The New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox, 5-2, Tuesday night in a game worthy of rivalry between the two teams. A bench-clearing incident, four hit batter overall, the ejection of Yankee manager Joe Girardi in the ninth inning for arguing after closer Mariano Rivera hit Jarrod Saltalamacchia with a pitch and a tense ninth-inning closed out by Mariano Rivera.
Boston, which left 16 men on base, saw its lead in the AL East reduced to a half-game over the Yankees.
CC Sabathia (18-7), who had been 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA in four previous starts against the Red Sox this year, battled through six difficult innings to get the victory. He allowed 10 hits, but only two runs. He also had 10 strikeouts. The big left-hander is unbeaten in his last three starts.
“I was just trying to battle, make pitches,” Sabathia said. “They put some good at-bats together and made me throw a lot of pitches, really early in the game and the whole game. I was just trying to make sure I got some length and help these guys.”
The Yankees, who won their third in a row, are just 3-10 against Boston this year.
Benches cleared after Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, who homered in the fifth, was hit in the back by a John Lackey pitch in the seventh inning.
Lackey (12-10) was charged with seven hits and five runs — four earned — and departed after seven innings.
The Red Sox worked Sabathia hard, as he threw 128 pitches before being relieved by Cory Wade.
“We’ve done a really good job of making him work for everything he gets, but tonight his stuff was tremendous,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “His fastball had some life to it, changeup, breaking ball. As a hitter you almost have to pick a pitch because he can command everything.”
Lackey made 119 pitches, but he had control problems in the fourth inning.
Curtis Granderson walked and, one out later, Robinson Cano doubled to left field for a 2-0 difference. After Nick Swisher walked, Eric Chavez singled under Lackey’s glove to center for his second RBI of the night.
Carl Crawford homered to right in the bottom of the frame and Marco Scutaro doubled to left to drive in Saltalamacchia. But with two runners in scoring position, Adrian Gonzalez went down swinging to cap the inning.
Cervelli went deep to left to begin the fifth and Boston stranded two more in scoring position in the bottom half.
Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was ejected in the seventh after Cervelli was hit and the benches cleared.
“I was definitely not trying to hit him,” Lackey said. “I was trying to knock him down for sure. See where he stands in the box, you’ve got to get him off the plate a little bit. I threw a 3-1 pitch that he hit out and, yeah, I was definitely not trying to hit him but I was definitely trying to move him back. You don’t want to put a runner on base in a two-run ball game.”
Derek Jeter, who returned to the lineup after a two-game absence due to a bruised right knee, later hit into a double play to score a run.
Boston filled the bases with one out in the bottom half, but Boone Logan fanned Saltalamacchia, and Darnell McDonald swung through a high 3-2 offering to end the threat.
Jorge Posada was hit by a Matt Albers pitch that scraped his uniform just above the belt with two outs in the eighth, loading the bases before Cervelli grounded out.
Rivera secured his 35th save, but not before placing two men on base, one in which Boston’s starting catcher was hit on the hand. Pinch-hitter Josh Reddick flied out to end the game.