Yankees 4, Red Sox 2
It's finally happened: the Yankees have taken a series from the Red Sox, knocking off Boston 4-2 in the rubber match despite a seemingly terrible matchup on the mound.
The Yankees did a good job of neutralizing Boston's advantage in starters, utilizing some serious patience to drive up Jon Lester's pitch count early. It took the Red Sox' ace 44 pitches to escape the first inning despite surrendering just one run, and while he would bring his count down some in the next couple of frames, a 21-pitch fourth and a 23-pitch fifth conspired to end his night early even with just one earned run.
The Red Sox had managed to take a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning when a ground-rule double from Adrian Gonzalez led to a two-run shot to dead center from Dustin Pedroia, but that was far from secure. Ever since the demise of Matt Albers as the designated seventh-inning arm, the middle frames have proved something of a question mark for the Red Sox, and once again that proved their undoing.
Alfredo Aceves managed to hold down the fort in the sixth with some difficulty, but couldn't escape the seventh. A one-out walk and hit by pitch left the Yankees in a position to tie the game. They did more, despite Daniel Bard coming in to put out the fire. A 3-2 fastball to Russell Martin ended up in right field for a two-RBI double to take the lead, and the ensuing single built the lead to two.
The Red Sox would stage a rally in the late innings, but Mariano was given the benefit of the doubt on a close pitch to Adrian Gonzalez, leaving the Sox' slugging first baseman looking at strike three with the bases loaded.
It's a tough loss when you consider the pitching matchup, but one that the Red Sox could maybe have seen coming after the first inning. The Yankees won by playing the style of baseball these two teams excel at, driving up Lester's pitch count early and getting to the soft underside of the bullpen. The Sox should have done better against Burnett, yes, but it's not quite the tragedy that a series loss usually is.
Three For The Road
It's been somewhat lost in the wake of Jacoby Ellsbury's ridiculous season, but the second baseman is also showing heretofore unseen power. Pedroia's 18 homers on the year are a career high with well over 20 games left to go. However, it's worth noting that his other XBH have suffered as a result, however, so the Sox might see some regression in that direction next year.
The Seventh Inning Question
The Sox are going to need some long outings from their starters in games that the offense doesn't just tear it up. While the seventh inning might be manageable for Alfredo Aceves on any given night, he's still not the lockdown option that Matt Albers once was and Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon still are. Unfortunately they've run out of time to find external options, so they'll have to make due with what they've got.
That's the time of the game. Maybe Mark Teixeira and Joe West are on to something?
No, definitely not.
Red Sox MVP -- Dustin Pedroia
You can't go wrong with the only man to bring runs home in the game.
Up Next -- Friday, September 2, vs. Rangers | Andrew Miller (6-1, 4.42 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (12-5, 4.30 ERA)
The Red Sox had a good time against Texas pitching last time around, and now-a-days Andrew Miller starts are exciting again, if partially still due to tension.
The big news, however, will not be on the mound, but at the plate, as Kevin Youkilis returns from injury to retake his position in the lineup, hopefully allowing for some semblance of normalcy to return after all this time with Dustin Pedroia at cleanup. It will also be interesting to see who starts at short long-term, though with the lefty Holland on the mound, Lowrie might be the man in the short run.