|Terry Francona takes the ball from rookie Daniel Bard, who surrendered back-to-back home runs in the eighth. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)|
It’s a sorry state as Yankees sweep Sox
NEW YORK - Yankee Stadium was still rocking over Johnny Damon’s tying home run in the eighth inning off fireballing reliever Daniel Bard when Mark Teixeira stepped in and sent the faithful over the edge by taking the Red Sox rookie deep to right to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead and effectively a four-game sweep.
Teixeira’s curtain call was the third of the evening. The third time the Yankees had celebrated a blow that left the Sox deflated, even as they continue to put on the same brave front they’ve worn for the last week. But the four-game sweep brought back stinging memories of the five-game debacle of 2006.
Bard’s two blown saves have bookended the Red Sox’ current six-game skid that has left them 6 1/2 games back in the American League East and tied with the Rangers for the wild card after last night’s 5-2 loss.
As David Ortiz asked himself and a crowd of reporters, “It can’t get no worse, right?’’
“We’re going to try,’’ Ortiz said. “We’re going to keep on playing. Nothing we can do but play.’’
The blast by Teixeira rendered moot Boston’s first offensive uprising in three games, a two-run homer by Victor Martinez that lifted the visitors for a moment. But the happiness was ephemeral. The Yankees’ four-run rally led to cries of “Sweep’’ from the 48,190 in the park.
Asked before the game about his recent declaration that the Yankees were a pretty good team feeling good about themselves, manager Terry Francona responded, “They’re still a pretty good team feeling better about themselves. They’re good. We recognize that. We’re real good. I also think, you recognize there’s a lot of ups and downs during the season. How you deal with those ups and downs really can define your season?
“This game will make you lose your hair . . . It’s just hard. One day you feel like you’re flying high, the next day you feel like you’re not very good. So if you don’t handle that, it can beat you up a little bit.’’
Francona had little to add after the game. The feeling was much the same, a perhaps forced positivity that said not all was lost. Not the division, not their pride, not an offense that continues to struggle. Ortiz was frank when asked if it was too early to focus on the wild card. “Not really,’’ he said.
Yet Ortiz’s message to the fans was, “Stay positive. Things gonna change.’’ It was hard to know if he was talking to the faithful or to himself.
“We’re fine,’’ Dustin Pedroia said. “We’ve got 50-something games left. The season doesn’t make six games. Tampa beat up on us, and now the Yankees did. We’ll go home . . . and try to find a way to score.’’
During a stretch when even the lowly Nationals are winning - eight straight, in fact - the Sox offense could be mistaken for a far more woebegone franchise. While Andy Pettitte did a fine job keeping the Sox at bay, it was the third straight anemic game for the Sox in which getting a runner to third was an achievement.
There was disbelief in every strikeout, frustration in every fly ball. A team that added one of the game’s better hitters at the trading deadline could simply do nothing, even as Jon Lester did everything in his power to keep the Yankees down. He let up for a moment, a pitch that Alex Rodriguez deposited over the center-field fence to lead off the seventh, marking the first time in 63 2/3 innings Lester had allowed a home run.
And then came Martinez. With Pedroia on first, Martinez did what he had been brought to Boston to do. He smashed a ball deep to left off Phil Coke, giving Boston its first run since Thursday, and a 2-1 lead. When Pedroia crossed the plate, it snapped a 31-inning scoreless streak, the longest such streak for the Sox since one of 34 innings back in 1974.
“I think guys were trying too hard,’’ Pedroia said. “I was. I’m not going to lie about it. I want to score runs more than anybody in the world. There’s not a guy in the world that wants to score more runs more than the other team than me. It’s tough when you don’t score. We will.’’
“You look at this offense on paper and we’re supposed to put up runs,’’ Lester said. “But it’s just a long season. Stuff like this happens.’’
The team has suffered that way lately. Not only has the roster been evolving day-by-day with 15 players rotating through six roster spots over the course of the 10-day road trip, with injuries and cuts mounting, but the team has had to endure the mental beatdown of that losing streak, of the Ortiz steroid saga, of simply playing a series in New York.
The road trip ended last night, with the Sox returning home for a four-game set with the Tigers.
“It hasn’t been easy,’’ Lester said. “You show up to the ballpark every day to win baseball games, and we’re not doing that right now. I wish I could say that we’ve been playing bad baseball or giving them the game and we’re not doing that. We’re playing hard. We’re playing the game the right way, and we’re fighting till the last out. If this team continues to do that, I think we’re going to turn around and win more than we lose.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.