The New York Yankees still had hopes for an American League wild-card slot when they hosted the Boston Red Sox in a four-game weekend series at Yankee Stadium in September 2013. As the series began, the first-place Red Sox were 7½ games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and 10 games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East standings, and manager Joe Girardi’s Yankees—who had reached the postseason in 17 of the past 18 seasons—were chasing the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay for one of the league’s two wild-card berths.
After squandering a five-run lead in the seventh inning, the Red Sox came from behind in the series opener on September 5, tying the game in the ninth on Stephen Drew’s two-out RBI single off closer Mariano Rivera, in his 19th and final season in the Yankees’ bullpen. Shane Victorino’s 10th-inning single off Joba Chamberlain drove in the go-ahead run, and Koji Uehara closed out the Yankees in the bottom of the inning, racking up his 18th save of the season in Boston’s 9-8 win. He hadn’t blown a save or cost them a game since July 6.
In Friday night’s second game of the series, Girardi’s starter was veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, like Rivera in the final season of his career. The 41-year-old Pettitte was 10-9 but with a solid 4.01 ERA. He had won his last three decisions and was 2-1 against the Red Sox in three 2013 starts. Pettitte recorded all three outs on strikeouts in the top of the first; the only batter to reach was Dustin Pedroia, with a two-out single up the middle.
The Yankees scored two runs right away. Felix Doubront was pitching for John Farrell’s Red Sox. After Brett Gardner bunted in vain to lead off the Yankees’ first, DH Derek Jeter worked a walk on nine pitches and left fielder Alfonso Soriano homered into the left-field stands for a 2-0 lead.
The Red Sox got one run back in the top of the second. First baseman Mike Napoli led off with a single, went to second on a walk, stayed there on a strikeout, and scored when catcher David Ross singled up the middle.
A double play ended any further threat, and the Yankees responded right away, with two more runs. Right fielder Vernon Wells walked. Shortstop Eduardo Nuñez tripled to left-center, restoring the Yankees’ two-run lead. After a strikeout, catcher Chris Stewart hit a sacrifice fly to left-center. It was 4-1, New York.
Neither team scored in the third, but the Red Sox scored once in the top of the fourth. Napoli led off with a double for Boston, tagged and moved to third on a deep fly ball, then scored on a groundout handled unassisted by Mark Reynolds at first base. Pettitte’s strikeout of Ross to close the fourth was his 2,000th with the Yankees, more than any other pitcher in franchise history.1
As in the second inning, the Yankees immediately struck back with two more runs of their own in the fourth. After Doubront got two outs, he walked Reynolds and Stewart. Gardner tripled to shallow center-left, past diving center fielder Victorino, and it was 6-2, Yankees.2 Rubby De La Rosa relieved Doubront.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks led off Boston’s fifth with a solo home run, but the Yankees still had a three-run lead.3 And, in response, for the fourth time in the game they scored twice. Second baseman Robinson Canó doubled. With two outs, Wells singled to right, driving Canó home. Nuñez singled, and so did Reynolds, with Wells scoring on Reynolds’ hit. Nuñez was thrown out at the plate but now New York led, 8-3.
The only Boston batter to reach in the sixth was Napoli, who walked. The Yankees went down in order in their half.
Pettitte had thrown an even 100 pitches, seven fewer than his season high. The Yankees had what seemed a comfortable five-run cushion. Phil Hughes relieved Pettitte to start the seventh. Ross reached on an infield single. After Middlebrooks flied out, Victorino singled and the Red Sox had runners on first and second. Mike Carp pinch-hit for Jonny Gomes and drew a walk on nine pitches, bringing up Pedroia with the bases loaded and one out.
Pedroia hit a groundball that bounced a couple of times on its way to third baseman Alex Rodríguez. A-Rod’s throw to first was necessarily hurried and in the dirt, a tough play for Reynolds. It was scored a single, and Ross scored to cut the deficit to 8-4.
Napoli, a right-handed batter, had already reached base three times—with a single, walk, and a double. Logan remained in the game. The New York Times wrote that normally Girardi might not have used Logan “but his options were limited, and right-handed hitters have only hit .230 against him.”4
The count went to 3-and-2. On Logan’s eighth pitch, Napoli unloaded for an opposite-field grand slam to deep right field, one that barely eluded right fielder Ichiro Suzuki and bounced off the top of the wall.5 The Red Sox had erased the five-run deficit and tied the game, 8-8.6
Brandon Workman relieved De La Rosa and fanned Soriano, got Canó to ground out, and struck out Alex Rodríguez.
The Red Sox took the lead in the top of the eighth, with two of the previous night’s heroes coming through with big hits. With Claiborne still on the mound, Middlebrooks hit a one-out single to left. Victorino followed with a two-run homer, several rows deep in the left-field stands, giving Boston a 10-8 lead.
When Carp reached on an infield single, Girardi called in Joba Chamberlain from the bullpen. Pinch-runner Quintin Berry took second on Pedroia’s groundout, and Ortiz was walked intentionally. This brought up Napoli once more. The runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Napoli reached base for the fifth time in the game by walking on a full-count pitch.
Chamberlain walked Nava, forcing in Berry with Boston’s 11th run. Drew slapped a single between short and third and one more run scored. It was 12-8, Red Sox.
