Starting pitcher John Lackey was the last of the Red Sox four high-profile free agent signees to make his 2010 debut this evening. While 3B Adrian Beltre and OF Mike Cameron have acquitted themselves well in early action, SS Marco Scutaro hasn’t fared so well—he committed an error that kept the New York Yankees' game-winning rally alive last night.
And so Red Sox Nation awaited Lackey, the bulldog right-hander who was last seen declaring “This is mine!" when being pulled from an outing during last year’s ALCS. He did not disappoint.
Lackey tossed six shutout innings against the defending world champions this evening at Fenway Park. He limited the vaunted Yankees attack to just three singles (including an infield single), two walks, and a hit batsman. He didn’t allow a baserunner to advance beyond second base.
He also scored HUGE bonus points with his teammates and The Nation in the top of the sixth inning.
After Yankees starter Andy Pettitte beaned 1B Kevin Youkilis in the bottom of the fifth inning, Lackey responded by plunking Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who led off the top of the sixth inning (although, curiously, it came on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, not the first pitch, as you might expect).
But Lackey’s effort went for naught as the offense managed only seven hits against Pettitte and two Yankees relievers—Chan Ho Park (1-0, 3 IP, 1 H) and Mariano Rivera (S2). They put runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings, yet managed to score only once—on David Ortiz’s run-scoring base hit in the third inning.
And then there is the matter of the bullpen.
The two guys entrusted with the late innings are the two guys who surrendered the game-tying and game-winning runs in tonight’s contest. In the top of the seventh inning, Daniel Bard was brought into the game to face Nick Swisher with a runner on second base and two outs. After getting ahead in the count (0-2) on fastballs (two at 97-mph and another at 99-mph), Bard ill-advisedly went with an off-speed pitch. The pitch enabled Swisher to speed up his bat and he ripped a single into right field.
To compound Bard’s poor pitch selection, RF JD Drew made a miserable throw home (two hops and woefully off-line) and Victor Martinez made a disappointing attempt to field the ball and make a swipe tag on the runner as he scored.
The score remained 1-1 until the 10th inning, when Jonathan Papelbon—entering his second inning of relief—left a fastball up and out over the plate. Granderson hammered it deep into the right field grandstand to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Pappy then walked two batters before being replaced…New York eventually pushed across another run on a Mark Teixeira ground out to account for the 3-1 final. It was Granderson’s second home run of the series.
Afterwards, the Yankees' new center fielder, who hit 30 HR for the Detroit Tigers last year, said, “I never go into a situation trying to hit home runs because I still don’t consider myself a home run hitter, but sometimes you look up and you’re able to drive the ball out of the ballpark.”
Papelbon said, “I felt really good tonight. It’s a classic situation where you make one mistake and you pay for it…It seems like I’ve made a few mistakes to Granderson.”
Of his performance, Lackey said, “I was able to make a couple of big pitches in tough spots. I had a lot of things on my mind today, and with added pressure and being here I wanted to make a good first impression.”
Pettitte was knocked down trying to tag Jacoby Ellsbury at first base on the first at-bat of the game. Ellsbury was safe and Pettitte was groggy. The Yankees southpaw explained: “I got a little whiplash or something in my neck. I was in survival mode there for the first couple of innings, that’s for sure, but after that I felt like I settled in pretty good.”
The Red Sox have now dropped 11 of their last 13 contests against the Yankees.
The Mind of Francona: For the second night in a row I have a question—why was Jonathan Papelbon left in the ballgame to start the 10th inning after pitching the ninth inning?
And lastly, Mark Teixeira is now 0-for-12...I wonder if the NY Daily News or the NY Post will have any columns tomorrow suggesting he should be replaced by Marcus Thames.