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Friday, May 31, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1

By Gordon Edes

NEW YORK -- The newly minted MIT grads have probably already figured this one out, the probability that Jacoby Ellsbury could set a club record by stealing five bases and have none of them lead to a run.

But here’s a wrinkle that even the math majors might struggle with: calculating the number of runs that fifth stolen base may have cost the Red Sox Friday night.

No one will ever know for sure, of course. But Ellsbury, who had led off each of the last four Red Sox games with a hit and come around to score, was a no-show for Friday night’s series opener between the Sox and Yankees after reporting tightness in his left groin. He felt the discomfort, he said, on his fifth stolen base Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Without their hottest hitter -- Ellsbury had hit .400 in the last 10 games -- the Sox mounted little offense against CC Sabathia, the Yankees left-hander who catches the attention of those who see him infrequently for two reasons.

Sabathia looks like he has been on a modified version of the John Lackey diet; not runway-model skinny but definitely trimmed down.

And his velocity ain’t what it used to be, either, but that seemed of little consequence on a night that Sabathia had the Sox hitters either lunging or looking at his collection of sliders, sinkers, changeups and curveballs, as well as a four-seamer he located at his pleasure.

David Ortiz might be accustomed to seeing all sliders in a given at-bat, but when it’s a David Ross who is on the receiving end of that treatment, it’s going to be a long night.

Sabathia, who got an early cue that Lance Barksdale’s strike zone would be to his liking -- the plate umpire rang up the game’s first two batters, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes, on pitches that the Sox hitters opined did not fit their definitions of strikes.

Sabathia struck out 10, matching a season high, while walking no one in 7 1/3 innings. He becomes the eighth AL pitcher this season to have a 10-K+, no-walk game (Yu Darvish of the Rangers has done it twice), the first to have one against the Red Sox.

Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who had coasted to an 8-2 win over Sabathia in the season opener here, was not able to repeat that success here Friday night. For one, he did not find the strike zone as hospitable as Sabathia did, walking four, hitting a batter, and grimacing over any number of borderline calls. For another, Sabathia offered Lester no margin for error.

The Yankees welcomed back two regulars Friday night, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis, and both figured in the scoring. Teixeira walked to lead off the second, took third on a double by Vernon Wells, and scored on a single by Laynce Nix. One out later, Ichiro Suzuki singled home Wells to make it 2-0.

Lester hit David Adams in the back foot with an 0-and-2 cutter to open the fifth. Ichiro forced Adams, but Lester walked the No. 9 hitter, Chris Stewart, and Youkilis singled home Ichiro, his 10th hit in 27 at-bats against his former mates. Left fielder Nava kept the inning from mushrooming further by throwing out Stewart at third.

Lester was lifted with one out in the seventh, after 116 pitches, following a single by Suzuki and a chopped hit by Stewart. Andrew Miller entered and got two quick strikes on Brett Gardner, then left a fastball up over the plate that Gardner whacked the opposite way for the fourth Yankee run.

The Sox finally broke through against Sabathia in the seventh on doubles by Pedroia and Mike Napoli, and threatened in the ninth against Mariano Rivera, who gave up one-out singles to Pedroia and David Ortiz. But Rivera, who had shockingly blown a save earlier this week against the Mets, was of no mind to be mortal twice in a week, striking out Napoli on three pitches and breaking Stephen Drew’s bat for the final out.

The win drew the Yankees to within a game of the Sox in the AL East. Nava, who hit in Ellsbury’s vacated leadoff spot, struck out three times. Jackie Bradley Jr., who played center field in Ellsbury’s place, struck out twice and grounded out.