It was a game that the Red Sox definitely had to have.
So when things became a little heated in the 10th inning between manager Bobby Valentine and plate umpire Brian O’Nora that became a gesture widely appreciated inside the Red Sox clubhouse.
Whether it is a catalyst for the next two month remains a mystery, but for the last two nights at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox displayed the urgency that many have wondered about for most of the first three months of this season.
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Just like Saturday, Pedro Ciriaco provided the big hit, taking advantage of a drawn-in infield to bloop a single into shallow right field off David Robertson with one out in the top of the 10th to give the Red Sox a 3-2 win over the Yankees.
“We’ll take bloops,” Valentine said. “We need them.”
In the moments preceding Ciriaco’s 11th hit in 22 at-bats against Yankee pitching in the last three weeks, Valentine was tossed by O’Nora after Will Middlebrooks’ bunt attempt was not ruled a hit-by-pitch even though replays seemed to indicate the ball deflected off the rookie’s wrist.
The play also briefly knocked O’Nora to the ground and when he got up, he was greeted by Valentine. Valentine was not pleased when O’Nora told him the play had been heard and not seen.
“That’s what I take exception with,” Valentine said. “No one saw anything. He just heard it. What are you going to do? I’m not going to say anything that’s going to get me fined anymore.”
By the time Valentine exited the dugout, he heard Middlebrooks keep the inning going with a single up the middle. Two batters later, Ciriaco lifted a first pitch fastball out of the reach of any Yankee.
“They were playing the infield in, so I just kind of saw a high pitch something I can drive,” Ciriaco said.
“It’s tough but it’s part of the game,” Robertson said. “I made a good pitch, but he hit it where no one could catch it. It’s a tough break.”
The Red Sox moved back to the .500 mark (51-51) and gained a game in the wild-card race. They are now four games behind the Athletics and Angels, but also have four other teams to contend with.
“We’re playing good baseball,” Middlebrooks said. “We’ve had a couple of gut-check games. It’s always good when the manager has your back. He knew it hit me. He was just doing his job.”
Also doing their job was the pitching staff, which featured Felix Doubront throwing 6 1/3 gutty innings. Doubront, who pitched a shutout after allowing a first-inning three-run home run to Mark Teixeira three weeks ago, did the same until the seventh when Russell Martin hit a solo home run.
Before that, he held the Yankees to two Nick Swisher singles while working around five walks. He made his most impressive pitches in a stretch of the fifth and sixth innings when he struck out Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Teixeira and Robinson Cano swinging.
“That was fun,” Doubront said. “I never heard [the crowd]. I wasn’t scared. I just wanted to get the job done.”
Andrew Miller also got the job done, needing just three pitches to retire Granderson and Teixeira in the seventh.
Alfredo Aceves overcame his fifth blown save to pitch 2 1/3 innings. He gave up a game-tying hit to Martin in the eighth, but polished off Boston’s biggest win to date by winning a nine-pitch battle with Raul Ibanez.
“We basically have two months of playoff baseball left,” Adrian Gonzalez said. “We’re going to try to make it happen that way. Guys are stepping in and stepping up. It’s awesome.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.