Tattered pen can’t prevent Bosox onslaught

Now you know why it was so important for the Yankees to get quality starts from Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte in the first two games of the four-game series against the Red Sox. The Yankees were relying on the back end of the bullpen to get them through the third game. After Nova had his briefest outing (four innings) Thursday night and Pettitte turned an 8-3 lead over to the bullpen Friday night with the relievers blowing both games, the Yankees had to turn to a trio of late-season Triple A call-ups to navigate through one of the toughest lineups in the league.

The result naturally was disastrous. David Huff, who had pitched well in relief since Aug. 16 (two earned runs in 16 innings) termed his 3 1/3-inning outing Saturday “terrible.” No one would dispute it. He hit just about every bat in the Boston order and allowed nine earned runs and eight hits, including two home runs. Jim Miller, summoned after Scranton’s season was over, could not stem the tide as the Red Sox dusted him off for three runs and three hits, one a home run, in 1 1/3 innings. Only Brett Marshall, who entered the game with the Yankees down 12-3 in the fifth, was the one bright light with 4 1/3 serviceable innings in which he yielded one run and three hits.

The Yankees’ offense put up a good fight in the 13-9 loss. Their 12 hits were spread among nine players. They cut the deficit to three runs at one point. The problem was that point was the eighth inning. When Mike Napoli took Marshall deep in the ninth, somehow it seemed to shut the door. Napoli, who has feasted off Yankees pitching all year (.404, four doubles, seven home runs, 23 RBI in 12 games and 57 at-bats), is 7-for-12 (.583) with a double, three homers and eight RBI in this series.

The Red Sox came to town after slugging eight home runs in one game and have continued the power surge with eight homers in the series. Boston starter John Lackey, who has had the worst run support for an American League starting pitcher this year, could not seem to handle the burst of offense but ended up with the victory despite giving up seven runs in 5 1/3 innings.

The Yankees knew coming in that the bullpen is in tatters. David Robertson will be out another several days because of right shoulder tendinitis. Boone Logan has an inflamed left biceps that will shelve him for at least three days, and Shawn Kelley has been unavailable due to a strained right triceps.

On top of that, the Yankees lost shortstop Derek Jeter for who knows how long. Manager Joe Girardi pulled the captain when he saw him running tentatively on his left leg. Jeter also had trouble planting his surgical left ankle in the sixth and threw the ball past first baseman Lyle Overbay on an infield single by Jonny Gomes. DJ was sent for a CT scan, which the Yankees said was negative. Nevertheless, they sent the results to Charlotte, N.C., surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed the operation on Jeter’s ankle last October.

Let’s be honest, the Yankees were going to have a tough time trying to catch the first-place Red Sox in the AL East. The Bombers were eight games behind when the series began, but their spirits were high as they hoped to do their rivals some damage. The Red Sox have pushed the Yankees 11 games back in historic if somewhat dubious fashion. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that this is the first time in franchise history that the Yankees lost three games in a row when they scored at least seven runs in each game.

It has been clear for some time that the Yankees’ only path to the postseason is through a wild-card berth. Thanks to a current bumpy stretch by the Rays, the Yanks remain in contention there, but their losses to Boston have allowed the Orioles, Indians and even the Royals to encroach their space.

Considering the state of the bullpen, Hiroki Kuroda will have to be awfully good Sunday to avoid an embarrassing sweep at Yankee Stadium to the Red Sox.

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