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Closing Time: Yankees 10, Red Sox 3

05.07.10 at 10:12 pm ET
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There was a tantalizing illusion of a pitcher’s duel.

For three innings, both Red Sox starter Josh Beckett and Yankees hurler Phil Hughes were overpowering. Each pitcher allowed just one baserunner, and both seemed capable of a dominating outing.

Hughes lived up to his early promise, allowing two runs on seven hits in seven innings. He earned the win, improving to 4-0 (even though his ERA went up from 1.44 to 1.69).

But Beckett ran headfirst into disaster. He hung a curveball for a three-run homer in the fourth, and then, with the outcome of the game still hanging in the balance, unraveled in alarming fashion in the sixth inning.

Beckett completely lost command of the strike zone in a six-run inning, missing his mark on more than one occasion by feet. He hit a pair of batters, walked two more and permitted four hits to conclude the contest — again, one in which his stuff was exceptional out of the gate, as evidenced by the fact that he struck out the side in the first — having matched a career high yield of nine runs, a number he last reached on August 19, 2006, against the Yankees.

The result was a 10-3 Yankees win, with New York improving to 12-2 against the Sox in the teams’ last 14 games dating to last year.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–Through five innings, Josh Beckett was nearly impeccable. The right-hander was dominant against the Yankees lineup, striking out the side in the first while featuring a 96 mph fastball, a curveball in the high-70s and a cutter that had exceptional glove-side break. His only stumble came in the top of the fourth, when he walked Mark Teixeira (after jumping ahead 0-2), allowed a hard single to Alex Rodriguez to put runners on first and second, and then, after retiring Robinson Cano, failed to put away Nick Swisher after jumping ahead 0-2. Instead, Beckett moved back to even in the count, and then hung a 2-2 curveball that Swisher slammed just over the wall in center.

Those outcomes after 0-2 counts were highly uncharacteristic for Beckett. He’d allowed just one homer per 113 at-bats after 0-2 counts in his career, and one walk per 34 plate appearances after reaching 0-2.

Beckett struck out seven and walked one through the first five innings before the wheels absolutely blew off in the sixth.

J.D. Drew continued his outstanding stretch, going 2-for-3 with a single, double and a warning track shot that carried just short of the fence. He is now hitting .368/.433/.684/1.117 in his last 15 games, a span in which he’s raised his 2010 OPS from .472 to .833.

David Ortiz, for the first time this year, managed to string together strong back-to-back games. After having gone 2-for-3 with a homer and walk on Wednesday, he went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and sac fly on Friday. In so doing, he drove in runs in back-to-back games for the first time this year.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Josh Beckett‘s sixth inning was a disaster of epic and nearly inexplicable proportions. He faced nine batters, and retired just one (Swisher, on a 95 mph fastball). After Rodriguez ripped a leadoff double to left-center, Beckett hit two batters (Cano, who had to leave the game after a shot on the kneecap, and Derek Jeter, who got drilled on the left shoulder), walked two (one intentionally) and allowed three singles. His command was not merely bad but instead atrocious, as he was missing his target by feet.

As a result of that dreadful inning, Beckett finished the night by matching a career worst with nine runs allowed in 5.1 innings. He has given up 26 earned runs in his last four starts, spanning 22.1 innings. Of the 18 starts in his career in which he’s allowed seven or more earned runs, three have come in his last four starts.

–Beckett crossed up catcher Jason Varitek on a pitch, throwing a fastball when the catcher expected a curve. As a result, the pitch drilled Varitek on the inner left arm, directly opposite his elbow. Varitek stayed in for the rest of the inning, but left for the seventh inning, when Tim Wakefield entered the contest in relief. His injury was described by the Sox as a left forearm contusion.

–The masterful outing by Phil Hughes boded ill for the Red Sox and the rest of the American League East. Hughes didn’t allow a hit through the first three innings. While the Sox managed to collect seven knocks (six hits and a double) against him over the remainder of the game, Hughes remained poised and efficient in allowing two runs over seven innings to improve to 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA. His emergence has given the Yankees a dominating front three (Hughes, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett) that has allowed them to keep rolling despite the struggles of Javier Vazquez and injury concerns related to Andy Pettitte.

Read More: David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek, Josh Beckett

Top of the 9th: Yankees 10, Red Sox 3

05.07.10 at 10:03 pm ET
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Adrian Beltre picks up the World B. Free garbage time stat-filler, driving in Jonathan Van Every with a single to cut the lead to 10-3. Tim Wakefield back out for his third inning of work to start the ninth. Only drama left is Beckett press conference.

Top of the eighth: Yankees 9, Red Sox 2

05.07.10 at 9:42 pm ET
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Marco Scutaro grounded into a double play to end a scoreless seventh for the Red Sox.

