Red Sox-Yankees Still Red Sox-Yankees
NEW YORK -- The popular wisdom this week in the Bronx was that this first series was the undercard -- that Yankees-Red Sox has lost its juice and the truly important and interesting series was the two-gamer the Yankees begin Wednesday against the first-place Rays. Yeah, Yankees-Rays. They say that's where it's at in 2010
Well, you can keep your popular wisdom. And you can keep your Yankees-Rays. This may not be 2003 or 2004 anymore. The Red Sox may be limping through a down season. But the Yankees and the Red Sox still have the market cornered on crazy, as they proved by packing a week's worth of eventful baseball insanity into the past two nights.
This itty-bitty two-game series featured 33 runs, 44 hits, nine home runs and four errors. Seven of the runs were scored in the ninth inning and seven more were scored in the eighth. The series featured a blown save by Jonathan Papelbon and a loss by Mariano Rivera, both of which are common occurrences when compared to a relief win for Javier Vazquez, which also happened. They played baseball for a total of seven hours and 56 minutes over these two nights -- not counting a 59-minute rain delay at the start Tuesday. And the series might not even be over.
The Yankees, you see, were playing this game under protest because they didn't like the manner in which Boston removed starting pitcher Josh Beckett in the fifth inning. The Red Sox said Beckett had hurt his back, and that reliever Manny Delcarmen should therefore be allowed unlimited warm-up pitches upon entering the game. The umpires agreed. Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't, so he protested, which at that point seemed moot since the Yankees were up 5-0 with C.C. Sabathia on the mound.
But nothing's ever moot in Yankees-Red Sox, where heroes and goats change places so often and so quickly that you feel like whacking the side of your TV set to make sure it's working right. Monday night's hero was the Yankees' Marcus Thames, whose walk-off home run wouldn't have happened if Nick Swisher had been healthy enough to play or Jorge Posada had been healthy enough to pinch-hit. Tuesday night, Thames was a goat, dropping Marco Scutaro's ninth-inning pop-up and opening the door for the two tie-breaking Boston runs against Rivera.
Tuesday night's hero was Jeremy Hermida, who'd been the goat (along with Papelbon) Monday when he played left field as though blindfolded and was only in Tuesday's game because starting right fielder and No. 3 hitter J.D. Drew had taken himself out in the eighth with sore calf and hamstring muscles.
"I'm a smart player like that, taking myself out just in time for Jeremy to hit the big double," Drew said.
Drew explained that his left calf had been bothering him and that favoring it had led to a new problem with his right hamstring. Two muscle pulls were too much to risk on a chilly, rainy night, so out came one of baseball's hottest hitters and in went Hermida. Just the way they drew it up.
"You never really know what's going to happen in these games," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "They kind of stole one last night and we stole one tonight, so I guess it evens out."
Not really, though. It wouldn't be Yankees-Red Sox without any leftover loose ends or hard feelings.
Beckett said he felt pain in his back when he slipped on the wet mound following the last pitch of Alex Rodriguez's at-bat in the fifth. He threw six pitches to the next batter, Robinson Cano, and after Cano hit a two-run double, Boston pitching coach John Farrell trotted out of the dugout.
It was the second mound visit of the inning, which by rule required Boston to remove Beckett from the game. But it's usually manager Terry Francona who does that, and the Red Sox said the fact that the team's trainer followed Farrell out of the dugout indicated that they were out there to check on Beckett. Francona said Farrell told the umpire, "We're going to need a new pitcher," but Girardi had a different take on it.
"They signaled to the bullpen before they announced to the umpire that he was hurt," Girardi said.
So the Yankees argued that Delcarmen should only be allowed the eight warm-up pitches a pitcher normally gets when entering the game, but the umpires ruled against the Yankees, and Girardi came back out and informed them that they would play the rest of the game under protest. Theoretically, if the protest were upheld, they'd have to come back and play this game from the point at which it was filed -- two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Cano on second base, Francisco Cervelli up and the Yankees leading 5-0.
But it's unlikely that the protest will be upheld (none has been since 1986), which means this game will live in history with the action-packed ending it had Tuesday night -- three Red Sox runs in the eighth with the help of an Alex Rodriguez throwing error, two more in the ninth on the Thames error and Hermida double, and a heart-stopping bottom of the ninth by Papelbon, who was nearly done in by Boston's shaky defense.
Rodriguez led off the inning with an easy grounder to short, but Scutaro whiffed on it and it rolled into left field. Another Cano double scored Rodriguez, cutting the Boston lead to 7-6. Cano took third on a sacrifice bunt by Cervelli, and Papelbon walked Thames (who briefly glared at the mound when he felt one of Papelbon's fastballs came too close to him). So the Yankees had first and third with one out when Juan Miranda whacked a hard chopper right back to the mound. Papelbon gloved it, wheeled toward second (no play, pinch-runner Ramiro Pena was moving on the pitch) and wheeled toward third (making sure Cano was getting back there) before finally throwing to first for the out.
"When he caught the ball and was jumping around out there?" Pedroia said. "I was afraid he was going to throw it over the backstop."
Instead, Boston's hyper-intense closer composed himself in time to make the throw he was supposed to make, then struck out Randy Winn to end the game. Sox win and split series. Papelbon redeemed. Rivera the hard-luck loser. Monday's hero transformed into goat. Monday's goats morphed into heroes.
Only in Yankees-Red Sox, and in just two nights at that.
Yeah, Yankees-Rays. You may be the series between the best two teams in baseball, but good luck topping this one.