It's been a disappointing first half of the season for the Boston Red Sox, but a couple of unheralded newcomers at least made sure they won't enter the All-Star break with a losing record.
With a win Sunday, the New York Yankees can guarantee themselves the best record in the majors at the season's unofficial midpoint.
The longtime AL East arch-rivals will usher in baseball's All-Star break when they conclude a four-game series Sunday night at Fenway Park.
The Yankees (51-33) took the first four meetings of their season series with the Red Sox (43-42), including a 10-8 victory Friday and a 6-1 win Saturday to open a split doubleheader.
New York totaled nine runs in the first innings of those two contests, and jumped on Boston again with a three-run opening frame in Saturday's nightcap. This time, though, the Red Sox rallied for a 9-5 victory that snapped their third five-game losing streak of the season.
Pressed into starting duty with Dustin Pedroia (thumb) on the disabled list and Will Middlebrooks nursing a hamstring injury, recent callups Mauro Gomez and Pedro Ciriaco paced the Boston offense by combining for seven hits, five RBIs and four runs from the bottom two spots in the order. In doing so, they ensured the Red Sox wouldn't take their first losing record since 1997 into the All-Star break."I can guarantee you most people in the ballpark weren't carrying his baseball card with them," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said of Ciriaco, who had four hits and four RBIs one day after being promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket, "but he had a super performance."
While Boston won't finish the first half below .500 as a team, Jon Lester (5-5, 4.33 ERA) could for the first time in his career. The left-hander's .675 lifetime winning percentage (81-39) ranks sixth among pitchers with a minimum of 100 decisions since 1900, but he's been far from dominant in 2012, allowing opponents to hit .270 and giving up four runs or more in eight of his 17 starts.
Lester limited Oakland to one run and four hits while striking out nine in 6 2-3 innings Monday, but wound up without a decision after the Athletics rallied to beat the Red Sox 3-2.
Lester is 8-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 17 starts versus the Yankees, but the most recent was his worst. New York pounded him for eight runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings to hand him a 9-1 loss in the Bronx last Sept. 24.
Despite the loss Saturday night, the Yankees will enter the All-Star break with 50 wins or more for the fifth consecutive season and the 10th time in 12 years. New York is currently one-half game in front of Texas for baseball's best record, thanks to a 25-10 mark since May 30.
All 11 of the Yankees runs in Saturday's doubleheader came on seven homers. The Red Sox didn't go deep in either game."It's crazy, man. Like I've always said, this team's designed to hit home runs," said Nick Swisher , whose three-run shot in Game 1 snapped a personal 0-for-17 drought. "That's kind of our thing."
The Yankees will wrap up their first half with Ivan Nova (9-3, 4.05) on the mound once again seeking to become the staff's first 10-game winner.
Nova is 0-1 over his last three starts following a personal five-game winning streak but hasn't pitched poorly, posting a 2.84 ERA in those outings. The right-hander gave up six runs - three unearned - in six innings of Monday's 7-4 loss at Tampa Bay.
He earned his first win in five career appearances versus Boston on April 20, allowing two runs over six innings of the Yankees' 6-2 victory.
|New York Yankees|
|June 28, 2012||Andy Pettitte||60-Day DL||Fractured left ankle - out 6-8 weeks|
|June 27, 2012||Andy Pettitte||Day-to-Day||Fractured left ankle - out 6-8 weeks|
|June 25, 2012||CC Sabathia||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|June 16, 2012||Nick Swisher||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left quad contusion|
|May 14, 2012||David Robertson||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|May 14, 2012||David Robertson||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|Boston Red Sox|
|July 04, 2012||Dustin Pedroia||Day-to-Day||Jammed right thumb|
|July 04, 2012||Dustin Pedroia||15-Day DL||Jammed right thumb|
|July 03, 2012||Daisuke Matsuzaka||15-Day DL||Neck injury|
|June 20, 2012||Clay Buchholz||15-Day DL||Gastro-intestinal illness|
|June 19, 2012||Dustin Pedroia||Day-to-Day||Left game - right thumb|
|June 18, 2012||Scott Podsednik||15-Day DL||Left groin injury|
BOSTON (AP) -- Barely a month ago, the New York Yankees were just six games over .500. Now they head into the All-Star break with the best record in baseball and the biggest lead in any division.
