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Sunday, June 2, 2013
Fill-ins make up for Ellsbury's absence

By Gordon Edes



NEW YORK -- One night later, it went unnoticed that Jacoby Ellsbury was absent for a second straight game.

While Mike Napoli's third-inning grand slam was the night’s master stroke, Boston’s patchwork outfield of two supposed retreads and a rookie played like All-Stars from line to line Saturday night in an 11-1 rout of the New York Yankees before a sellout crowd of 48,784 in Yankee Stadium. The loss matched New York’s most lopsided defeat of the season, the Yanks having fallen 12-2 to the Mariners on May 15.

Left fielder Daniel Nava matched his career high with four hits, including a three-run home run, rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. had three hits, including two doubles, and right fielder Mike Carp had two hits as Ellsbury watched because of continued discomfort in his left groin.

The three combined to go 9-for-14 with 5 runs scored, 5 RBIs, 3 doubles and Nava’s home run. Every player in the Sox lineup reached base as the team had a season-high 18 hits against three Yankees pitchers, including starter Phil Hughes, who was chased with one out in the fifth.

“We have quality players we can tap into in the event of injury and some other things that come into play,’’ Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’re fortunate to have the depth that we do. We talked about it earlier in the week about the spot starts that we’ve gotten (from Franklin Morales and Alfredo Aceves). But it’s nice to see that many players get involved and continue to improve.’’

That was a 180-degree turnaround from Friday night, when an outfield of Nava, Bradley and Jonny Gomes combined to go 0-for-11 with 6 whiffs.

Until Friday night, Nava hadn't hit leadoff this season and Bradley had never started a big-league game in center field. Saturday night, Carp made his first-ever start in right field and batted in the No. 2 hole for only the second time in his career, the first time coming in 2009. Four years ago.

Uehara-Napoli
A grand slam by Mike Napoli (right) got the Sox going, and Koji Uehara finished the job.
Somehow, the combination clicked, with Bradley touching off Boston’s five-run third inning with a line double over the head of Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner. Nava flared a single to left, sending Bradley to third, and Carp plopped a fly ball that landed squarely on the left-field foul line, his double scoring Bradley. Hughes whiffed Dustin Pedroia for the inning’s first out before the Yankees elected to issue an intentional walk to David Ortiz.

A month ago to the day, the Blue Jays had elected to do the same, and Napoli hit a three-run home run. This time, it was a grand slam, Napoli powering a 394-foot drive to right-center (the distance courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information) that cleared the bases and gave the Red Sox a 5-0 lead. It was Napoli’s second slam this season, fifth of his career and his ninth home run of the season, matching Ortiz for the team lead.

“My job is to give [Ortiz] protection, and when something like that happens, it feels good to come through,’’ said Napoli, who in his first at-bat battled Hughes through nine pitches that ended with him lining a single to center field.

The slam took the pressure off Sox left-hander Felix Doubront, who had walked three batters and thrown 49 pitches through the first two innings, when he stranded four Yankees baserunners. Doubront didn’t walk another batter over his last four innings, and gave up a total of six hits, all singles, before giving way at the start of the seventh to a bullpen that pitched in with three scoreless innings.

Doubront has enjoyed success more regularly against the Yankees than any other team; he is now 2-1 with a 2.32 ERA in five career starts against the Bombers, and according to postgame research, he is the first pitcher in the live-ball era (post-1920) to make quality starts (6 IP or more, 3 ER or less) in each of his first five starts against the Yanks.

“Adrenaline, facing those guys,’’ Doubront said. “I have a lot of respect for those guys, it’s in my mind to win the game against the Yankees. There are a lot of things going on in my mind, believe me. Confidence, and a lot of conviction.’’

Nava’s three-run home run after singles by Jose Iglesias and Bradley Jr. made it 8-1 in the eighth, and Stephen Drew hit his fourth home run in the ninth. When Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled, that gave every player in the Sox starting lineup except Ortiz at least one hit. The Red Sox catcher scored on a single by Iglesias, Bradley followed with his third hit, and Nava's ground ball brought in Boston's final run.

“The night by Daniel Nava, just an outstanding performance by him,’’ Farrell said. “You talk many times about his pedrigee, or lack of, and all he does is go out and perform.’’

The win restored Boston’s lead in the AL East to two games and assured the Sox of leaving town in first place regardless of the outcome of Sunday night’s rubber match.