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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 more 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 for winning the AL East title is 12 after the Tampa Bay Rays lost again in Seattle on Saturday night.
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 on 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.
|Xander Bogaerts' first career home run was a loud one, sailing 443 feet.|
"[Craig] Breslow was just joking with me, 'Not even Lackey can stop our offense,'" said Lackey, who on Saturday had almost as many runs scored for him while he was in the game (12) as in his previous nine starts combined (15).
"Finally we scored a number of runs for John," Sox manager John Farrell said. "You know the story behind that one."
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 homer trackers at ESPN Stats & Info. Farrell said he'd never seen a ball hit to that particular piece of Bronx real estate. Neither, Pedro Martinez said, has he.
"You see that guy?" the Hall of Famer-in-waiting said to his young nephew from the clubhouse couch, gesturing to Bogaerts as he held court with reporters. "He's going to be better than Jeter."
No pressure there.
"This kid is the package, the whole package," Martinez said.
He elaborated on the Jeter analogy.
"As far as power, he's going to be a lot stronger than Jeter," he said. "And he's still a kid."
Two lockers down from where Bogaerts was the object of most of the postgame attention, David Ortiz was asked how impressed he was.
"He's going to get there," Ortiz said. "Impressive."
What impressed Sox manager John Farrell was that Bogaerts doubled and homered after playing just once in the team's last six games.
"Without regular every-day at-bats, to step in and double in his first at-bat, home run later on, made the plays very easily defensively," Farrell said. "Today was a glimpse of why people are so high on him as a player, even at the very early stage of his career. He's just very comfortable at this level."
Bogaerts, who connected in the fifth off Jim Miller, who had just been called up from the minors that day and was making his big league debut, was in too much discomfort to enjoy the moment. His left calf cramped up on him, he said, right after he made contact.
"After I hit it, it cramped up a little bit," he said, "so I wasn't going to pay any attention to where the ball was going. After I got to first base, I started looking where it went."
Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli, meanwhile, 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).
"It's Nap's time of year," Lackey said of Napoli, the two having played together four seasons in Anaheim.
|Mike Napoli began and ended Boston's 13-run onslaught Saturday, homering in the second inning and again in the ninth.|
The numbers bear Lackey out. Napoli's slash line in September is by far the best of any month in his career -- .302/.398/.632/1.030 coming into Saturday's game. And that September song is adding another stanza: Napoli is batting .500 (10 for 20) with 4 home runs and 9 RBIs in his first six games this month.
That plantar fasciitis scare Napoli put into the Sox a couple of weeks ago evidently didn't have legs.
"He's in a great place right now," Farrell said. "Maybe periodic rest has helped, but yes, he's in a good place. Not only the home runs with people on base, but a big one late in the game today that gave us a four-run lead. This is almost reminiscent of the April he had."
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 luck against 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. The Yankees have used a franchise-record 53 players this season, the vast majority of whom will never make the cut for Yankee hagiography.
And there is seemingly no end to the attrition, the Yankees announcing that Jeter, their 39-year-old captain, underwent a CT scan on his surgically repaired ankle (it was negative), the results sent to the North Carolina specialist who performed last October's surgery, Dr. Robert Anderson. 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 with one out in the ninth.
"The number of runs scored by both teams, no lead seems big enough," Farrell said.
The teams have combined to score 59 runs in the first three games of this series entering Sunday's featured pitching matchup of Jon Lester for the Sox, Hiroki Kuroda for the Yanks. Some unsolicited advice to both: Buy some hazard insurance.