To manager Joe Girardi , that's quite an accomplishment.
"I'm proud of these guys because not only have we had injuries, we've had situations where things haven't gone our way," he said after New York's 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night.
"We struggled with some pitching early on and we struggled with runners in scoring position but the one thing that this group has found a way to do is to win games," he said.
The Yankees have done that in five of their last six games and are 21-8 since going 31-25 through June 7. They've succeeded despite injuries to pitchers CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera and outfielder Brett Gardner .
"In the beginning of the season we struggled," said Andruw Jones , who hit his fourth homer in three games, a two-run shot in the seventh inning. "Everybody (was) kind of saying we're old, we're not getting the job done. ... We kept battling and kept playing till we got in a groove."
Ivan Nova (10-3) is back in his groove after striking out 10 in six innings while allowing two runs and six hits. He won for the first time in four starts after winning his previous five outings.
The Yankees took three of four at Fenway Park and boosted their record to 52-33 and their AL East lead to seven games over Baltimore.
The Red Sox (43-43) also have been beset by injuries with Carl Crawford sidelined all season so far, Jacoby Ellsbury missing most of the season and Dustin Pedroia and pitchers Clay Buchholz and Andrew Bailey on the disabled list. They dropped their sixth game in the last seven and fell into a last-place tie in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays, 9 1-2 games off the pace.
Only three AL teams - Minnesota, Kansas City and Seattle - are below .500 at the break.
Jon Lester (5-6), who won at least 15 games in each of the last four seasons, left with one out in the fifth after giving up five runs and nine hits. Until Sunday, the lefty had rebounded from early-season troubles and posted a 3.86 ERA in 13 starts.
"I just have to go and relax and not think about my first half," Lester said.
The Yankees scored in the first inning in all four games in the series, taking a 2-0 lead in the finale.
"It's tough to be behind, that's for sure," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said.
The first three batters all hit safely on Sunday - singles by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson and an RBI double by Mark Teixeira . Granderson scored when Nick Swisher grounded into a forceout.
The Red Sox got an unearned run in the bottom of the inning when Jeter dropped a routine popup by Cody Ross with two outs. The shortstop's misplay scored Pedro Ciriaco , who had singled and stolen second.
New York made it 3-1 in the second on a double by Jayson Nix , a passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a sacrifice fly by Chris Stewart . Boston came back again with a run in the third on Ciriaco's single and David Ortiz 's double.
The Yankees drove Lester from the game in the fifth, scoring twice for a 5-2 lead. Teixeira started the rally with a single and scored on a triple by Alex Rodriguez . Jones then singled in Rodriguez.
Nova would have gotten out of a first-inning jam had Jeter held on to the soft popup near second base. The righty even pumped his fist and started walking off the mound but stopped as the ball bounced out of Jeter's glove.
Then Nova struck out the side in the second before escaping trouble in the third when the Red Sox scored a run and loaded the bases with one out. But Saltalamacchia struck out for the fifth time in seven at-bats and Ryan Sweeney grounded out.
Nova fanned three of his last four batters and at least one in each of his six innings.
"I'm getting aggressive, trying to get ahead on the count early and then trying to put them away," he said.
Jones' homer was his 11th of the season and the Yankees' 134th, most in the majors. They're on a pace for a club-record 255. The 1997 Seattle Mariners hold the major league record with 264.
NOTES: Girardi said Jeter had a problem with his shoulder but won't need tests and plans to go to the All-Star game. .. Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a double in the ninth, tying Jeter for the longest on the Yankees this year. ... Ortiz's double was his 373rd with the Red Sox, tying Jim Rice for sixth in club history. ... Nova had lost his last road start, ending a streak of 16 starts without a loss away from home. ... Jeter scored his 1,816th run in the first, tying Boston's Carl Yastrzemski for 16th on the all-time list. ... Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez left the game in the third because of illness. He struck out in his only at-bat, ending his career-best hitting streak at 18 games. ... The Red Sox will honor Jason Varitek before their night game July 21 against the Toronto Blue Jays. The catcher retired in February after 15 seasons with the team. ... Ceremonial first pitches were thrown by Ted Williams ' daughter Claudia (to Rice) and Babe Ruth 's granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti (to Ortiz).