The New York Yankees are officially no longer winless against the Boston Red Sox in 2009. The Bronx Bombers flexed their thunderous might, slaughtering the completely over-matched Red Sox 13-6, due in no small part to an explosive eight-run outburst in the 4th inning that chased starter John Smoltz from the game.
Entering the bottom of the fourth down 3-1, Melky Cabrera crushed a three-run shot to thrust the Yankees into a lead they would not relent, a fact secured when Jorge Posada drove the proverbial stake into the Red Sox figurative heart, mashing a three-run dinger of his own to deep center field.
Jorge's home run added to his huge day and to that of his team's. The stalwart Yankee catcher finished only a triple short of reproducing Melky's recent feat of hitting for the cycle, but the home run in the fourth was the crucial point where it was clear that Boston would not be coming back on this night. Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira also contributed long balls and every other Yankee starter had a hit in the Bronx-style bludgeoning.
Starter Joba Chamberlain struggled with his control — especially after the long layoff in the fourth inning — lasting only five frames while walking a ridiculous seven batters. But the Yankee onslaught was simply too overwhelming, disallowing Boston to take advantage. Johnny Damon posted a 3-for-5 day to go along with his home run, Teixeira was 3-for-4 and Posada went 3-for-5, relentlessly pounding sacrificial lamb and former Yankee pitcher Billy Traber when Smoltz could bear no more punishment. When the dust settled and the final out was recorded, the Yankees' collected 13 runs on 18 hits and left the distinct impression that the John Smoltz gamble might end up snake eyes for the boy genius Theo Epstein.
While New York's winless start against their rivals was big news in early June, this is hardly the same Yankees' team. With a healthy A-Rod, the new acquisitions of Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett settled in, and a bullpen that has come together in stellar fashion, the Yankees are playing the best baseball in the American League, and are poised to distance themselves from their rivals if they can continue their elite level of play in the remaining three games of the four-game set against Boston.
Since the teams last played on June 11 the differences in production are outlined clearly by the statistics (before Thursday night):
Boston: 26-20, .260 BA, 5.2 runs/9 inning
New York: 31-16, .280 BA, 5.5 R/9
With the win Thursday the Yankees increased their lead to 3.5 games over the Red Sox, making the next three games in the series crucial for both teams. On Friday former Marlins teammates AJ Burnett and Josh Beckett will partake in what could undoubtedly be a highly interesting duel and a total antithesis to the offensively heavy play of the first game. The third game will feature Sabathia vs. Clay Buchholz and the final game in the series will be a battle of lefties, pitting youngster John Lester against veteran Andy Pettitte.
All have the potential to produce great matchups and it is likely that while the first game in this series against Smoltz was enjoyable for Yankee fans to watch — especially after nine straight loses to their rivals — it is unlikely to be reproduced against any of the pitchers slated to start for either team in the three games that are to follow. But on a night when Muhammad Ali was in the ball park to honor the New York franchise for its charity work, the Yankees showed no charity to their rivals and the result was a definitive knockout.
Transaction notes: The Yankees have acquired Padres' starter Chad Gaudin for a player to be named later. It is said he will move into the Yankees' bullpen for now but with the Sergio Mitre charade seemingly running its course, Chad could soon find himself auditioning for the role. Gaudin's 5.13 ERA and 56 walks are ugly but he has 105 strikeouts in 105 1/3 innings and has given up 105 hits (respectable relative to the innings pitched). He's not a star but Gaudin, at only 26 years of age, has the potential to find sucess in the Bronx if he can stand the pressure and improve his control.