It was a frustrating night for the Red Sox, who dropped three out of four games in New York and now have a 5-8 record for the season. While such a start hardly puts a damper on their playoff aspirations, the sudden rash of injuries that have befallen the reigning World Series champs poses a more serious threat to their ultimate goal.
With Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino on the disabled list, the Red Sox already entered the series down two of their starters. We learned that Koji Uehara's shoulder injury resurfaced before the game on Friday, depriving the Red Sox of the best closer in the American League.
And before Sunday's game, Boston received the worst news of all when Dustin Pedroia was scratched with an injured wrist and sent back to Boston for further examination.
Red Sox manager John Farrell referenced that the wrist has been getting progressively worse, via Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com:
He's had increased symptoms of soreness in his left wrist. He went down to hit today and the soreness continues to persist, and probably gained in intensity. I think there's probably a direct correlation to what we've seen at the plate. There hasn't been an event the past couple of days that's brought this onset further; it's just everyday play. The soreness increases, it's got to be checked out. Until we have some results or imaging of any kind, that's the best I can tell you right now.
The Red Sox, without Pedroia, Middlebrooks or Victorino, started Jonathan Herrera at second base, the newly signed Ryan Roberts at the hot corner and Daniel Nava in right field, with Jackie Bradley Jr. manning center on Sunday. With Uehara also unavailable, Edward Mujica would've been used as the closer, should the need have arisen.
The result was an offense that was largely stymied once again, collecting nine hits but leaving eight runners on base en route to scoring just two runs. The Sox were able to make loud contact several times, including Mike Napoli's mammoth solo homer in the sixth, but most balls died on the warning track.
On the mound, Felix Doubront was decent but not great, employing his high-wire act to limit the Yankees to three runs in 6.2 innings despite allowing seven hits and walking three. Doubront's ERA now sits at 6.75 through three starts, but suddenly that seems like the least of Boston's problems.
Yet with the rash of injuries all across baseball this season, it's hard to feel too badly for the Red Sox. And that was apparent simply by looking at the starting lineup across the diamond.
The Yankees, without Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts or Mark Teixeira, started Dean Anna at shortstop, Yangervis Solarte at second base and Francisco Cervelli at first base Sunday. With David Robertson on the disabled list, Shawn Kelley served effectively as closer, nailing down a 1-2-3 save in the ninth with the help of a generous strike zone, courtesy of umpire Brian O'Nora.
And the Yankees faced additional scares during the game as well.
Cervelli injured his hamstring beating out a double play, which necessitated Carlos Beltran to move to first base for the first time in his career. Solarte came up lame in an attempt to beat out another close play at first but was able to stay in the game. And in the eighth inning, Brian McCann took a deflected hit-by-pitch to his bare hand and appeared shaken up for a moment.
The Yankees' injuries underscore what a precarious situation they were in this season to begin with. It cannot come as a surprise that the 39-year-old Jeter, coming off a major ankle injury, would miss time. Roberts, who is now 36, played in just 94 games over the past two years combined. Teixeira's wrist problems are chronic, and he's admitted he may never be the same.
The team in New York is old and shallow at many positions, and that's why so many prognosticators predicted the Yankees would miss the playoffs this year.
While the injuries the Red Sox sustained may seem a bit harder to have predicted, that's not really the case. Victorino, 33, has missed significant time in three of the past four seasons. Uehara, 39, has a history of shoulder troubles and threw 88 innings last year. And while Pedroia, 30, is renowned for playing through pain, he's been banged up several times in the past few seasons as well.
This is why the Red Sox went out and signed Mujica, despite already having a solid bullpen. It's why they signed Grady Sizemore, despite claiming to be comfortable with Bradley Jr. in center field on Opening Day. It's why they sacrificed back-end pitching depth to land a solid utility player in Herrera. And it's why many fans wanted Stephen Drew back, even if it meant a prospective logjam to begin the year.
There is no real way to guard against an injury to Pedroia, who's the team's best all-around player and the heart and soul of the team, as Farrell so often points out. It's also unfortunate that so many of the Sox's injuries have struck early in the season, when the organization's real strength—its prospects close to the majors—cannot yet be fully utilized.
But if the Red Sox can weather this storm of injuries, they are in better shape than most when it comes to the depth that every team needs to supplant its regular roster. Most likely, at some point this season, we will see Garin Cecchini, Christian Vazquez, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster in Boston, and their performances will go a long way toward deciding if the Sox will get a chance to defend their title in October.
It may feel as though the Red Sox are on the ropes right now, but this is a team built for the long run. The series loss in New York is frustrating nonetheless, but it sheds light on just how important Boston's depth will become.