Yankees’ comeback re-heats rivalry

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry seemed pretty dreary last weekend when the Yanks were swept in a three-game series at Fenway Park. It heated up Friday night in a tense, 3-2 Yankees victory at Yankee Stadium, although the Sox’s fury was aimed more at plate umpire Ron Kulpa than the other dugout.

Boston batters were particularly annoyed about Kulpa’s strike zone, which it must be stated was generous. Xander Bogaerts in the seventh and Hanley Ramirez in the eighth were upset about called third strikes, but it really got hairy in the ninth inning when David Ortiz batted with the bases loaded and one out against Andrew Miller, who really had to work to notch his sixth save. Miller had thwarted a rally in the eighth inning with a called strikeout of Jackie Bradley Jr., but the lefthander clearly did not have his A stuff.

The Red Sox reached him for three singles in the ninth to load them up for Ortiz. Miller fell behind 3-1 in the count to Ortiz, who was given the benefit of the doubt by the umpires on a checked swing. The next two pitches were very much borderline, but Kulpa threw his hand up each time. Ortiz beefed after the strike-two call, but Boston manager John Farrell interceded and was ejected for his effort.

After the called strike three, Ortiz walked slowly back to the dugout, then made a turnaround and charged back toward the plate and went ballistic, which resulted in his getting tossed as well. After order was restored, Miller finished off the four-out save by striking out Ramirez.

It was a most satisfying victory for the Yankees, who fell behind 2-0 in the first inning on Ortiz’s seventh homer of the season but came back to tie the score with a run in each of the first two innings against previously unbeaten Rick Porcello, whose record is now 5-1.

That was because Aaron Hicks, who has been struggling in his first season with the Yankees, finally came up with a big hit. He led off the seventh by driving Porcello’s first pitch to right-center for his first home run with the Yankees. Hicks also moved from right field to center field after Jacoby Ellsbury, who had scored the Yankees’ first run on a two-out double by Brian McCann in the first inning, had to leave the game with a tight right hip that will likely sideline him for at least several days.

Dustin Ackley, who played right field after Ellsbury’s departure, drove in the tying run with a two-out single in the second inning. Ben Gamel, who was called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, made his major-league debut taking over for Ackley in right field in the eighth and got a putout right away in gloving a liner by Ortiz leading off that inning.

Another key to the Yankees’ victory was starting pitcher Michael Pineda’s recovery from the first-inning when he allowed two runs and four hits. The righthander lasted through the sixth and worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam that inning by getting Bradley on a double play. The Red Sox had 13 hits but stranded 12 base runners. Perhaps they have calmed down by now, but do not bet on it.

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