After Workman issued a one-out walk to Nuñez in the bottom of the eighth, Farrell called on Franklin Morales. There was walk and a wild pitch and the Yankees had runners on second and third with Gardner at the plate, but Morales struck him out.
Facing the Red Sox in the ninth was Matt Daley, in his first appearance in a Yankees uniform.8 He pitched well enough, striking out Middlebrooks, hitting Victorino with a pitch, striking out Berry, giving up a double to Pedroia, but then getting David Ortiz to ground out to first base unassisted.
Uehara got Jeter to ground out to second base to start the ninth, then struck out Soriano and Canó. The Red Sox had won, 12-8, and had captured 11 of their last 13 games.9 Uehara’s consecutive batters retired streak reached 27—the equivalent in relief of a perfect game.10
A degenerative condition in Napoli’s hips had seemingly jeopardized his career during the 2012-2013 offseason, but the 31-year-old slugger had emerged as a middle-of-the-lineup force in his first season with the Red Sox.11 His game-tying blast in the seventh was his third grand slam of the 2013 season, following bases-loaded homers at Fenway Park on April 22 against the Oakland Athletics and at Yankee Stadium on June 1 against Hughes. The last Red Sox player to hit three grand slams in a season was none other than Babe Ruth, who had hit four of them in 1919.12
The Red Sox won the Saturday afternoon game, scoring 13 runs. Three of them were driven in by Napoli, who homered twice. On Sunday afternoon, Middlebrooks led off the ninth and homered off Rivera, tying the game, 3-3, but the Yankees broke the tie and won in the bottom of the ninth.13
At the end of the weekend series, the Red Sox led the Rays by 7½ games in the AL East. The Yankees were 10 back and trailed four clubs in the wild-card race.
The Red Sox and Yankees had one more series left on the schedule, a three-game set at Fenway Park a week later. In the Friday night game of that series, played on September 13, it was another grand slam, hit in the bottom of the seventh inning by Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, that broke a 4-4 tie and led to a Red Sox win. Boston swept that series and won 13 of 19 games against the Yankees in 2013.
This article was fact-checked by Bruce Slutsky and copy-edited by Len Levin.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 Pettitte finished his 18-season career with 2,020 strikeouts in 15 seasons as a Yankee and 2,448 strikeouts overall. As of 2023, it remained a club record; Whitey Ford is second with 1,956 strikeouts.
2 It was Gardner’s 10th and final triple of the season, a total that led the AL in 2013.
3 With his home run, Middlebrooks had homered three games in a row. After going homerless in the next day’s game, he hit another one in the series finale on September 8.
4 David Waldstein, “Lead Vanishes; So Does Some Hope,” New York Times, September 7, 2013: D1.
5 Video shows it was a ball that could have been caught, and the accompanying broadcast reflected that: “Ichiro back. This will stay in the yard. And it won’t stay in the yard! It’s gone! Ichiro can’t catch it and it’s off the top of the wall and outta here. Grand slam, and we’re tied at 8. Ichiro was moving back like he had it under control. He had nothing under control.” Game Highlights, “9/6/13: Red Sox Use Late Homers to Rally Against Yanks,” YouTube video (MLB.com), 2:41, accessed January 6, 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW1B-5AZq4E.
7 Logan had injured his elbow and didn’t pitch again until September 24.
8 Daley had worked out of the Colorado Rockies bullpen for three years, 2009-2011, appearing in 92 games with a 4.71 ERA. The Yankees had signed him as a free agent and he’d spent the year in the minors until called up for this, his first appearance in an American League game.
9 The Yankees had scored eight runs in each of their last two games and lost both times. The Associated Press said that the last time this had happened to them at home was in 1911, at the hands of the Cleveland Naps. Mike Fitzpatrick (Associated Press), “Red Sox Storm Past NY,” Naples (Florida) Daily News, September 7, 2013: 7C.
10 Uehara’s streak extended to 37 batters in a row retired without a man reaching base, brought to an end by a triple by Baltimore’s Danny Valencia on September 17 at Fenway Park. Through the 2022 season, the record for consecutive batters retired is 46, set by Yusmeiro Petit of the San Francisco Giants in 2014. Dayn Perry, “Giants’ Yusmeiro Petit Sets MLB Record for Consecutive Batters Retired.” CBSSports.com, August 28, 2014, https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/giants-yusmeiro-petit-sets-mlb-record-for-consecutive-batters-retired/. Uehara set a Red Sox franchise record with a streak of 30⅓ consecutive scoreless innings running from July 8 to September 13.
11 It was one that cost him millions of dollars. Peter Abraham reported that he had signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox in December 2012, but when the condition was discovered, he settled instead for a one-year deal at $5 million with up to $8 million in incentives. Peter Abraham, “Sox Find Their Comfort Level,” Boston Globe, September 7, 2013: C1. After this September 6 game, he quoted Napoli: “Some days I feel good. But some days I have some problems running. I have to be careful with how I flex my foot. But I feel comfortable at the plate. That’s the biggest thing.” Napoli did play in 139 games in 2013, homered 23 times, and drove in 92 runs. Surely he earned his incentives. He played 1½ more years with the Red Sox but his production fell off in the latter two seasons.
12 One of the four was against the Yankees, on June 30, 1919, in the first game of a doubleheader.
13 Ichiro Suzuki hit a one-out single off Brandon Workman, stole second, went to third on a fly ball by Vernon Wells, and then scored on a wild pitch, Workman’s first pitch to Soriano.