BOSTON -- This storied rivalry, as we like to call it in this author-saturated part of the country, was just waiting for a character like Jonny Gomes to come along.
Luis Cruz, not so much.
By means of introduction, the first time he played against the Yankees in a Red Sox uniform, on Opening Day, Gomes scored from second on an infield hit, setting a template for a season.
Friday night, in his first at-bat against the Yankees in Fenway Park, Gomes launched a two-run home run off Andy Pettitte, the kind of left-hander the Sox acquired him to hit, then added a flared ground-rule double and scored Boston’s final run in a 4-2 win over the all-but-starless Yankees.
With Derek Jeter back on the disabled list (strained quadriceps), Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis residing on the 60-day list, and A-Rod resembling no one’s idea of the cavalry when he does finally arrive, the Yankees had little answer for the Sox, who opened a seven-game advantage over New York while maintaining a 2½-game lead over Tampa Bay.
Cruz, a journeyman whose pro career began 13 years ago as a non-drafted free agent with the Sox, represented the Yanks’ last best hope in the eighth, after Ichiro Suzuki singled and Robinson Cano doubled off Sox reliever Craig Breslow.
Cruz, who had entered the game after rookie Zoilo Almonte sprained an ankle and center fielder Brett Gardner was ejected for slamming his helmet to the ground after being called out on strikes in the fifth, grounded out to shortstop Jose Iglesias, with first baseman Mike Napoli applying the tag. Vernon Wells, who also had a shot to tie the score against Breslow, had popped out before Cruz came to the plate.
Iglesias had singled home Gomes with an insurance run in the seventh, snapping an 0 for 11 slide.
“A big at-bat by Iggy,’’ Farrell said. “We scratched out that fourth run and then Breslow makes a couple of really big pitches in the eighth inning to get out of that second-and-third, one-out situation. Just a solid win here tonight for us.”
Jacoby Ellsbury opened the Sox first with a home run off Pettitte, his third home run in the last 10 games since he ended a streak of 314 at-bats without a homer, the longest of his career.
“He’s been on a tear,’’ Gomes said. “That’s Ells. You guys have seen that before. I don’t think he’s shocking anyone right now. A little bump in the road in the beginning, but who doesn’t go through that.”
Pettitte walked Napoli and was taken deep by Gomes to open the second. It was the second time in his career that Gomes has gone deep against Pettitte, and after his two hits Friday, he is now batting .357 (10 for 28) against the elegant Yankee lefty.
The home run, Gomes said, was a matter of making the right choice to look for Pettitte’s changeup.
“You’ve kind of got to put your chips on two of his three pitches,’’ Gomes said. “It wasn’t a bad pitch but I hadn’t seen his changeup yet. I thought he was going to throw it and the chips worked out.”
Gardner created a run for the Yankees in the third when he walked, successfully eluded a pickoff to steal second, stole third and scored on a wild throw by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Doubles by Lyle Overbay and Chris Stewart made it 3-2 in the fifth, but Felix Doubront maintained his impressive record against the Yankees, lowering his ERA against the Yanks to 2.17 in six starts since the start of 2012, allowing one earned run in 6 1/3 innings.
“Consistent,’’ said Doubront, who is 7-3 and has now allowed three runs or fewer in 16 of 17 starts, sporting a 1.83 ERA over his last six starts. “Being consistent, throwing strikes, make the hitters swing. That is a big part of my game, my game plan.”