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Cervelli's self-sacrifice helps Yanks edge Red Sox

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Hitting home runs is routine for Carlos Beltran. Playing first base? That was something new for the 37-year-old veteran.

Beltran hit a two-run homer in the third inning Sunday night to give the New York Yankees the lead for good, and he made three putouts as the emergency first baseman in the Yankees' piecemeal 3-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

Beltran hit his 361st career homer two innings before he was pressed into duty at first base when starting first baseman Francisco Cervelli -- himself an emergency option at the position with starter Mark Teixeira out with a hamstring injury -- exited due to a hamstring injury he suffered beating out a double play ball in the bottom of the fourth.

"We understand through the course of a season, some guys are going to get hurt here and there," Beltran said. "We've got to find a way to play with what we've got and go out and do our best. At the end of the day, we feel that we still have a good team."

It was the first time Beltran played first base in 2,448 professional games. The other option for Yankees manager Joe Girardi was outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, a 40-year-old who also has never played the position.

"When they told me I was going to first, a lot of things went through my mind," Beltran said with a laugh. "I was like, 'Oh God, I hope they don't hit the ball to me.' And thank God nobody hit the baseball to me. I was able to do my job there, and we got the win."

The Yankees triumphed thanks in large part to the play on which Cervelli was hurt. Cervelli, who is expected to go on the disabled list before the Yankees return to action Tuesday, was originally called out in a bang-bang play, but Girardi used his replay challenge. The video showed Cervelli beat the throw by a hair, which allowed catcher Brian McCann to score what proved to be the winning run,

"It's good hustle by Cervelli -- unfortunately, I believe we've lost him for a little bit," Girardi said. "But as we know, these divisions sometimes -- and wild-card spots -- come down to one game, and that's an important run."

Once Cervelli limped off, Girardi said he picked Beltran over Suzuki because Beltran offers a bigger target at first base. That choice proved to be a smart one in the eighth inning, when Suzuki scaled the wall in right field to rob Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz of a potential homer, preserving the Yankees' one-run lead.

"That's an amazing catch -- if he doesn't make that catch, you never know what's going to happen after that," Girardi said. "It's an amazing catch and it worked out well that he was there."

Girardi, who had a lean bench due to injuries to shortstop Derek Jeter (tight right quad) and second baseman Brian Roberts (sore back), nearly had to worry about finding at least two more emergency options in the field.

Second baseman Yangervis Solarte was hit in the groin as Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli applied a tag in the sixth inning. Solarte limped around for a few minutes but remained in the game.

In the eighth inning, McCann took a pitch off his right index finger. Cervelli is the usual backup to McCann, and Girardi said shortstop Dean Anna, who drew the start Sunday in place of Jeter, would have gone behind the plate -- and Jeter would have entered at shortstop -- if McCann were unable to continue.

"I was really trying to stay away from him because I think these three days were important for him," Girardi said of the 39-year-old Jeter, who had a planned day off Saturday and is expected to return to the lineup after Monday's off day. "And we were able to do it because some guys were willing to play out of position."

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (2-1) allowed two runs on eight hits over 7 1/3 strong innings. He walked none and struck out four while lowering his ERA from 8.68 to 5.94.

Right-hander David Phelps, New York's third pitcher of the eighth, came on with two outs and nobody on in the eighth and loaded the bases via a double, a walk and a hit batsman before striking out pinch hitter Mike Carp. Right-hander Shawn Kelley earned his third save with a perfect ninth.

"I think it comes down to the pitching tonight," McCann said. "Executing pitches. Phelpsie with a huge punchout and Ichiro with that play."

For the Red Sox, Napoli went 2-for-4 with a solo homer while second baseman Jonathan Herrera had an RBI single. Herrera was playing in place of Dustin Pedroia, who missed the game with a sore left wrist.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected for arguing the overturned double play. Farrell and the Red Sox were victimized by an incorrect replay ruling on Saturday, when Anna's foot came off the bag as he slid into second for a double.

Cameras captured Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts holding the tag as Anna fell off the base, but the play was not overturned upon review. Major League Baseball apologized later Saturday and said it did not have a conclusive replay at the time the play was reviewed.

"I know that arguing a challenge play is not allowed, evident by spending most of the game inside," Farrell said. "But on the heels of yesterday and today, this is a tough pill to swallow. It's extremely difficult to have any faith in the system, the process that's being used."

Boston left-hander Felix Doubront (1-2) gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out two over 6 2/3 innings.

NOTES: The last time both Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia and Yankees SS Derek Jeter were active but not in the lineup for a Red Sox-Yankees game was Sept. 28, 2008, when both players sat out a meaningless regular-season game at Fenway Park. ... Red Sox RHP Koji Uehara, who hasn't pitched since Wednesday due to shoulder stiffness, threw on flat ground Sunday. He is expected to undergo tests in Boston on Monday, but manager John Farrell is hopeful his closer would be available when the Red Sox visit the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. ... Red Sox RF Shane Victorino, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, ran the bases Sunday. He is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Portland on Tuesday. ... Prior to the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he hopes both 1B Mark Teixeira (strained right hamstring) and RHP David Robertson (left groin strain) could return from the disabled list on their first day of eligibility. Teixeira, who took batting practice Sunday, can come off on April 20, while Robertson can return two days later.

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