Commentary

Red Sox squander an opportunity

With Burnett scratched and the Rays flailing, Boston blew chance to gain ground

Updated: August 9, 2010, 12:41 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

NEW YORK -- It was Pedro Martinez who famously said the Yankees were his "daddy.'' Sunday night, the Bombers expanded their family tree, adding another Red Sox pitcher.

Josh Beckett would never make such a concession, of course. But his four starts against the Yankees this season have been painful exercises, including the seven-run beating Beckett absorbed Sunday night in his first start here since slipping on a wet Yankee Stadium mound and blowing out his back in May.

And this one especially hurt, coming on a night when the Yankees scratched their starter, A.J. Burnett, only to have Beckett outpitched by one Dustin Moseley. For a team trying to stay alive in the division race, this was an opportunity squandered.

For those keeping track of such things, Beckett has now allowed 24 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings against the Yankees this season, for an 11.17 ERA. He has failed to last five innings three times against them this season, exiting Sunday with two outs in the fifth and the Yankees having scored all seven of their runs en route to a 7-2 win before 49,096 in the Bronx.

[+] EnlargeRed Sox V. Yankees
Al Bello/Getty ImagesJ.D. Drew looks on after Mark Teixeira hit a home run in the fifth inning against the Red Sox on Sunday night.

"I don't break it down like that,'' Beckett said of his ill fit this season against pinstripes. "It's frustrating, but I don't break it down like that.''

Sunday night was no death by "nickel and diming," as John Lackey, with some justification, claimed to have experienced the day before. The Yankees tagged Beckett early and often.

All 11 of their hits came off Beckett fastballs, none of which were of the 96-mile-an-hour variety he flashed against the Indians in his previous start.

"We bear down against him,'' said Mark Teixeira, whose 25th home run, deep into the right-center-field stands, touched off a five-run fifth-inning uprising. "We had some opportunities and took advantage of them.''

One of those opportunities came after catcher Kevin Cash tried to pick off Robinson Cano at third and the ball struck Cano in the helmet as he dived back into the bag. Cano got up and trotted home, and the other two runners on base moved up and then scored on Derek Jeter's double into the gap.

"Beckett's no fun to face,'' Jeter said.

It's been hard to prove that this season versus the Bombers, even as Nick Swisher, who had two hits off Beckett, made the same claim.

"He's got good stuff, man, no doubt,'' he said. "One thing is, in these rivalry games, regardless of who's throwing for them -- Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Lackey, the list goes on and on -- those guys are going to give you everything you have that day. We had a great approach today, got some runs early, but that game was won on the arm of Dustin Moseley.''

So now, after two straight beatings absorbed by the pitchers with the longest résumés in the Sox rotation, it will be up to Jon Lester on Monday afternoon to salvage a split for the Sox, who are closer to fourth-place Toronto (3½ games) than they are to second-place Tampa Bay (4½ games). And Lester has lost four straight decisions, the longest losing streak of his career.

As for the first-place Yankees, they're making tracks, opening their advantage over Boston to seven games despite losing their cleanup hitter and starting pitcher on successive days. Back in the lineup after taking a ball off the leg during batting practice Saturday, Alex Rodriguez schmoozed again Sunday with national TV broadcasters, but this time he waited until after BP before taking a seat between ESPN's Bobby Valentine and Karl Ravech.

Lance Berkman, whose line drive had blindsided A-Rod on Saturday, saved his best swings for the game Sunday, hitting doubles down both baselines, singling and scoring twice.

Meanwhile, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to do some late shuffling with his rotation when A.J. Burnett checked out with back spasms. Enter Moseley, a right-hander of substantially more modest credentials than Burnett (nine career wins to 109), not to mention salary (a tad over the big-league minimum to $16.5 million in 2010).

So naturally, Moseley held the Sox scoreless until the fifth, when Bill Hall homered. The Yankees responded with five runs in their half of the inning, Beckett facilitating his own demise by walking two and hitting a batter. By then viewers might be excused if they switched to "Mad Men."

But don't count the Sox out of the playoff race yet. A win Monday leaves them where they were relative to the Yankees when the weekend began.

In the meantime, the Rays suddenly find themselves in a world of trouble. They have lost five straight and sent home two starting pitchers, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, to have their shoulders examined. This, just days after slugging first baseman Carlos Pena went on the DL.

With the Red Sox offense scoring just six runs in the past 25 innings, the burden falls on Lester, who will be facing 13-game winner Phil Hughes on Monday afternoon. A win, and the Sox go to Toronto still believing. A loss, and an entire team may be left checking their birth certificates.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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