Mere inches separated Curtis Granderson and the Yankees from possibly winning another game over the Red Sox.
Granderson badly misplayed a flyball by Pedro Ciriaco in the ninth and the Yankees were handed an 8-6 loss to the Red Sox Saturday night in a game that started two hours late due to rain.
With one out, Granderson was playing slightly shallow for Ciriaco, who had lined two singles to right field. When Ciriaco got a hold of Rafael Soriano’s fastball, the ball quickly headed towards center field.
Granderson did not get a good read on it. He took a slight step in and then had to back track and when he finally caught up with the ball, it slipped out of his grasp and Jacoby Ellsbury scored the go-ahead run from first base. It was just the Yankees’ second defeat in eight games with the Red Sox.
“I broke in for it at first,” Granderson said. “I didn’t think it was hit as hard as it was and when I tried to go back, I just fell into [it].
“Who knows why I didn’t the best jump on the ball? He hadn’t hit the ball that way all night, so that could have been a part of it. It got up. It a got a little bit further. I just couldn’t get to it.”
Had he made the play, it would have preserved a 6-6 tie.
“Weird plays happen,” Mark Teixeira said. “Curtis is a Gold Glove-caliber defender. Just right off the bat, he didn’t see it off the bat. It happens. Unfortunately it was in a big spot. Curtis has saved us so many runs over the last few years. Stuff like this happens.”
“What I saw was he came in one step and then he went back,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He got turned around a little bit. It was a shame that it happened, but it is part of the game.”
Also part of the game was an inevitable encounter between Teixeira and Vicente Padilla in the eighth. Three weeks ago, Teixeira hit a go-ahead triple off Padilla and Boston’s eighth-inning setup man sparked a verbal battle by saying his former Texas teammate wronged Latin American players when they played together.
Teixeira won the battle again by hitting a two-run home run into the right field seats. Although it was fair by about 25 or 30 feet, Teixeira seemed to admire the blast by staring at the ball for a few seconds before slowly jogging to first base to start his home run trot.
With a straight face, Teixeira said that he did not want to exert much energy if the ball went foul.
“It felt good,” Teixeira said. “I just wanted to make sure it was fair. The balls have been hooking a lot tonight. Curtis hit a real good hook and I didn’t want to waste a lot of energy running out of the box. If that ball goes foul, it’s been a long day, but it felt good.”
“I think the last at-bat in Boston it was different. It was another at-bat. I’ve got Robby Cano behind me. He’s not going to want to mess around there so just get a good pitch to hit and do some damage.”
The Yankees did not do much off Boston starter Jon Lester. They scored three times off him in the fifth, but to his credit Lester shook off the rally by striking out Granderson, Teixeira and Cano on 13 pitches.
The version of Lester the Yankees encountered Saturday looked similar at times to the one who pitched a five-hit shutout at old Yankee Stadium four years ago. He allowed just two hits through four innings and occasionally hit 95 mph, doing all of that with a nice cushion after the Red Sox scored three times in the first off CC Sabathia.
Sabathia would have fallen to 1-5 against the Red Sox over his last six starts if not for Teixeira’s home run. But he was still disappointed in allowing six runs and eight hits in six innings, including a three-run home run to Adrian Gonzalez in the fifth.
“It’s tough to be not able to go out and pitch the way you want,” Sabathia said.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.