The Boston Red Sox close their long history of rivalry games at Yankee Stadium this week. In the process, they seem intent on helping bring New York’s long streak of postseason appearances to a close.
The Red Sox look to win their third straight game and drop New York seven games back in the AL wild-card race when the teams continue their three-game series Wednesday night in the Bronx.
Boston (76-55) opened this set Tuesday with a 7-3 victory to improve to 5-2 on its nine-game road trip. The five wins are already the most for Boston - 33-37 away from Fenway Park - on any road swing this season.
By beginning their final series at Yankee Stadium with a win, the Red Sox also brought New York’s major league-best string of 13 consecutive playoff appearances closer to an end. After its first loss in four games, New York fell six games behind Boston for the wild card and remained 9 1/2 back of AL East-leading Tampa Bay.
The Yankees (70-61) are in third place in each race, also needing to pass either Minnesota to win the wild card or Boston to claim the division.
Alex Rodriguez had an especially poor night for New York on Tuesday, going 0-for-5 with two double plays - one with the bases loaded. He also struck out to end the game and committed an error at third base.
“It was a lousy night,” Rodriguez said. “We pretty much screwed it up every way you can screw it up. There’s absolutely no excuse.”
The highest-paid player in the majors is 1-for-10 this season with the bases loaded, including 0-for-7 with less than two outs. He’s grounded into nine double plays in his last 19 games, and his play Tuesday drew boos from curmudgeons in the Yankee Stadium stands.
“No one is more frustrated than me,” said Rodriguez, who added he’ll show up early Wednesday for extra practice with hitting coach Kevin Long.
As the Yankees try to bounce back, they’ll need Sidney Ponson (7-4, 4.67 ERA) to pitch better against the Red Sox than he typically has in the past. The right-hander is 3-12 with a 6.92 ERA in 21 starts versus Boston, including a 9-2 loss at Fenway on July 27, when he yielded seven runs and 10 hits in four innings.
Ponson matched his season high in runs allowed last Thursday, giving up seven runs and eight hits in two-plus innings of a 14-3 defeat at Toronto.
Ortiz is 18-for-39 (.462) with three homers, four doubles, 10 walks and a .569 on-base percentage lifetime versus Ponson, while Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is 5-for-5 with three doubles.
Boston starter Paul Byrd (8-11, 4.61) is 0-3 with a 4.18 ERA in five career starts at Yankee Stadium. Pitching in the Bronx for Cleveland on May 8, he allowed five runs and eight hits - three homers - in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss.
The veteran right-hander, acquired from the Indians on Aug. 12 for a player to be named and cash, improved to 1-1 with his new club last Friday, when he yielded four runs over six innings to beat Toronto 8-4.
In only two starts with the Red Sox, Byrd has already built a strong relationship with his new batterymate Jason Varitek.
“I knew he was a good catcher, but he’s a great receiver,” Byrd said. “He’s really good. He blocks the ball better than I thought he did. What he brings behind the plate, a wealth of knowledge against the hitters is great. I’ve enjoyed throwing to him. I think we’ve jelled pretty quickly.”