NEW YORK -- Not even the alarming news that Jacoby Ellsbury may have sustained the most significant September injury by a Red Sox outfielder since a future Hall of Famer named Jim Rice broke his wrist in 1975 could keep the Sox from their appointed rounds Saturday afternoon, which in this case meant another beatdown of the New York Yankees and one step closer to a division title.
With Ellsbury on a plane to Denver for a second opinion regarding a possible fractured navicular bone in his right foot -- the same bone that shortened Dustin Pedroia's season to 75 games in 2010 -- the Sox won their third straight over the Yankees, 13-9, before a sellout crowd of 49,046 in Yankee Stadium.
The Sox made it five straight wins overall and eight of their last nine to go 30 games over .500 (87-57) for the first time this season. The magic number to winning the AL East title is 13, and could shrink further if the Tampa Bay Rays lose again in Seattle.
On Aug. 24, the Red Sox and Rays were tied for the AL East lead. Since then, the Sox have won 11 of 13 while the Rays have lost 10 of 13, not including their game against the Mariners Saturday night. Talk about two roads diverging in a yellow wood.
Finally, the heavens opened for Red Sox pitcher John Lackey and runs rained down, which must have been as disorienting as a monsoon in the desert, because Lackey gave seven of them back in his worst outing of the season.
Sox rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts, the Promised Child, made his first big league home run one to remember, hitting it over the visitors’ bullpen, 443 feet away, as calculated by the home run trackers at ESPN Stats & Info.
Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli homered in consecutive innings. We’d tell you the order, but since Gomes says even his kids can’t tell them apart, we won’t hazard a guess which came first. (A check of the box score says Napoli went deep with a runner on in the second inning, and Gomes followed an inning later with two aboard.)
Then Napoli did it again in the ninth, his 21st of the season and fourth in four games, and kids throughout New England were asking their mothers if they could trick or treat on Halloween as a Soggy Bottom boy (Game 7 of the World Series, by the way, falling on Halloween this year).
The Red Sox, who scored 20 runs in the course of one night against the Tigers last Wednesday, put another 21 on the board against the Yankees in the span of eight innings spread over two nights. Nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings Friday, a dozen more (2 in the second, 3 in the third, 5 in the fourth, 2 in the fifth) in the first five innings Saturday.
"Right now they’re not missing pitches," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees, who needed a reliever [David Huff] to make his first start of the season and were one step away from recruiting ushers to work out of the bullpen after setup men Boone Logan and David Robertson both got hurt Friday night, had little answer to a Sox offense that has 17 home runs in the last four games and had hits from every batter in the order by the end of the fourth inning Saturday.
It wasn’t much later that Roger Angell, the elegant bard of baseball just 12 days shy of his 93rd birthday, slipped out of the press box, perhaps having surmised that if it was a football score he wanted, he could have just stayed at home and flipped on his television, rather than watching this one. The Yankees have used a franchise-record 53 players this season and the vast majority of them will never make the cut for Yankee hagiography.
To the Yankees’ credit, they gamely battled back, knocking Lackey out in the sixth (5.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER) and drawing to within three of the Sox before Napoli, who had hit a 3-0 pitch off Huff for his second-inning home run, connected again off Brett Marshall.