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On his 29th birthday, Jacoby Ellsbury drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning off reliever Dave Robertson for a 4-3 walk-off win over the New York Yankees.
His fourth hit of the game helped the Red Sox play the role of playoff spoilers, and dropped the Yankees into a tie for first place with the Baltimore Orioles.
Yankee-killer Pedro Ciriaco started the ninth inning rally with a one out single off Robertson, advancing to second on Mike Aviles’ groundball single to shortstop. Derek Jeter managed to field the ball in the hole, but was unable to make a play. The next batter, Ellsbury, back in his customary leadoff spot, lined a 1-1 pitch to right field, and Ciriaco slid in just ahead of the throw by rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki to catcher Russell Martin to give the Fenway Faithful one of their first moments to celebrate in weeks.
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off starter Jon Lester on a groundout by Robinson Cano that scored Jeter after a leadoff walk. Lester would escape the first with just the one run despite eventually walking three in the inning, part of a career high seven walks he issued over the course of his 5.1 innings. He allowed all three Yankees runs on five hits with five strikeouts.
The Red Sox took back the lead with two runs in the bottom of the third. Ciriaco doubled to left to leadoff the inning, his other hit on a 2-for-3 night to bring him to 17-for-35 on the season against the Yankees, scoring on Ellsbury’s single. After Scott Podsednik popped out, Ellsbury stole second and scored on Dustin Pedroia’s base hit to the opposite field for a 2-1 lead.
Jeter would put the Yankees ahead 3-2 in the fifth on a ground-rule double that bounced into the stands in front of Pesky’s Pole. Curtis Granderson walked and Andruw Jones singled before Jayson Nix moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt that allowed them to score on Jeter’s classic bloop double on an inside-out swing.
The Red Sox bullpen would shut the door from there, whoever, allowing just one hit and one walk in 3.2 innings. Junichi Tazawa struck out three in 1.2 innings, lefty Craig Breslow got through an inning on just six pitches (throwing just two pitches for strikes, since that included a walk), and Andrew Bailey earned his first win with the Red Sox pitching the ninth.
Pedroia continued his September tear, tying the game on a line drive home run into the Monster seats off Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda. It was his third home run in the past week, and he is now hitting .412 for the month with a .459 OPB and .753 slugging. Unfortunately, the rest of the Red Sox haven’t been playing like that all season, and so Boston has to be resigned to playing the role of the 2011 Orioles.
The Red Sox luckily did not come back to regret a squandered opportunity in the bottom of the seventh, when they loaded the bases with one out yet did not score after pinch hitter Daniel Nava grounded out and Pedroia popped out.
The two teams will square off at Fenway Park again Wednesday on ESPN, with David Phelps facing Aaron Cook. First pitch is at 7:00pm.