Sunday, September 25, 2011
You know things are bad when A.J. Burnett shuts you down and pitches into the 8th inning. It's no dream, it's a nightmare. One that the Boston Red Sox experienced Sunday afternoon. Save for a couple of Jacoby Ellsbury solo home runs, the Sox couldn't muster anything against Burnett and the Yankees won it 6-2.
The loss was the Red Sox 16th in their last 20 games. Combined with Tampa Bay's victory over Toronto, the Boston wild card lead is down to just a half a game (one in the loss column - if the Angels win this afternoon they will be just 1.5 back). The Yankees used their speed and took advantage of the combination of knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to grab an early 2-0 lead. Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the 1st with a bunt single and quickly stole second base. Derek Jeter reached on a bunt of his own that advanced Gardner to third. Jeter swiped second and Gardner scored when Saltalamacchia threw the ball away.
Jeter advanced to third on a passed ball and scored the second run of the inning on a wild pitch. In the bottom of the third Yankees fan may have seen Jorge Posada launch a home run for the last time in Yankee Stadium. Following a one out walk to Alex Rodriguez, Posada drilled a Wakefield deliver into the right field seats for his 14th home run of the year and a 4-0 lead. He acknowledged the crowd when they cheered for a curtain call.
Meanwhile, Burnett cruised through the Boston lineup with unusual efficiency. Ellsbury had three of the Red Sox six hits, including a 1st inning single that was erased when Burnett caught him leaning off of first base. Rookie Brandon Laird threw to Jeter to put it in the book as a caugh stealing.
Ellsbury's first home run of the day got Boston on the board in the 4th, but the Yankees got the run back an inning later. Derek Jeter, who had three hits on the day to reach the .300 mark for the season, singled to left and moved to second when left fielder Carl Crawford misplayed the ball. Alex Rodriguez then singled through the right side to plate Jeter ahead of Conor Jackson's throw.
Ellsbury's second home run of the game, in the 6th inning, earned him the honor of being the first Red Sox player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. Quite an accomplishment for a player who missed most of last year and is now a candidate for both MVP and Comeback Player of the Year awards.
Jeter finished the scoring off with an RBI ground rule double in the 7th.
Burnett felt the love from the Stadium crowd, something he hasn't experienced too often the last two years. He left to a huge ovation after picking up the second out in the 8th inning.
Mariano Rivera was honored before the game for breaking the record for career saves. Among the gifts presented to him was a portrait with 602 printed above his head and his baseball cards surrounding him. Jorge Posada commissioned the piece and the gift was from the team.
UPDATE 6:55 PM - The Angels chances are virtually done after they allowed four runs in the 9th inning and lost to Oakland 6-5. They remain 2.5 back of Boston with just three games to play.