Looks like Phil Hughes is done for the night. His line: 7.0, seven hits, two runs (both earned,) one walk and seven Ks. Still hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a start this season. He has thrown 101 pitches, 70 for strikes.

Middle of the seventh: Yankees 9, Red Sox 2

05.07.10 at 9:34 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield pitched a perfect seventh inning in what might be an audition for Josh Beckett’s spot in the rotation (just checking to see if you were actually reading this.)

Victor Martinez, who Terry Francona said was getting the day off, came into the game to catch Wakefield.

Middle of the sixth: Yankees 9, Red Sox 1

05.07.10 at 9:16 pm ET
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This game has turned into a rout as Boston sports eyes turn to the Bruins.

Alex Rodriguez led off with a double (Hermida could have made a better play in left to stop the ball)

Robinson Cano was then hit on the inside of his left knee by Beckett, causing Cano to leave the game. A passed ball moved A-Rod and pinch runner Ramiro Pena to second-and-third, still with nobody out. Beckett struck out Nick Swisher (his eighth K of the night) and issued an intentional pass to Brett Gardner. With the bases loaded, Francisco Cerevelli (who entered the game with a 41-32 career hits lead on Beckett) was walked, scoring A-Rod. Randy Winn then singled, scoring Pena and giving the Yankees a 5-1 lead.

Things got a little dicey after that, as Beckett hit Derek Jeter in the back. Joe Girardi left the dugout for a moment, but Beckett was not warned. Marcus Thames was next up (for Nick Johnson, who left the game with a sore wrist) and he reached on an infield single, as Marco Scuatro’s throw to Adrian Beltre was not in time to get Winn at third.

Teixeira singled to right field, giving the Yankees an 8-1 lead and ending a night for Beckett that started out with great promise. Some boos for Beckett as he left the game.

Hideki Okajima relieved Beckett. A-Rod, up for the second time in the inning, earned a sac fly with a deep fly out to left. Pena struck out to end a bloody frame for Boston.

Beckett’s final line: 5.1, nine hits, nine runs, three walks, eight strikeouts. His ERA is now 7.46.

Top of the 6th: Yankees 3, Red Sox 1

05.07.10 at 8:47 pm ET
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A two-out rally by the Sox was halted by a harmless Dustin Pedroia fly out to left.

After Hughes retired Hermida (ground out to short) and Varitek (strikeout), McDonald and Scutaro both singled, setting up a first-and-third situation for Pedroia. No laser show, however, and the Sox head to the sixth down 3-1.

75 pitches for Hughes through five.

Girardi notes: Red Sox vs. Yankees 5/7

05.07.10 at 8:39 pm ET
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Yankees manager Joe Giardi announced before Friday’s game with the Red Sox that closer Mariano Rivera – out since April 30 with an upper body issue – would be available for the series opener.

However, there was a setback for the Yankees as Girardi announced that Andy Pettitte would miss his next scheduled start do to a sore left elbow. Sergio Mitre will start Monday and Javier Vazquez will start Tuesday.

“We’re going to push Andy back,” Girardi said. “He’s going to skip a start. We’ll see where he’s at in a few days. He didn’t want to skip a start. He didn’t. He wanted to pitch but we just feel it’s in the best interest of him and the whole club that we skip a start.”

Girardi said the plan, for now, is to have Pettitte back by next weekend against Minnesota.

“Have to remind yourself to think about long term,” Girardi said. “Missing start should clear it up. We’re talking about him pitching sometime in the Minnesota series so we’ll map that out.”

Catcher Jorge Posada [calf] is limited to pinch-hitting duty as the second Red Sox-Yankees series of the season opens at Fenway.

“[Posada] said he felt better. He hit extra today and ran a little bit. I’m still a little bit leery about putting him in [lineup]. It’s only been four days but that wouldn’t keep me from pinch-hitting him or using him.”

Chan Ho Park, on the disabled list with a sore right hamstring, threw 45 pitches Friday, and Girardi said he threw all his pitches and it went well. He will throw another bullpen on Sunday.

As for the fact that the Yankees are 19-8 but only in second place in the AL East because the Rays have started 20-7, Girardi said there’s plenty of season left to decide the AL East.

“I’m not too worried about standings right now,” he said. “We’re still going to play the teams around us.”

Then there’s the latest comments from Dallas Braden indicating there’s an unsettled score for Alex Rodriguez prancing across the pitcher’s mound in Oakland in an April series.

“We don’t play them until July,” Girardi said. “I’m worried about our club and what our guys say. I’m not really concerned with what other guys say. July is really a long ways away. I’m not really worried about it.”

Is Girardi worried about physical retaliation?

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Girardi added. “I’m really worried about the Boston Red Sox, not who we’re playing in July.”

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, Dallas Braden, Girardi, Red Sox
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