Yankees knuckle under to Red Sox

Alex Rodriguez was back in the starting lineup Friday night for the first time in six games since July 5. A-Rod had made some noise recently by saying he would take another shot at playing first base in case Mark Teixeira should be sidelined again by a cartilage tear in his right knee.

Playing the position was a disaster last year for Rodriguez, but he is willing to give it another try, particularly if it means getting him additional playing time. Carlos Beltran, back in right field after nursing a tender right hamstring the past 10 day, had cost A-Rod at-bats as the Yankees’ designated hitter.

As the Yanks hope to turn things around after the All-Star break, the sight of knuckleballer Steven Wright on the mound for the Red Sox was hardly welcomed. Wright has been a late-blooming cog in Boston’s rotation this season and earned All-Star recognition, although he did not get into Tuesday night’s game at San Diego.

Wright confounded the Yankees enough to be working on a perfect game two outs into the fifth inning. Ironically, it was Rodriguez who ended the righthander’s bid for a perfecto with a slow-roller to the left of the mound that Wright tried to field with his bare right hand, which was the only chance he had for an out, that became a single and finally gave the Yankees a base runner.

You know it is not much of a night for your team when a squib hit is among the game’s highlights.

That was the case for the Yankees until the sixth inning when Wright, working with a 5-0 lead, suddenly lost the plate. Starlin Castro led off with a more conventional hit, a line single to center. Wright then hit Chase Headley with a pitch, putting a runner in scoring position for the Yanks for the first time in the game.

After Brett Gardner flied out to center, Jacoby Ellsbury walked on a full count to load the bases. Beltran, fresh from his All-Star appearance, whacked a single down the right field line to score two runs to raise his career RBI total to 1,501. He became the 46th player in major league history to drive in more than 1,500 runs.

The Yankees cut the deficit to 5-3 when Brian McCann grounded into a force play as Ellsbury crossed the plate. That would be as close as the Yanks would get as they fell under .500 once again at 44-45.

Michael Pineda had another of his head-scratching performances, a combination of swing-and-miss pitching (six strikeouts) and swing-and-hit pitching (three home runs) in five-plus innings.

Ryan Hanigan, Wright’s catcher, started the assault with two out in the third on a solo home run to left, his first of the season. After a leadoff walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fifth, Travis Shaw drove a 3-1 fastball into the right-center field bleachers. Zander Bogaerts made the score 5-0 in the sixth by following a leadoff single by Dustin Pedroia with his 11th home run, which ended Pineda’s night.

Nathan Eovaldi, who will return to the rotation and start Tuesday night against the Orioles, had another strong outing in relief. He allowed two hit and no walks with a strikeout in 1 1/3 innings. The righthander has pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings as a reliever and earned a chance to get back into a starter’s role.

The sellout crowd of 47,439 at Yankee Stadium was treated to another overpowering inning of relief by Aroldis Chapman, who rang up two fastballs of 103 miles per hour in the a-bat against Dustin Pedroia, one of the lefthander’s two strikeout victims in a perfect ninth inning.

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