The first game of the season between the rival New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium came down to the final swing of the bat.
Alex Rodriguez hit a tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon last night before Marcus Thames ended the game with a two-run blast of his own off Papelbon to give the Yankees a 11-9 victory.
Thames threw his helmet high in the air and jumped into a crowd of Yankees as he crossed home plate. He then received a celebratory shaving-cream pie in the face from teammate A.J. Burnett after giving New York its first final at-bat win this season. The Yankees had 15 last year.
“You can never count yourself out,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said during his post-game news conference. “These are the kind of games you play against the Red Sox.”
The Yankees’ four-run ninth-inning rally came after the Red Sox blasted five home runs to erase a five-run first-inning deficit. The blown save was the first of the season for Papelbon, an All-Star who had converted a career-high 22 straight save opportunities.
The Red Sox had a 17-0 record when leading after eight innings this season, while the Yankees were 0-12 when trailing entering the final inning.
“When you lose late, it sits with you a bit more,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.
5-of-7 for Yankees
New York has now won five of seven meetings against the Red Sox, including four of six in Boston. The Yankees improved to 25-13 and dropped the Red Sox under .500 at 19-20.
The American League East rivals complete their series today as the Yankees’ CC Sabathia faces Boston’s Josh Beckett.
The Yankees scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning last night against Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. They went up 6-1 after two innings, a lead that Phil Hughes and the Yankee bullpen were unable to hold.
After home runs by David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Victor Martinez helped pull the Red Sox within 7-6, Boston scored three runs in the eighth inning to take its first lead.
Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer and Martinez followed with a solo shot -- both off Yankee reliever Chan Ho Park -- to put Boston up 9-7. Martinez was the first Red Sox player to homer from both sides of the plate since Jason Varitek on Aug. 16, 2005.
After Brett Gardner doubled to lead off the ninth, Rodriguez hit the first pitch from Papelbon into the Red Sox bullpen. Francisco Cervelli was hit by a pitch with two outs and Thames followed by yanking the first offering from Papelbon down the line and into the left-field seats.
“When you don’t execute, bad things happen,” Papelbon said in the Boston locker room.
The Yankees avoided losing a second straight game when leading after seven innings, having blown a 3-1 eighth-inning lead in a 6-3 loss to Minnesota two days ago. New York has the best home record in Major League Baseball at 13-3.
“We did a pretty good job coming back but in the end didn’t get the result we wanted,” Martinez said. “We just have to come back (today).”