The Yankees have already earned their postseason spot, and the Red Sox aren't far away. So in a mostly meaningless series in the Bronx, the most both teams could hope for was to look good and stay healthy — a point reinforced by Jon Lester's close call on Friday.
With that being the case, both teams were likely happy with what they saw on Saturday.
CC Sabathia was in top form, stifling Boston's bats all day, while Daisuke Matsuzaka nearly matched him for the Red Sox. In the end, a Robinson Cano solo home run was the difference as the Yankees won 3-0 at the Stadium.
After adding a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees called upon Mariano Rivera to pick up his 43rd save of the season. He did — but not before Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a two-out single.
Yankees 3, Red Sox 0 Headliner:
Yankees Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
Sept. 26, 2009
Headliner:Though he may not feel worthy, CC Sabathia enhanced his case in the chase for the American League Cy Young Award. The lefty was perfect through 3 2/3 innings, eventually surrendering just one hit and two walks over seven innings and allowing just two runners to reach second base.
Sabathia also recorded eight strikeouts and lowered his ERA from 3.31 to 3.21. He should have one more start before the season ends, though it still might not be enough to leapfrog Zack Greinke in voters' eyes.
Dirt Dog: Red Sox fans still have no idea what to expect from Daisuke Matsuzaka when he takes the mound, but his latest performance is certainly an encouraging sign heading toward October.
He was vintage Matsuzaka in the sense that he allowed 12 batters to reach base but just one to cross home plate. His most impressive high-wire act came in the bottom of the fifth, when Alex Rodriguez stepped in with the bases loaded and nobody out. Matsuzaka induced a weak nubber off the bat of A-Rod, and Victor Martinez made a spectacular play to retrieve the ball and tag the plate with the ball just before Derek Jeter slid home.
Matsuzaka then got Hideki Matsui to pop out to Martinez before Nick Swisher sent a high popup into foul territory, where Mike Lowell made a difficult catch by the tarp.
He wasn't dominant, but save for one pitch to Robinson Cano, he kept the high-powered New York offense off the scoreboard.
Better Luck Next Time: It's impossible to play the hypothetical game of "What If?" with any sort of certainty, but a ninth-inning miscue from backup shortstop Chris Woodward helped change the entire landscape of the game.
With Billy Wagner struggling to get outs, pinch-runner Brett Gardner helped the pitcher out by getting caught up between third base and home plate after Martinez knocked down a ball in the dirt. Martinez fired the ball to Lowell, who returned it back to Martinez, who then flipped it to Woodward to record a crucial second out.
Instead, Woodward took his eyes off the ball in attempt to sweep a tag, the ball rolled behind third base, and Gardner was safe. With Melky Cabrera advancing to second on the play, the botched play came back to haunt the Red Sox when Johnny Damon blooped in a pair of runs with the bases loaded.
With Nick Green's status in serious question for October, Woodward didn't help his case for helping the Sox in the postseason.
Key Moment: The game itself was short by Red Sox-Yankees standards, so it was fitting that the key play of the game took about four seconds.
In a scoreless game in the bottom of the sixth, Cano sent a 1-1 fastball on the outer edge of the plate to left field. It was far from a sure-thing homer off the bat, but the ball bounced off the top of the wall and into the bleachers, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
The same hit at Fenway Park is likely a single off the Monster, but at the Stadium — where it doesn't take much to reach the seats — it was the difference in the ballgame.
On Deck: By no stretch of the imagination do the Red Sox really need to win on Sunday, but getting swept out of New York isn't the kind of statement they wanted to make heading into this potential ALCS matchup.
On Sunday, the Sox will look to Paul Byrd (1-2, 6.04 ERA), who is 1-3 with a 3.99 ERA in his career in New York against the Yankees. Andy Pettitte (13-7, 4.15 ERA) will take the hill for the Yankees. He is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA against the Red Sox this season.
Perhaps more important than the win itself is the fact that the Yankees' magic number sits at just one, so a Red Sox win would postpone the Yankees' celebration until the Red Sox get out of town.
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