With the 2013 season winding down and the first-place Boston Red Sox enjoying a 7½-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East Division, the Red Sox took a 4-0 lead over the visiting New York Yankees in the first inning, let the lead get away from them, scored another four runs, and then relied on their relief staff to secure their 90th win of the season. Junichi Tazawa set the Yankees down in order in the eighth and Koji Uehara – stretching his perfect streak to 37 consecutive batters – set them down in the ninth.
The Friday the 13th game was at Fenway Park, with John Lackey starting for the Red Sox and Hiroki Kuroda starting for the Yankees, who were third in the division and lagging in the wild-card race. Lackey came into the game with a 9-12 record and a 3.48 ERA. Though he’d surrendered seven runs in his last start, at Yankee Stadium on September 7, the 34-year-old righty had won the game thanks to the Red Sox scoring 12 runs over the first five innings.1 The 38-year-old Kuroda came into the game 11-10 with an ERA of 2.99.
Robinson Canó’s double was the only hit off Lackey in the top of the first, and the Red Sox scored four runs in their half-inning. Dustin Pedroia led off with a single. After one out, David Ortiz doubled down the left-field line and Pedroia went to third base. Mike Carp grounded out to first base, unassisted, as Pedroia scored. Daniel Nava singled to left and Ortiz scored. The bases were loaded when catcher Jarrod Saltalamachhia earned a four-pitch walk. Shortstop Stephen Drew doubled off the wall in left field, driving in both Carp and Nava.
Lackey retired the Yankees in order in the second. Kuroda had more difficulty, including a single, hit-by-pitch, passed ball, and intentional walk, but got out of the inning without giving up another run.
Filling in for an injured Derek Jeter, shortstop Brendan Ryan homered into the seats atop the left-field wall, his first home run as a Yankee, leading off the New York third. Lackey got outs from the next three batters. Saltalamacchia led off the bottom of the inning with a double but never got past third.
Canó singled in the fourth and first baseman Lyle Overbay reached on an error, but there was no scoring. Kuroda had gotten over his early-inning struggles and retired the Red Sox in order.
There was no scoring by either side in the fifth.
The Yankees added a second run in the top of the sixth. Canó connected for his third hit of the game, a double to right. He went to third on Alfonso Soriano’s single, then scored on Overbay’s sacrifice fly to right-center.
After Kuroda set down the Red Sox in order in the sixth, the Yankees tied the game, 4-4. After one out, both Ryan and Chris Stewart singled. Even though Lackey had thrown only 82 pitches, manager John Farrell brought in lefty Craig Breslow in relief.2 Breslow struck out Curtis Granderson but walked Álex Rodríguez, loading the bases.
Canó doubled again, to the gap in right-center, driving in two. He was 4-for-4, and was batting .410 in his last 31 games. Rodríguez might normally have scored, too, but was running with a sore left hamstring and had to be cautious.
Kuroda was still on the mound when Shane Victorino singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Yankees manager Joe Girardi called on César Cabral, appearing in his fourth big-league game, to pitch to David Ortiz. Cabral’s second pitch hit Ortiz.
After Johnny Gomes was announced to pinch-hit for Carp, Girardi made another move and called on Preston Claiborne. Gomes walked on five pitches, loading the bases with nobody out. Claiborne struck out Nava, but on the second pitch Saltalamacchia saw, he homered – a grand slam into the bleachers in deep right. Suddenly it was 8-4, Red Sox.
It had been just one week earlier, to the day, that a seventh-inning Red Sox grand slam had done in the Yankees at a game in New York. That one had been hit by Mike Napoli. “I tried to challenge Saltalamacchia and it went his way,” Claiborne said after the game. “It hurts pretty bad. I know I let my teammates down, and this one is on me.”4
Junichi Tazawa took over on the mound for Boston. Tazawa had been consistent all year. This was his 67th appearance of 2013. He’d given up a couple of runs at Yankee Stadium on September 5, but his ERA hadn’t been above 3.00 since July 13. He was 5-3 and already had 25 holds to his credit. He set down each of the three Yankees batters he faced.
In the eighth, Ortiz doubled off the fourth New York pitcher, Matt Daley, but never got past second.
Farrell turned to his closer, Koji Uehara. A foul out, a fly ball, and a strikeout and the game was over.
The three outs Uehara secured ended, as noted above, with the 37th consecutive batter he had retired. After getting the final out in the August 17 game against the Yankees, the 38-year-old right-hander, whom the Red Sox had signed as a free agent before the season, had come on in relief in and retired 37 batters in a row – not one reaching via base hit, walk, or on an error of any kind.
As noted in the book Boston Red Sox Firsts, “Uehara’s sojourn took him from Boston to San Francisco, then Los Angeles (against the Dodgers), back to Boston, then to New York (against the Yankees) and to St. Petersburg to face the Rays, and back to Boston. In all, he pitched in 12 games, facing 37 batters in five different ballparks in four different states. The first batter who got a hit off him was 32 days after the last – the leadoff batter in the September 17 game against the Orioles tripled. Of the 37 batters he retired, almost half – 17 – were batters who struck out.”5 It was the equivalent of a perfect game plus another 10 batters. And he hadn’t allowed a run in 30⅓ innings – not since June 30, appearing in 31 games in a row without yielding a run.
Coming to Boston from Baltimore, the Yankees had won three in a row. After this loss they still remained in contention for a wild-card slot, but both Tampa Bay and the Cleveland Indians had won and so they lost a little ground.6 Rodríguez downplayed the loss: “They had one more big hit than we did. No big deal.”7
The Red Sox now led Tampa Bay by 8½ games with only 13 games left on the schedule. They ultimately went all the way in 2013 – winning the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Uehara finished the regular season with an earned-run average of 1.09, and a record of 4-1. He appeared in 13 of the team’s 16 postseason games, including five of six in the ALCS and five of six in the World Series, not allowing even one run in either. He was named the American League Championship Series MVP.
This article was fact-checked by Kevin Larkin and copy-edited by Len Levin.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
2 Lackey apparently let it be known he wasn’t happy to be pulled when he was, but focused instead on his catcher: “Salty’s … been great for us all year. He’s played a lot and really stepped up big for us. He’s been great for us as pitchers and obviously swung the bat great, too.” Peter Abraham, “Salt shaker,” Boston Globe, September 14, 2013: C1.
3 Julian Benbow, “Bullpen Found Trouble, but Didn’t Panic,” Boston Globe, September 14, 2013: C5.
4 David Waldstein, “Grand Slam Foils Yankees Again,” New York Times, September 14, 2013: D1.
5 Bill Nowlin, Boston Red Sox Firsts (Essex, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2023), 163-164.
6 They were two games behind Tampa Bay and just a half-game behind Cleveland. They did finish in third place, but out of the running.