Coming off an inspirational come-from-behind victory over the Yankees that featured a wild, bench-clearing brawl, the Red Sox hope to draw closer to New York in the AL East as the teams complete a three-game series at Fenway Park.
After pulling out an 8-7 win Friday’s series opener, the Yankees appeared to take a big step toward flushing the hopes of the Red Sox making a run at the division. Boston has finished second to New York in the East each of the previous six seasons.
While Rodriguez and Boston catcher Jason Varitek wrestled, New York starter Tanyon Sturtze engaged in a tussle with Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler. By the time order was restored, Varitek and Rodriguez were ejected from the game by plate umpire Bruce Froemming, as were the Yankees’ Kenny Lofton and Kapler.
“It just shows you how much both teams were hyped up,” said Rodriguez, who was almost traded to Boston this past offseason. “Once you’re in the moment competing against a team you really don’t like … you can’t really control your emotions.”
Sturtze later left the game with an injured finger, and what ensued was another dramatic one-run tilt that wasn’t decided until Bill Mueller launched a game-winning two-run homer off New York closer Mariano Rivera with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
The shot not only gave Boston a much-needed 11-10 win, it ended New York’s four-game winning streak in the series and ended Rivera’s run of 23 consecutive save conversions.
“I’m very, very proud of what our players did today,” Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. “We’ve been waiting to have this feeling all year.”
Last year, these teams played an epic seven-game series for the AL pennant— a series that featured a memorable Game 3 brawl in which Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez averted a wild punch from former New York bench coach Don Zimmer and threw Zimmer down to the ground.
New York won that series on Aaron Boone’s walkoff homer in the bottom of the 11th at Yankee Stadium. Thus far this year, the intensity hasn’t quelled despite the Yankees’ seemingly safe cushion atop the division.
The teams played a 13-inning classic at Yankee Stadium on July 1, which New York rallied to win 5-4 by scoring twice in its last at-bat. That victory completed a three-game sweep of the Red Sox and Friday’s win appeared to take some of the fight out of the Red Sox in their hunt to overtake the Yankees in the East once and for all.
“Our rivalry is probably—not probably, it is—like no other rivalry,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “It’s an emotional game. You’d like to believe you can play like a board game, but you can’t. There are people involved. There are emotions. It’s a high-energy situation.”
But Boston is hoping Saturday’s win fuels a comeback.
New York has never lost a division crown when leading by at least six games at any point in the season.