NEW YORK -- In a season where the top half of the Red Sox's lineup has powered the team into playoff contention, it was the bottom of the order that led the Sox to victory Saturday.
Hitting out of the nine hole, catcher Sandy Leon provided four RBIs, three off a sixth-inning home run, as the Red Sox took down the Yankees, 5-2. The bottom third of Boston's lineup, comprised of Aaron Hill, Bryce Brentz and Leon, accounted for three runs and reached base five times, picking up for a less-than-stellar day from the stalwarts at the top of the order.
"It probably speaks to the depth of the roster," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We can rotate some guys through. The bottom of our order did the job today. They were outstanding. As we said many times, the difference between us and potentially some other teams is the production we get out of the bottom third."
Eduardo Rodriguez, who made his first big league start since June 27 after making two starts at Triple-A Pawtucket, did his part to contribute to the win as well. Rodriguez threw seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits and retiring the last seven batters he faced. His counterpart from the Yankees, CC Sabathia, didn't fare as well, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings.
With the win, the Red Sox are now on a season-high six-game winning streak, their first since last September. Oppositely, the loss was the Yankees' second in a row and knocked the team two games below .500.
"It's got to turn around tomorrow," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is probably as important of a game that we've had in July in a long time tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Sandy smashes one: The emergence of Leon has been one of the most surprising stories of the season for the Red Sox. The catcher's three-run rocket against Sabathia turned a 2-1 game into a comfortable four-run edge. The moonshot was projected by Statcast™ to land 412 feet away. It was the third homer of Leon's career, as he raised his average to .458.
"It's all about confidence. I'm just trying to get a good pitch to hit. I got 2-0 and was trying to get a good pitch to hit," said Leon. "I wasn't trying to hit a homer. I was just trying to bring one run to the plate, and thank God I hit a homer." More >
Left-side woes: The left side of the diamond didn't do Sabathia any favors behind him Saturday. Though only one of the five runs Sabathia allowed went down as unearned, both shortstop Didi Gregorius and third baseman Chase Headley made costly errors in the middle innings, Gregorius to lead off the third and Headley in the fifth. All three of the runners who reached or advanced on those errors eventually came around to score, with the latter two scoring via Leon's home run.
"It's hard to position a guy in on the grass with two strikes," Girardi said of his team's defense. "It just makes no sense. It defies all logic. And if you get four hits that way, it's frustrating. You're making the pitch you want, you are getting the result you want, but they're not turning into outs because it's such soft contact. We're playing it the way you should play, but it's just bad luck."
E-Rod's return stands out: Given the lack of stability the Red Sox have had at the bottom of the rotation this season, Rodriguez's stellar outing in his return from Triple-A was a significant development. The lefty appears to have solved the mechanical flaws that had led to pitch tipping earlier this season.
"On two occasions he gave us a shutdown inning after we scored, so his seven innings today is potentially a major shot in the arm for our rotation," said Farrell. "But it was just good to see -- the struggles that he's gone through -- to come back after one and a half starts [at Triple-A] and pitch like he did here today." More >
Up, up and away: On a day where Rodriguez was pitching to contact -- he departed with just one strikeout -- most of the Yankees' contact against the 23-year-old went straight up. That said, aside from Brett Gardner's third-inning solo homer, the Yankees got next-to-nothing from their fly balls. Of the 21 outs Rodriguez recorded, 10 came via popouts and flyouts, six of which were fielded easily by infielders.
"Seems like everyone's got a good cutter these days. Thank you, Mo." -- Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, on blaming Mariano Rivera for Rodriguez's success against the Yanks on Saturday
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to feast against Yankees pitching. After a 3-for-4 day, he is hitting .431 (22-for-51) in his last 16 games against New York.
The Red Sox scored their first run thanks to a little bit of help from the review crew. With the bases loaded and one out in a scoreless game, Xander Bogaerts grounded a Sabathia pitch to shortstop. Gregorius fielded the ball and tossed to Starlin Castro, who finished the 6-4-3 double play with a throw to Mark Teixeira, ending the inning. However, the Red Sox challenged the play, and upon review, Bogaerts was called safe, scoring Brentz from third. The review last 59 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Ace lefty David Price will try to build off his final start before the break, when he fired eight shutout innings while striking out 10 in a 4-0 win over the Rays. Price's low point of the season was his last start at Yankee Stadium on May 7, when his ERA ballooned to 6.75.
Yankees:Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound for the Yankees on Sunday night at 8:05 p.m. ET, making his first start in seven days thanks to the time off the All-Star break afforded him. This season, Tanaka has a 5.33 ERA on four days' rest and a 1.72 ERA on five or more days of rest.