The Yankees finally retaliated.
Following two more plunkings tonight, CC Sabathia had decided enough was enough. Josh Beckett hit Derek Jeter in the elbow in the top of the first and Alex Rodriguez in the hip in the in the fourth.
After A-Rod limped to first, Sabathia, working with the Yankees up 2-0, picked his target, hitting David Ortiz in the right thigh with a 97-mph heater in the bottom of the fourth. It was just the second time Yankees pitchers had ever hit Ortiz, the first time coming eight years ago in the ALCS.
Warnings were issued, but it seemed like the Ortiz HBP made it case closed for both teams, and there were no repercussions after Beckett hit Curtis Granderson in the foot with a breaking ball in the fifth.
The Yankees had made their statement. And then they went about blowing the game.
Sabathia cruised through six innings, allowing just two hits, but the Red Sox exploded for seven runs on nine hits in the seventh.
Ortiz, hitting for the first time since the plunking, started the rally with a single and then closed it with a two-run double. The Red Sox added one more run in the ninth and won 8-3.
The victory gave them consecutive three-game sweeps at Yankee Stadium. They’re 8-1 against the Bombers this year. Three times now Beckett and Sabathia have matched up, and the Yankees have lost those games by a combined score to 18-3.
At least the Yankees did score for the first time off Beckett tonight. After Jeter was hit by the pitch to start the game, Granderson homered, giving the Yanks the 2-0 lead they held most of the way. They couldn’t dent Beckett from there, though, coming up with just three more hits against him.
With the win, the resiliant Red Sox moved two games up in the AL East. Their ownership of the Yankees is the big reason why. They’ve dominated the Bombers so thoroughly that Mariano Rivera has appeared in just one of the nine contests so far, coming into the May 15 loss with the Yankees down 7-5.
Fortunately, the Yankees don’t have to beat the Red Sox to make it to the postseason. They have the AL’s third-best record despite their struggles.
Still, one wonders whether the Yankees could look a whole lot different by the time to two teams play again on Aug. 5. Jorge Posada could be gone. Derek Jeter might be batting at the bottom of the order. Phil Hughes should be back, though perhaps not the 2010 Hughes the Yankees are hoping for.
But what the Yankees really need is for Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira to show for these games. Teixeira has gone 4-for-33 against Boston this season.
Things are very well set up for Boston now. The middle of the order looks devastating. The duo of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek behind the plate is working out just fine all of a sudden. And even though Beckett is the only one of the team’s top four starters pitching as hoped, the Red Sox lead the AL with 36 wins. There’s no more confident team in baseball at the moment.