When the Yankees play the Red Sox, one never knows what to truly expect, but on the whole it is reasonable to assume that the quality of play will be high. The matchup Friday night at Fenway was nothing short of an offensive bonanza, with some of the sloppiest, most ineffective pitching either team has displayed all season. The Sox and Yankees combined for 31 runs on 35 hits in the contest as New York came out on top 20-11.
For Boston, it was clear early on that things were not going to go well for starter Brad Penny. When he was able to find the strikezone the Yankees' lineup lashed his pitches around Fenway park, touching him up for 8 runs on 10 hits, with 6 coming in the first two innings. Penny seemed to regain some composure in the 3rd — throwing two scoreless innings — but he imploaded in the early stages of the 6-run 5th that put the game out of reach for Boston. After Brad allowed Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to reach base, Terry Francona had seen enough. After 85 pitches in only 4 recorded innings, he was lifted for Michael Bowden, and Boston's total collapse was officially in full swing.
Hideki Matsui struck the first big blow of the inning, welcoming Bowden into the game by crushing a soaring home run to right field that scored Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Then it was best friends Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera up next, with a double and single respectively, earning an RBI a piece.
Teixeira then pumped in the final run of the inning — as the Yankees' batted around — with his own RBI single to right field. Bowden only lasted two innings but his stat line looked strikingly similar to Penny's, reading a bruising seven runs on eight hits as he proved totally ineffective and incapable against the red-hot Yankee lineup.
New York starter Andy Pettitte began the game strong but it wouldn't last the span of his start. Through five innings Pettitte allowed only one run, but in the sixth he seemed to lose his command, giving up three runs and prompting manager Joe Girardi to yank the veteran from a game that was well in hand as a gift wrapped victory for the Yankee hurler.
Andy surrendered seven runs (five earned) on seven hits, with two walks against his four strikeouts. He wasn't sharp but on an explosive offensive night for the Bombers, the effort seemed sufficient.
Up 12-4, New York's game plan for the rest of the night seemed simple. Brian Bruney was brought into the game to throw his upper-90s fastball in the strike zone. The Yankees had a few runs to give, and considering the quality and velocity Bruney's stuff and the typical rate of failure for even the best hitters in baseball, the odds were in the Yankees' favor that even staying almost exclusively within the strike zone against the dangerous Boston lineup, the Red Sox were not going to come back on this night. Unfortunately for New York, this line of logic seemingly escaped Bruney, much to the chagrin of his manager.
Girardi — far more frustrated than one would expect to see a manager conducting a game in which his team was beating their biggest rival by nine runs — watched as Bruney walked three men in his 1.1 innings of work, running up his pitch count fast. While he had no runs charged to him (his walk of Rocco Baldelli to score Nick Green went on Pettitte's tab), the wildness in a game this lopsided is inexcusable. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Brian walked the bases loaded, forcing his manager to turn to newly-activated Damaso Marte. He proceeded to bail out the Yankees, getting David Ortiz to fly out and the hobbled Mike Lowell to strike out, but the performance of Bruney was disheartening in the face of so much offensive success.
Manny Delcarmen and Takashi Saito combined to throw two scoreless innings for Boston, but in the ninth inning the game would lose its refinement once again. The inning proved to be simply an extension of Sergio Mitre's struggles since his call-up to New York. In his first relief work of the season, the former starter was roughed up for four runs on four hits in only two innings, and was taken deep twice by the senior division of the Red Sox lineup, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell.
Ramon Ramirez was equally bad for Boston, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits, and getting taken deep himself by Matsui with his second dinger of the game. Neither pitcher was wild (only Ramirez walked a batter in their three combined innings of work), they simply couldn't get people out, with neither reliever striking out a single batter and both seeing consistently hard contact, even on the outs recorded.
For the Red Sox the entire night was a wash, but the Yankees will undoubtedly have some of the joy derived from their domination dulled by the fact that a weakness — the depth of their bullpen — may have, to some extent, been exposed.
Horrendous pitching aside, the Yankees put on an offensive display of an absolute clinical class. Every player that appeared in the game recorded a hit except Johnny Damon — injured after fouling a ball of his knee in the first — and Jerry Hairston Jr., who walked and scored a run.
Matsui will steal the headlines with his two-home run, seven-RBI night, but Derek Jeter (3-for 6, 2 RBIs, 3 runs), Mark Texiera (3-for-5, 3 RBIs, 3 runs), Melky Cabrera (4-for-6, 2 RBIs, 2 runs) and Alex Rodriguez (4-for-4, 1 RBI, 2 runs) all had very big nights, and every Yankee that appeared except Damon scored a run.
Brad Penny was obviously not in possession of anything resembling effective stuff, but the Yankees were ruthless in the way they immediately and brutally capitalized on every Red Sox mistake, generating runs in all ways possible, with every player providing some kind of contribution to the victory that ended the Yankees' seven game losing streak in Boston.
Too see not only the final score, but the way both teams reached those ends, it is shocking to consider that Boston now finds itself 7.5 games behind New York and only one game up on Texas in what is becoming an increasingly brutal race for the AL Wild Card. With Texas and Tampa Bay providing the Red Sox with a timely opportunity to gain ground both in their division and in the wild card race, it is unbelievable that the two pitchers leading off this crucial series are Brad Penny and Junichi Tazawa, especially for a team with the resources of the Red Sox.
Although Pettitte quasi-melted down in the fifth inning on Friday, his statistics for this season and over seasons past suggest that — barring some medical setback — he will be solid down the stretch for a team with an affluence of offensive muscle that will allow him the leeway he needs to win even when he's not at his best. But when one goes beyond the increasingly elite one-two punch of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the cupboard is strikingly bare for the Boston pitching staff. Depth was once thought to be their strength in this department but after 3/4 of a season worth injuries and ineffectiveness, Boston is sliding away from New York in the standings as their pitching crumbles in wreckage around them.
The latest sign that the Red Sox are desperate? They put in a successful waiver claim for Billy Wagner (although he is apparently throwing hard again), a player that every National League team and all but at least three American League squads decided to pass on. If that's not indicative of the general state of affairs in the Boston organization right now, the 20 runs on Friday should be enough to support the thesis that ironically due to the lack of depth on their staff, The Red Sox season may be slipping away before a New Englander can spit out "Daisuke Matsuzaka."