Round 1 to Red Sox as Yankees fall, 6-2

A. Rodriguez goes 0-for-4, hearing boos from 35,163

April 17, 2004|By Ken Davidoff | Ken Davidoff,NEWSDAY

BOSTON - Baseball occupied the television in both clubhouses yesterday afternoon, in the hours leading up to the Next Big Game. The New York Yankees took in highlights from last year's memorable American League Championship Series. The Boston Red Sox opted for a live game, Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs.

Six months after Aaron Boone and Grady Little left their permanent marks on this rivalry, the Yankees played as though they would have been better off watching a movie.

With an all-around ugly performance, the Yankees dropped a 6-2 decision to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, in the 2004 season series opener with their bitter American League East foe. The Red Sox, the dramatic victims in last year's ALCS, outplayed the Yankees in every phase of the game.

Alex Rodriguez experienced a taste of the passionate East Coast baseball that convinced him to switch to third base for the Yankees.

For his debut in this matchup, the Fenway crowd of 35,163 treated him to an endless string of boos each time he came to bat; Rodriguez went 0-for-4. In the sixth inning, he reached on an error by shortstop Pokey Reese that was originally scored a hit, but was thrown out trying to steal third.

But Rodriguez wasn't the only new Yankee who looked lost in this new terrain. Starting pitcher Javier Vazquez, going on seven days' rest, was hammered for six runs (four earned) and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. He suffered his first loss as a Yankee. His teammates hurt him with a pair of first-inning errors, as Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter botched simple grounders.

Gary Sheffield went 0-for-3, ending rallies in the fourth and sixth innings.

Tim Wakefield, who gave up Boone's pennant-winning home run in last year's ALCS, looked more like the crafty knuckeballer who won games 1 and 4 of the 2003 semifinals. Wakefield (1-0) allowed two runs (one earned), five hits and four walks in seven innings.

As soon as the Red Sox came to bat, the Yankees went to work on sabotaging their night. Johnny Damon pulled a grounder to first base, and Giambi made a textbook mistake, letting the ball play him. The shot bounced high and hit Giambi in the left thigh, and Damon was on first base thanks to the error. Bill Mueller followed by drilling a fat, letter-high, 0-and-2 fastball well over the right-field wall, putting the Red Sox up 2-0.

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