Given Josh Beckett's dominance thus far this season, there was no reason to expect that his match-up against C. C. Sabathia would be anything other than a pitcher's duel, even if it was played in the ridiculously pitcher-unfriendly New Yankee Stadium.
For the first three innings, everything played according to script. After Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch and Dustin Pedroia hit his way onto base (one of three hits on the night for the Elf), Sabathia managed to strike out Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz in order, preventing the Sox from scoring a run when even a weakly hit grounder could conceivably bring in the first run of the game. Beckett got into similar trouble in the bottom half of the first inning, as both Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson hit singles to put a runner in scoring position. However, Beckett, like Sabathia, stepped up his game, striking out Mark Teixeira, then getting Alex Rodriguez out on a pop-up before striking out Robinson Cano.
The second, third, and fourth innings were more or less quiet on both sides, as both Beckett and Sabathia settled into their grooves. In the top of the fifth, however, the Sox took first blood in this contest. Be sure to pick your jaws up off the floor when you learn that it was Jed Lowrie who was the catalyst for the first Sox rally of the night. Lowrie broke up a string of twelve straight Sox batters retired by Sabathia when he lined a shot to right in front of Nick Swisher. Mike Cameron would fly out, but Carl Crawford would hit his way onto base. Jason Varitek, he of the scintillating 0.154 batting average, was gifted a four-pitch walk that loaded the bases for Jacoby Ellsbury, Ellsbury responded with a well-hit double that eluded Brett Gardner. Lowrie and Crawford came around to score the only runs the Sox would need. Pedroia was then intentionally walked, and Adrian Gonzalez hit into a double play to end the threat.
The Yankees responded by again getting their two leadoff hitters on base, but Beckett snuffed out the threat, as he did early and often through the first six innings. His curveball was filthier than Pedroia's uniform after snaring a grounder, allowing him to record nine strikeouts on the night. There was no question that Josh Beckett the Ace was on the mound tonight. The only issue was his rapidly rising pitch count, with 96 pitches needed to get through the first five innings raising the question of who would pitch the final innings of the game.
The Sox's bats made Tito's decision-making a lot easier in the top of the seventh. Cameron's single led to a run off of a wild pitch by Sabathia and a single by Jason Varitek; Pedroia would also get a single. Adrian Gonzalez must have had a good cheesesteak in the dugout during the sixth inning, as he chased Sabathia from the game with a three-run blast to right field to make it 6-0 Sox. Perhaps aiming to provide a spark to his flagging offense, Yankee manager Joe Girardi got himself tossed from the game for arguing balls and strikes.
With Beckett out of the game, but with a six-run cushion, Francona turned to Matt Albers and Rich Hill, who provided three innings of scoreless relief to preserve the shutout.
The Red Sox will look to complete the sweep at Yankee Stadium with Jon Lester taking the mound against Freddy Garcia. The Yankees will try to eke out a win after losing four straight, and with a clubhouse in turmoil after Jorge Posada took himself out of the lineup yesterday.