Julio Lugo’s eight pitch at bat to leadoff the game against Mike Mussina (2-3) gave the rest of the Red Sox (31-14) lineup a huge advantage in the eventual 7-3 win against the New York Yankees (20-24).
Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez all capitalized on the outstanding leadoff effort from Lugo by all getting hits in their first at bats.
Youkilis singled to left, Ortiz singled to shallow left, and then Ramirez blasted a Mussina offering to left field giving the Sox an early 3-0 lead.
The Sox batters were not done hitting Mussina as Mike Lowell notched a double to right and Jason Varitek singled to right. However, Mussina managed to get out of the jam, only giving up three runs; the damage was done though, and the Red Sox bats had the “Moose’s” number.
Julian Tavarez (3-4) would pick up the win in the second game of the series going five and two-thirds’ innings, giving up three hits, two earned runs, four walks, and two strikeouts.
Lowell banged a solo-homer into left field making it 4-0 and it was evident that Mussina was not going to be that effective against the Sox hitters.
The Yankees scratched together response runs in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings but they continued to play catch-up with the Sox who posted another three runs in the seventh making the score 7-2.
Hideki Okajima relieved Javier Lopez in the bottom of the eighth and gave Red Sox Nation an immediate scare.
With the bases loaded and the hot hitting Jorge Posada up, Okajima got Posada to ground into a fielder’s choice which scored Derek Jeter. Okajima then got out of the inning by grounding Bobby Abreu into a fielder’s choice that outed Posada out at second base.
The scare left the Sox with a four run lead going into the ninth inning instead of a five run lead which did not big enough.
After a 1-2-3 inning from the Red Sox in the top of the ninth Jonathan Papelbon was called in not for an official save opportunity but a “save” in the mind’s of Red Sox fans.
Papelbon struggled in the ninth giving up a lead off walk to Jason Giambi and another walk to Robinson Cano.
Battling through the whole outing, Papelbon struck out Melky Cabrera for the first out of the inning. Cabrera pinch hit for Yankees’ hitter Josh Phelps.
Johnny Damon grounded out to second base setting up an at bat against Jeter.
Papelbon won the battle vs the Yankees team captain Jeter by striking him out to win the game 7-3 and saved a game that looked as if it could have imploded in any second.
NOTES: The Sox stretch their lead against the Yankees to 10.5 games.
Javier Lopez pitched another great performance out of the bullpen going one and one-thirds’ innings that was much needed when the score was still close at the sixth inning mark.