Beckett walked off the mound at Yankee Stadium a winner once again, thanks to another poor start by the Big Unit and New York’s bumbling defense.
“Sometimes you just need a day where you can go out there and just let it fly,” Beckett said. “Today was one of those days for me, where I felt strong, and you can just go out and throw every pitch as hard as you can.”
On a night that matched up the last two pitchers to finish off the Yankees in the World Series, Beckett (4-1) didn’t quite duplicate his effort for the Florida Marlins in 2003’s Game 6, when he pitched a five-hit shutout on three days’ rest. He got in trouble in the first when a 3-1 pitch that Giambi thought was ball four was called a strike, and Giambi then pulled the next pitch into the right-field seats.
But Beckett retired his next 12 batters and wound up allowing three runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking none.
“Once we got going offensively, Josh got stronger,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Johnson (5-3), who came out of Arizona’s bullpen to beat the Yankees in 2001’s Game 7, was booed loudly and often by the sellout crowd of 54,688.
Johnson lasted just 3 2-3 innings—throwing 92 pitches—and gave up five hits and seven runs, throwing two key wild pitches. Because just two of the runs were earned, he lowered his ERA from 5.02 to 5.01.
“It looked like I didn’t have a clue out there,” he said. “I’m throwing balls to the backstop and trying to overthrow, putting more pressure on myself.”
Johnson was 5-0 against the Red Sox last season, but the Yankees’ $16 million a year mystery man struggled for the fourth time in five starts, walking as many as five batters for the first time since July 21, 2002, for Arizona at San Diego.
“I can’t remember the last time I pitched a good ballgame,” he said.
Light-hitting Alex Gonzalez and Manny Ramirez both homered for the Red Sox, who matched their longest winning streak of the season at five and their season highs for runs and hits (16). Boston also stopped New York’s winning streak at five, improving to 2-0 against its rival this season and moving past the Yankees into the AL East lead.
Alex Rodriguez made a pair of errors at third base and 21-year-old Melky Cabrera, brought up when Gary Sheffield went on the disabled list before the game, dropped a fly to right field by Ramirez for a two-run error. New York, which allowed six unearned runs, had just 12 errors coming in, tied for the second-fewest in the majors.
“Overall we just had an awful game. I had a real bad game,” Rodriguez said.
New York was ahead 2-0 in the third when its troubles began. David Ortiz, just 1-for-20 since his three-run homer off the Yankees’ Mike Myers on May 1, came up with two outs and runners at second and third.
With the infield shifted, he grounded the ball sharply to the shortstop position, right at Rodriguez. But A-Rod allowed the ball to skip off his body and couldn’t throw to first in time as one run scored, Johnson allowed the tying run with the first of his two wild pitches, and Ramirez singled for a 3-2 lead.
With two on and two outs in the fourth, Johnson threw another wild pitch, then allowed Mark Loretta to single in two runs—Loretta guessed he’s swung at fewer than five 3-0 pitches in his career.
Ortiz hit an opposite-field double to left on the next pitch, and Yankees manager Joe Torre came out to pull Johnson, who walked slowly to the dugout as the crowd booed.
Aaron Small got Ramirez to fly to right on his 12th pitch, with second baseman Robinson Cano going out and Cabrera coming in. But Cabrera dropped it, putting Boston ahead 7-2 as the crowd booed again.
“The wind pushed it back,” Cabrera said through a translator.
Rodriguez backed up and misplayed Lowell’s leadoff grounder in the fifth, Small walked No. 8 hitter Dustan Mohr with one out and Gonzalez hit a three-run homer—he had been homerless in 181 at-bats since connecting Aug. 5 for Florida at Cincinnati.
“Both plays I should have made without a question,” Rodriguez said.
Cabrera received mocking cheers when he caught balls by Kevin Youkilis in the fifth and Gonzalez in the seventh. He got his first major league RBI with a fifth-inning single.
“So it gets easier for us,” the Yankees’ Derek Jeter joked.
Rodriguez had not made two errors in a game since May 11, 2005, against Seattle. … It was Johnson’s shortest start against Boston since Sept. 2, 1991, when he lasted in 1 1-3 innings during Seattle’s 13-2 loss. … Wily Mo Pena started in right field for Boston, moved to center in the fifth and left in the sixth, and made a fine running catch of a Jeter liner to the gap with two on in the eighth. … New York DH Bernie Williams was ejected by plate umpire Charlie Reliford after taking a called third strike in the seventh. … Ramirez came out in the fifth to ice a swollen right knee. … Beckett took a seventh-inning grounder off his left calf but said he was OK.