The Red Sox pitcher earlier in the week had expressed his disgust that A-Rod was playing while his suspension was being appealed, leading to speculation that maybe he'd have a necktie for the Yankees' third baseman. But the Sox right-hander did not allow his focus to wander in Boston's 6-1 win over the Yankees.
While A-Rod's lawyer was launching head-high fastballs at the Yankees, claiming in a New York Times interview that the club played Rodriguez while he was hurt in hopes of hastening an end to his career, Lackey stayed on course, which on this day meant inducing the Yankees to pound baseballs into the ground with regularity. The Yankees grounded into 15 outs in the 6 2/3 innings worked by Lackey, who fielded five comebackers like a right-handed Jim Kaat, the lefty pitcher who won 16 Gold Gloves before retiring to the broadcast booth.
After a couple of three-error nights, the Sox defense was flawless Saturday, with shortstop Stephen Drew turning a pop fly into shallow center into a double play and second baseman Dustin Pedroia triggering one of the day's biggest cheers when he robbed Rodriguez of a hit with a diving stop in the sixth.
While Lackey kept the Yankees at bay, allowing just a run on six hits and three walks, the Red Sox, who have had a hellacious time scoring runs of late (14 in their last five games), broke through against Hiroki Kuroda, not the ideal guy to break out of a funk against. Kuroda came into the game with an 0.94 ERA since the start of July and in five of his seven starts during that span posted only zeroes.
But the Sox broke through with three runs in the fourth, a double lined on one hop into the right-field seats by David Ortiz the opening salvo and a throwing error by first baseman Lyle Overbay providing the break the Sox needed. Throw in a surprise double steal with Mike Carp at the front end, a play that might have startled even umpire Bill Welke, who failed to acknowledge that Carp had been tagged out by Rodriguez, and singles by Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbury and the Sox had three runs.
Ortiz then blasted his 24th home run off Yankees reliever Adam Warren in the seventh to make it 6-1.
The win broke a three-game losing streak and preserved the Sox's distinction as the only team in the big leagues without a losing streak of four games or more. They also were assured of awakening Sunday still in sole possession of first place in the American League East. They began Saturday a game up on the Tampa Bay Rays, who were playing Toronto on Saturday night in the Trop.