Red Sox outlast Yanks to take series

You could feel the air come out of Yankee Stadium in the third inning Sunday night when David Ortiz blasted a 0-1 pitch from Chase Whitley into the right field bleachers for a three-run home run and a 4-0 Red Sox lead.

The Stadium crowd was pretty lively until that point but turned gloomy at the reality of seeing the offensive-struggling Yankees down that much early against as solid a pitcher as Boston’s John Lackey.

Whitley had given up a run in the second inning on a double by Mike Napoli and a one-out single by Stephen Drew, but it was the Ortiz bomb that spelled disaster for the Yankees. It was career homer No. 450 for Big Papi, who ranks 37th on the all-time list. The Yankees would have some fireworks of their own, however, to work themselves back into the game.

It began with a gift run in the bottom of the third. Ichiro Suzuki reached base on a throwing error by third baseman Brock Holt. After Ichiro stole second base, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter put Lackey to work. Gardner grounded out at the end of a 10-pitch at-bat with Suzuki crossing to third. Jeter then pushed Lackey to 11 pitches, pushing a single to right field on the last one to get the Yankees on the board.

The fireworks came in the fourth as Mark Teixeira (No. 15) and Carlos Beltran (No. 8) took Lackey deep to make it a one-run game. That brought the crowd back into play, but Yankees fans were not pleased at all with what came next.

Whitley came out of the game after he walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to begin the fifth. Shawn Kelley was not any better. He walked Holt and Daniel Nava, which loaded the bases with no outs and no hits. Dustin Pedroia lofted a flare just over first base for a two-run single that also sent Nava to third base.

Lefthander David Huff came in to face Ortiz and kept him in the yard with a flyout to shallow left field. Huff picked Pedroia off first base, but the runner kept himself in a rundown long enough for Nava to cross the plate while the out was made at first base. Just like that, the Yankees were down by four runs again.

Whitley, who was called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in mid-May to pitch in the rotation after CC Sabathia went on the 15-day disabled list with right knee inflammation, did well in his first seven starts as he went 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA during that stretch. In his past two starts, however, the righthander has allowed 13 earned runs and 19 hits in 7 1/3 innings for a 15.95 ERA that has driven his season ERA to 4.70.

Unlike Saturday night’s 2-1 Boston victory, Sunday night was more like Yankees-Red Sox games we have come to know. The Yankees got two runs back in the bottom of the fifth on a triple by Suzuki, a double by Gardner and two infield outs.

Ichiro’s triple was a drive to right on which rookie Mookie Betts attempted a diving catch only to have the ball bounce past him. Ichiro’s 40-year-old legs got to third base, but there was a time he would have made it all the way home on such a hit.

Betts was playing in his first major-league game. He got his first hit, a single, in the fourth. I am amused at the idea of a player named Mookie with the Red Sox. Baseball’s only other Mookie — Wilson — broke Sox fans hearts with his tapper past first baseman Bill Buckner that won Game 6 of the 1986 World Series for the Mets. It turns out that Mookie Betts was not named after Wilson but after Mookie Blaylock, his mother’s favorite NBA player.

The Yankees finally got a pitcher who threw strikes consistently when Dellin Betances entered the game in the sixth and inherited a bases-loaded, no-outs situation. The Red Sox got minimal damage with one run on a sacrifice fly by Pedroia after Nava struck out. Betances won the battle against Ortiz, who grounded out to second.

Pushed to 96 pitches, Lackey was gone after the fifth. The Yanks lost a scoring opportunity in the sixth against Burke Bradenhop when Carlos Beltran, who had doubled with one out, was thrown out at the plate by Bradley on a single to center by Kelly Johnson.

In the seventh, Betances struck out Napoli with a high fastball. What an idiot.

Napoli did not fare any better in the ninth when he was called out on strikes against Jose Ramirez. By then, the die had been cast. Boston was polishing off an 8-5 victory saved by Koji Uehara. The Red Sox took the series, two games to one, as the Yankees once again failed to capitalize on Toronto and Baltimore both losing and remained in third place in the American League East. They also fell to 6-6 in the stretch of 15 games against AL East competition that concludes with the three-game set against the Rays starting Monday night at the Stadium.

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