Closing Time: Red Sox rally against Mariano Rivera not enough as Yankees walk off with 4-3 win

September 08, 2013 - 12:24 pm
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NEW YORK -- The Red Sox' offensive machinery had revved in dominating fashion in the first three games of a four-game set in Yankee Stadium, plating 34 runs. But what seemed about as unstoppable as a steamroller was instead slowed down on Sunday, on a day when the Sox had plenty of opportunities but could capitalize on few of them against Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees en route to a 4-3 loss that snapped a five-game winning streak. The Sox managed to elevate Kuroda's pitch count quickly, but still could not deliver the knockout. Though they pushed him to 92 pitches through four innings, he still managed to navigate six innings in which he allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while punching out six on the strength of 117 pitches. The team went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position en route to the defeat. After the Sox fell behind 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth on Robinson Cano's two-run double to left, they did rally to tie the game in the ninth against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on a solo homer. But that rally could not turn the tide, as the Yankees bounced back with a game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Brandon Workman when Ichiro Suzuki poked a single to left, stole second, advanced to third on a flyout and then scored on wild pitch when a 94 mph fastball sailed over the glove of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "I just threw it away, literally, today. But that's what happened and you've got to move on from it," said Workman. "These are the situations I'd like to pitch in and for the most part I've done pretty well in them. Today one got away and you've just got to move on." The game marked the first time the Sox suffered a walkoff loss by way of a wild pitch since July 4, 1997, when Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox scored on a wild pitch by Heathcliff Slocumb. New York's last walkoff win via wild pitch came on Sept. 27, 1977, when Thurman Munson scored on an uncorked offering from Jim Bibby of the Indians. The Sox leave Yankee Stadium 10 games ahead of the fourth-place Yankees and (pending the outcome of the Rays' contest in Seattle) eight games up on second-place Tampa Bay. WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX -- Stephen Drew had a rough day, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts while also playing a central role in three pivotal defensive plays. He could not come up with a pair of pop-ups, one in the infield, one in shallow left, in the decisive two-run fifth, and he also held a relay from center rather than throwing home in an attempt to cut down Alex Rodriguez at the plate when the Yankees' third baseman was attempting to score from first on a double to center. It appeared that Drew at least had a shot at Rodriguez, who was perhaps 20 feet past third when Drew received center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.'s throw in shallow center. -- Daniel Nava, moved into the leadoff spot with Jacoby Ellsbury out and Shane Victorino getting a scheduled day of rest, went 0-for-5, in the process snapping his streak of 41 straight starts in which he'd reached base by either walk or hit. In those starts, Nava hit .356/.439/.477. WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX -- While the line score might not suggest as much, Jon Lester once again had outstanding stuff, and was done in primarily by a hard-to-believe string of bloop hits. The left-hander once again showed impressive power, with his fastball regularly at 94-95 mph, and he got swings and misses on his cutter (5), changeup (6), fastball (3) and curve (1). He made two noteworthy mistakes, both with two outs in the fourth inning when he left a 94 mph fastball over the plate on a 1-2 count that Alex Rodriguez lined to center for a single, then left another fastball over the middle of the plate to Mark Reynolds, who crushed it to center for an RBI double that tied the game, 1-1. The Yankees pushed across two more runs in the fifth, but that was a function of bad luck. Three straight Yankees hitters blooped weak singles to load the bases, with Chris Stewart dropping one in front of left fielder Jonny Gomes, Ichiro Suzuki doing the same on a shallow pop over the head of Will Middlebrooks and just out of the grasp of Stephen Drew and Vernon Wells likewise looping a softly hit pop-up just beyond the infield, and again just out of the grasp of Drew. Then, with the bases loaded, Lester fired a 95 mph fastball that was intended to be down and in to Robinson Cano, but Lester lamented that he caught too much of the plate, allowing Cano to shoot a two-run double down the left field line. "I made one bad pitch in the inning and gave up two runs. It's frustrating, but you just have to keep trying to execute pitches," said Lester. "It's tough sometimes when you'€™re able to get broken bats and they fall in. You'€™ve just got to keep going after them and keep trying to execute the pitch." Ultimately, Lester's line was pedestrian -- three runs on 10 hits in eight innings with six strikeouts and one walk. But he once again showed the largely overpowering arsenal that has largely characterized a second half in which Lester has a 2.53 ERA with 7.6 strikeouts and just 2.1 walks and 0.4 home runs per nine. -- The promising prospect who looked like a potential anchor on the left side of the infield for years to come for the Red Sox? He's back. Will Middlebrooks offered further evidence that his impact as a rookie in 2012 was not a mirage, delivering a game-changing performance at the plate. He went 2-for-3 and, most memorably, lifted a Mariano Rivera cutter into a jet stream in right field in the top of the ninth inning for a solo homer that tied the game, 3-3. "It's always a guy who obviously is hard to hit. He is who he is," Middlebrooks said of his homer. "He gave me a real good pitch to hit, what was it, 1-0, and it was middle and I swung under it and I had thought to myself that was the one pitch I was going to get hit. So I just kind of expanded my zone and looked away on him because I know he was going to away away away and he just left it on the corner." The home run to the opposite field offered further evidence of a strong approach at the plate, as Middlebrooks also lined a single up the middle and drew a walk against starter Hiroki Kuroda in extending his hitting streak to seven games and extending his stretch of consecutive games with multiple hits to five. During the seven-game hitting streak, he's amassed a line of .464/.500/.929 with four homers. -- Though he entered Sunday with just three hits in 13 at-bats in the series, David Ortiz had been scalding the ball, sending rockets to the deep reaches of the outfield that turned primarily into loud outs. On Sunday, he enjoyed an improvement in fortunes, as he drilled one double down the right field line and lined another off the base of the fence in left-center. With the two doubles, Ortiz now has 61 extra-base hits this season, marking the ninth time in his Red Sox career that he's reached that plateau. Only Ted Williams, who had 10 such seasons, accomplished the feat more often as a member of the Red Sox. -- Mike Carp once again managed to make an instant offensive impact when summoned from the bench, lining a double to right for the first run of the game. He also had a productive groundout with Ortiz on second after leading off the sixth with a double, as Ortiz then scampered home on another groundout to the right side. Carp has excelled this year in situations with runners in scoring position, hitting .354/.382/.583 with 25 RBI in 55 plate appearances. Carp would later ground a single to right against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on the ninth pitch of his at-bat against the future Hall of Famer.

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