Ramirez punishes Moose
Yankees end up with split vs. Red Sox as series concludes
NEW YORK -- Last weekend, a scrutinized decision to have Mike Mussina pitch to Manny Ramirez produced dozens of questions and inches of newsprint. On Thursday, the rematch most immediately produced two very long souvenirs.
Ramirez continued to punish Mussina with vengeance, homering twice behind ace Josh Beckett. Boston defeated New York, 7-5, closing out an abbreviated two-game series at Yankee Stadium.
Dating back to Saturday at Fenway Park, Ramirez's production over a four at-bat span against Mussina -- solo homer, two-run double, solo homer, two-run homer -- begs this question: Why even allow Mussina to throw anything near the Red Sox slugger at all?
"You can't just go out and walk him every time he steps in the box," Mussina said. "You go out and throw the best pitches you can and try to have a game plan. I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to, so game plans don't really do much good when you can't locate the baseball. He got into two balls, and hit them both pretty far."
Leading off the second inning, Ramirez launched a homer over Melky Cabrera's head in center field, and then unloaded on a towering two-run shot in the third. The home runs were additions to Ramirez's hit list at Yankee Stadium, where the Washington Heights-born slugger has hit the most homers (29) of any active Yankees opponent.
Ramirez's 494th and 495th career home runs gave him 55 career homers against the Yankees, also the most among active players. Only Jimmie Foxx (70) and Ted Williams (62) teed off on Bombers hurlers more.
The focus of much criticism for lobbying to pitch to Ramirez instead of Kevin Youkilis last weekend, setting up Ramirez's game-changing double, there were no clear-cut ways for Mussina to avoid Ramirez this time around.
"Manny's as good a hitter as there is in baseball, and when he gets hot, there's no way to get him out," Derek Jeter said.
"He's pretty hot right now," Yankees manager Joe Girardi added. "Obviously he's a great player, and he hurt us tonight."
It became a short night for Mussina, who was tagged for five runs in three innings before exiting. Boston put up four runs in the fourth, with Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek also lining run-scoring singles. Mussina allowed seven hits, walking none and striking out one in a 77-pitch start, and later kicked himself for poor location.
"I missed so badly a couple of times, I wasn't even sure what I was trying to do," Mussina said. "I really didn't feel like I had command of the ball. It was a fight from the beginning and it didn't get any better."
It was Mussina's shortest start since he lasted just three innings last Aug. 27 at Detroit's Comerica Park, the final straw before he was removed from New York's rotation for a brief period. Girardi said he had no plans to skip a starter with an off-day approaching on Monday, noting Mussina had looked OK against the Blue Jays, Rays and Red Sox in his first trio of outings.
"This was his roughest start. His other three starts were pretty decent," Girardi said. "His location was not the same as it has been his last three starts, and we're facing a pretty good lineup. If you don't locate on this lineup, they're going to hurt you."
Ramirez's success came to light in the seventh inning, when Kyle Farnsworth whizzed his first pitch behind Ramirez's back, prompting home-plate umpire Larry Vanover to warn both benches.
Farnsworth said that the 97-mph fastball "slipped," but said pitching inside to Ramirez is a priority for the Yankees, tired of seeing him do damage. Farnsworth also grinned and admitted he'd heard the cheers from the 55,088 on hand; many ostensibly fed up with seeing Ramirez flex his muscle.
"He's definitely comfortable at the plate, for sure," Farnsworth said. "Any hitter, you've got to at least show them inside or they're going to be sitting out over the plate, wearing everybody out. Pitching inside for any pitcher is a key."
Farnsworth completed a scoreless seventh, following Jonathan Albaladejo, who allowed two runs in a career-high three innings of relief. Ramirez was not particularly upset after the game and pointed out that Boston's David Aardsma had hit Alex Rodriguez in the sixth inning of Wednesday's game.
Facing a 20-game winner in Beckett, the Yankees were handcuffed for four innings before chipping out three runs in the fifth. Cabrera walked and Johnny Damon doubled before Jeter drove both in with a two-run single to left, and Bobby Abreu followed with a run-scoring double.
The right-hander retired the last 10 batters he faced after Abreu's double. Beckett allowed just those three runs on six hits, walking one and striking out five over eight innings before yielding to Jonathan Papelbon in a non-save situation.
"He's always tough," Jeter said of Beckett. "Even when you score a lot of runs off him, it's not fun at bat. He throws 97, 98 [mph] and his ball is not straight. He's got two-seamers, he's got sinkers and he's throwing his curveball for strikes. Sometimes you just hope that he's not throwing his offspeed pitches for strikes to set up the fastball, but today he was pretty much throwing them all for strikes."
The Yankees scored twice in the ninth off Papelbon, as Robinson Cano had an RBI groundout and Cabrera clubbed his third home run, a solo shot to right. A two-run margin was familiar territory for Papelbon, who struck out pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui looking to end the game.
The Yankees and Red Sox met five times in the last seven days, but will not renew acquaintances until July 3 in New York, when they lock heads for a four-game weekend series.
Perhaps, by then, Ramirez will have cooled off -- perhaps not -- and both teams may have forgotten about a possible purpose pitch that drew no retaliation. In any event, the Yankees now have other concerns to attend to. They'll gladly allow Ramirez, in particular, to be someone else's problem.
"We don't see them for over two months," Mussina said. "We've got a lot of other ballgames to worry about before that."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.