his effort for naught. Having Kevin Youkilis in left field did not help, either. He stumbled and twisted trying to catch a fly ball, and a likely out became a two-base error. Youkilis made another awkward try later, but neither play was costly.
“If you want me to tell you that I took a bad route on the second one, then I’ll tell you that,’’ Youkilis said during a testy exchange with a reporter. “But I’m not an outfielder. I’m an infielder.’’
The image will likely be replayed as a symbol of the Red Sox’ recent stretch. But Youkilis’s defense, and his willingness to play the outfield, was not the reason the Sox lost.
“Any other day, either I come out tied or winning,’’ Buchholz said. “That guy across the field did a better job.’’
Sabathia lorded over the game for the 7 2/3 innings he flung sliders and 96-mile-per-hour fastballs past the Red Sox. He struck out nine, allowing two hits and two walks.
The Sox mustered one serious threat, and it fizzled as quickly as it materialized. Victor Martinez led off the seventh inning with a walk, and Youkilis moved him to second with a single. David Ortiz had day’s the first opportunity with a runner in scoring position, and Sabathia struck him out on a dubious checked-swing third-strike call.
Up came Mike Lowell, an able hitter whose flaw is speed. Aligning with Boston’s buzzard’s luck, that was the attribute that reared its head.
Lowell smoked a one-hopper at second baseman Robinson Cano. He flipped to shortstop Derek Jeter, who came across the bag and confronted Youkilis barreling down on him. Jeter leaped over Youkilis’s slide and held the ball until he landed. Lowell’s diminished speed allowed Jeter time to make a flat-footed throw and still retire him with a few steps to spare.
Able bodies are in short supply, and the Red Sox lost one in the seventh inning. Ramon Ramirez entered from the bullpen and fired a pitch near Mark Teixeira’s head. When Ramirez plunked the next batter, Alex Rodriguez, plate umpire Jim Joyce ejected him immediately.
Francona charged out of the dugout and pleaded his case. Surely, the argument included the fact the Sox would have to be insane to risk wasting a healthy arm.
“I was just trying to throw inside, get a double play,’’ Ramirez said. “It felt weird.’’
“When he raised his hand, I thought he was warning,’’ Francona said. “Then all of a sudden Ramon is out of the game. He’s the guy that we wanted to pitch two innings.
“I think this series sometimes gets too much hype and we [lose] the ability to play the game. If guys get thrown out in that situation, we’re going to have guys thrown out probably three, four times a week. That was a hard one for me to understand.’’
Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed with Joyce. On Thursday night, Pedroia chafed when reliever Mark Melancon hit him on the shoulder during a blowout.
“You want to be careful how you answer questions because only the individual actually knows the intent,’’ Girardi said. “But we expected something to happen and I think it happened.’’
Francona could not recall what Joyce said to him, because he was trying to decide who should pitch next. He settled on Enrique Gonzalez, who learned he was no longer a Pawtucket Red Sox at 1:30 yesterday morning.
Hideki Matsui’s bloop single promptly loaded the bases. Gonzalez, making his first appearance in the major leagues since April 2008, recorded one out, then Nick Swisher drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk, making it 3-0. In the eighth, Jeter flipped a two-run homer around the right-field foul pole, ending the game’s competitive moments.
The Sox threatened in the ninth. Ellsbury and Martinez singled off David Robertson. Up came Ortiz. Roughly seven hours earlier, he sat behind a dais and explained his involvement in baseball’s performance-enhancing drugs scandal.
That problem may soon go away. Ortiz watched strike three. The Yankees streamed onto the field. “New York, New York’’ blared on the stadium speakers. It was clear the Sox had plenty of other problems to worry about.
“The season isn’t over for me,’’ Youkilis said. “Are we still in the wild-card race? We’re still in the race for first place. We can come back. We’ve done it before, so we can do it again.
“All we’ve got to do is make the playoffs, and I’m not going to quit. That’s the bottom line. I’m going to play hard tomorrow and play hard the next day and play hard every day I go out there. And I think there’s a lot of guys in this room that will.’’
Adam Kilgore can be reached at email@example.com