- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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NEW YORK -- Look up in the sky all you want, Red Sox fans. That adopted Brit, John W. Henry, isn't going to come skydiving out of the night with a player sufficiently regal to save this season.
These Red Sox are on their own, and while Bobby Valentine can strut into New York and proclaim that should be enough, let's just say Mitt Romney, if asked, probably would express as many doubts about Boston's preparedness for October as he did London's readiness for the XXX Olympiad.
Valentine's insistence Friday that the Sox are "headed in the right direction" carried no water for the New York Yankees, who laid a 10-3 beating on the Sox that dropped them two games under .500 (49-51) and a season-worst 11½ games out of the lead in the American League East.
Ichiro Suzuki, who made his pinstriped debut in the Bronx on Friday night, could be heard muttering, "What rivalry?" in Japanese as he disappeared into the home dugout after the Bombers made it six wins in seven games against the Sox.
"We're two games under .500," said Dustin Pedroia, who tried to set the tone for a good effort with a home run in the top of the first, and a diving defensive play in the bottom of the inning, to no avail. "We're the Boston Red Sox. No one is thrilled about where we're at. We have to re-evaluate. I don't like losing. Nobody likes losing. We got to play better than that."
The Sox hit three home runs off Yankees starter Phil Hughes, but all three -- Pedroia's eighth, Carl Crawford's first and Jarrod Saltalamacchia's 20th -- came with the bases empty and comprised the sum total of their offense.
The Yankees, meanwhile, took advantage of a couple of key defensive breakdowns by the Sox in the middle of the infield -- a failure by overshifted shortstop Mike Aviles to turn a double play in the first and a misread by Aviles on a roller up the middle in the third -- the two plays leading directly to four New York runs.
"I ain't got nothing to say," said Aviles, who grew up in the Bronx but got out of this particular neighborhood as fast as he could.
Valentine noted that Aviles was overshifted for Mark Teixeira with runners on the corners and one out, which increased his degree of difficulty on making the play. Valentine also credited Teixeira for hightailing it to first but still left no doubt that the Sox should have turned two.
Instead, Teixeira beat the throw, Curtis Granderson scoring, and the next batter, Raul Ibanez, smoked a high sinker from Aaron Cook into the right-field seats for a two-run home run to give the Yanks a 3-1 lead.
"I'm really surprised [Ibanez] swung at it, one, and was able to get it out," Cook said. "Probably the highest pitch I threw all night. He's had some good success off me in the past, but I don't believe he's ever hit a pitch up there off me. I missed by 3½ feet. I was trying to come in, opened up early, left it up and away. Still a pitch he probably shouldn't have hit, so you got to tip your hat."
Cook gave his infielders a reprieve, saying they'd played good defense behind him.
"I could have made better pitches to minimize the damage," he said. "That's on me."
Pedroia was less forgiving. He and Aviles pride themselves on their ability to turn double plays, and their failure to do so Friday night was critical.
"It's one of those deals where Mikey's in a bad spot and they hit it right to me, so I tried to kind of turn and throw it to him," Pedroia said. "I don't think he found the bag.
"We've got to turn that ball. The other play, we were trying to position ourselves in the right spot and it got through."
Pedroia was referring to a third-inning ground ball by Granderson that skipped past Cook, then snaked through both Aviles, who had the best shot at making a play, and Pedroia. That single sent Jeter, who was aboard first on a base hit, to third, from where he scored on Teixeira's sacrifice fly.
"I went to the base," Pedroia said. "I thought [Aviles] was going be right there. It's one of those ones that got by us."
Cook also contributed to his own demise by giving up another two-run homer to Russell Martin in the fourth, which proved to be his last inning. Mark Melancon gave up a grand slam to Granderson in the eighth to make the outcome even more undignified.
The Bombers have outscored the Sox 59-35 this season, scoring 10 or more runs three times.
The Sox are 49-51 after 100 games. They will need to go 41-21 the rest of the way to finish with 90 wins, a reasonable number to imagine a wild-card team would need to qualify for the tournament, even in a year with an extra wild card.
Valentine said before the game that he saw all sorts of reasons to believe the Sox are capable of going on just such a run. You couldn't fill a phone booth (remember those? They still have 'em in London) with folks who share that conviction.
"We'll turn it around," he insisted afterward. "We'll get on a big streak. We haven't had our big streak yet. That's the good news."
What makes him think the Sox will go on one?
"I just believe," he said.
Pedroia, who sloughed off the team's injuries as an "excuse," was equally defiant.
"I think we can. We have great players. We just need to play good, that's it.
"I still believe in us. I have to. The makeup of these guys, the way we work -- I feel it's just a matter of time, if we don't run out of it."
There would appear to be an unwritten subtext to Pedroia's words. If the Sox have such great players, with such great makeup, and work that hard, is there another reason for their shortcomings? Namely, that they're not responding to the manager? No one in the Sox front office has publicly raised that question yet.
The flip side, of course, is that the Sox just aren't as good as they think they are. Or maybe this year will be the reverse of 2011, when it was virtually a statistical impossibility for the Sox to miss the playoffs entering September, yet they managed to do so in stupefying fashion. Maybe, the stars will realign in a more favorable position this season and the Sox will prove themselves playoff-worthy.
Remember, every time a child says, "I don't believe in fairies," there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead. Wouldn't want that to happen on Yawkey Way, now, would you?
"I just believe," Valentine said.