Down to the wire
Sox split, but lose half-game off their lead
NEW YORK - On the day he became the first player in franchise history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, Jacoby Ellsbury just may have saved the season for the Red Sox.
His three-run homer in the top of the 14th inning gave the Sox a 7-4 victory against the Yankees and a doubleheader split last night. The victory left Boston with a one-game lead on Tampa Bay in the American League wild-card race with three to play.
The Sox start a three-game series in Baltimore tonight. The Rays host the Yankees.
After hitting two home runs in the first game, a 6-2 loss, Ellsbury drove a Scott Proctor fastball into the Yankees bullpen with two outs in the 14th inning. Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro scored ahead of him.
“Fortunately, he threw me something over the plate and I was able to drive it,’’ said Ellsbury, who has 31 homers, 103 RBIs, and 38 steals. “In that situation, I’m looking for something I can drive.’’
After Jonathan Papelbon threw 2 1/3 perfect innings, Franklin Morales (1-1) went two innings for the win. Felix Doubront then picked up the save. The Yankees were held to six hits, two after the second inning.
“It felt like a postseason game,’’ Papelbon said. “If you don’t like that, you don’t have blood running through your veins.’’
A loss would have dropped the Sox into a tie with the Rays. Instead, they snapped a four-game losing streak and won for only the fifth time in the last 20 games.
“That was a fun game to be a part of. Obviously, the outcome makes it that way,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Nobody gave in.’’
When the game ended, general manager Theo Epstein waited at the clubhouse door, high-fiving players and patting them on the back as loud salsa music played.
“Ridiculously big win for us,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said.
The Sox fell behind, 3-0, almost instantly. Curtis Granderson drew a walk and Robinson Cano singled off John Lackey in the first inning.
Mark Teixeira followed with a drive to center that struck the top of the fence. Two runs scored as Teixeira took off for third on the throw to the plate.
Jason Varitek tried to catch Teixeira at third and threw the ball into left field. Teixeira scored on Boston’s 26th error in 24 games this month.
The Sox chipped away at the lead against rookie Ivan Nova.
Jed Lowrie had a triple in the fifth inning and scored on a single by surprise starter J.D. Drew, playing for the first time since July 19.
Carl Crawford and Pedroia started the sixth with singles. A ground out moved the runners over. Crawford scored when Adrian Gonzalez grounded to second. Pedroia tried to score on a wild pitch, but the ball bounced off the backstop to catcher Austin Romine and he was tagged out.
Lowrie doubled to start the seventh. A double by Scutaro scored pinch runner Mike Aviles. Varitek’s single gave the Sox a 4-3 lead.
It didn’t last long. Lackey, who pitched well for five innings, gave up a single to Eric Chavez to start the seventh. Alfredo Aceves was called in and Lackey left the mound cursing.
Perhaps he had a point. Pinch runner Brett Gardner stole second, took third on a groundout, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Dickerson.
Lackey, who came into the game with a 6.49 earned run average, gave up three earned runs over six innings.
“He really pitched great,’’ Francona said.
Lackey had an angry postgame press conference, accusing an unnamed media member - later learned to be a gossip columnist - of sending him a text message about a personal issue before the game.
“That’s over the line,’’ Lackey said.
The Sox left two runners on in the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera as he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Yankees left the bases loaded in the ninth when Papelbon struck out Romine. Then Ellsbury struck the big blow.
The Sox played poorly in the first game. They committed two errors that led to runs, their pitchers walked seven and Saltalamacchia was charged with two passed balls.
“I get concerned with everything. That part falls directly on my shoulders and when it doesn’t go right, it’s my responsibility,’’ Francona said.
Tim Wakefield (7-8) lasted only four innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on five hits and five walks.
The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first, coming out with a game plan and executing it. Gardner bunted for a single, stole second, and took third when Derek Jeter bunted for a single.
Then the Sox helped out. As Jeter stole second, Saltalamacchia lost his grip on the ball and it squirted away, allowing Gardner to score. A passed ball and a wild pitch then scored Jeter.
In the third, Wakefield walked Alex Rodriguez ahead of a home run by Jorge Posada.
The fifth was another embarrassment. Jeter singled and took second when Crawford let the ball hop past him. Rodriguez’s RBI single made it 5-1 and knocked Wakefield out of the game.
Crawford, a Gold Glove winner last season, has played below his standards for much of the year.
“He’s such a conscientious kid,’’ Francona said. “Maybe laid back on a couple of balls. We’ve seen glimpses where it’s kind of come together but maybe not consistently.’’
It may have been the final game after 19 seasons for Wakefield.
“It’s frustrating,’’ he said. “We can’t seem to catch a break. Certain things happen in the course of the game, or an inning. It just snowballs from there.’’
It was the 15th time in 23 games this month a Sox starter did not pitch more than five innings.
A.J. Burnett was winless in 10 consecutive starts against the Sox. But he allowed only two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings. He left to a standing ovation.