Yankees-Red Sox rivalry got better Sunday night

By Rich Mancuso

 The rivalry changed a bit when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox met for the first time in the Bronx the past three days. The Yankees, a team with questions will take what they accomplished after their 3-2 win Sunday night taking three of four games from their rivals

This early in the season, and with questions about a Yankees bullpen that is being tested, they conquered.  Matt Thornton, David Phelps and Shawn Kelley closed the door with David Robertson on the disabled list. It was intense baseball in the Bronx and from the looks of these first four of 19-games that will be played between these division rivals, there will be more intensity.

And count on a little of everything, including spectacular defense that came from the Yankees outfield. With a decimated infield, plagued by injuries, Carlos Beltran was shifted from right-field to first base in the top of the fifth because of an injury to Francisco Cervelli.

Cervelli, will likely go on the disabled list. Sunday night, Beltran went 3-for-4 including a home run, single and a double He has been everything the Yankees wanted in their lineup, perhaps something they did not have last year when the Red Sox dominated New York.

"I didn't have a whole lot of choices tonight," said manager Joe Girardi about putting Beltran in at first for the injured Cervelli. "Just tells you the type of player he is. Willing to do anything you ask him to do.”

He added, “Very, very unselfish."

Beltran is that type of player. He was one of the four players the Yankees purchased for over $450 million to get them back to October. But, with the Yankees decimated with injuries in the infield, Beltran was pressed into service and was put in the infield for the first time in his career.

It was another dimension to this rivalry, a new one that has developed. The Red Sox don’t resemble the team that went on to win a World Series last October. And the Yankees, without Derek Jeter this night were pressed to do something and Beltran did not say no.

"Thank God nobody hit the baseball to me," said Beltran. He made three putouts and without Mark Teixeira, on the disabled list with a right hamstring pull, Girardi may not hesitate to put Beltran at first again.

 “We have to do what it takes," Beltran said. I hope I don't have to do it again." The Yankees are doing what they have to do, 13-games into a young season. He has homered in consecutive games since May 28-29 of last season against Kansas City when he was with the Cardinals.

The Yankees scored their third run in the fourth inning. The new instant replay rule went to their benefit and caused the ejection of Boston Manager John Farrell. Cervelli was ruled safe on a bang-bang play at first. Girardi challenged.

 Farrell contested the change of a call that enabled the Yankees to get what was a decisive run in what could have been an inning ending double-play.  Under the new rule a play overturned is not supposed to be argued by a manager, hence the ejection. More, so the Yankees got the benefit and the rivalry got more intense.

So much of what transpired renewed a rivalry that seemed to disappear last season. Ichiro Suzuki, replacing Beltran in right, crashed into the outfield wall and made a spectacular catch that took an extra base hit away from David Ortiz in the eighth inning.

And by the eighth inning, with Mike Napoli on second, after a double to left that the Yankees’ Brett Gardner did his best to get, the Yankee Stadium crowd could be heard again, as it was when this rivalry was so intense.

Phelps, part of the mix and match late combination out of the Yankees pen walked Daniel Nava on a pitch that was low.  A.J. Pierzynski got hit by a pitch that loaded the bases. Mike Carp off the bench after going behind 2-0 on the count went after a breaking ball and swung at strike three.

Then Kelley, in a role as one of the closers, sent the Red Sox packing in the ninth. It is only April, but these games are so important in a division that will be contested also with Tampa Bay.

“You know the division and wild card come down to one run,” said Girardi who always said these games are important now. However, if the Yankees want to be there in late September, they need to stay healthy. And they need good pitching as Ivan Nova got his second win in 7.1 innings. He struck out four on eight-hits and one of the Boston runs off Napoli’s third home run in the sixth.

“I thought he had a better command of his curveball tonight and that was a difference,” commented Girardi. In his last outing, Nova gave up seven runs and 10-hits in 3-2/3 innings to Baltimore.

The type of game on Sunday night that revived a rivalry in the Bronx and the Yankees, with an off Monday have a day to recuperate before welcoming the Chicago Cubs for a two-game interleague series.

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