When the Nail Strikes Back

Everyone knows the saying about the rivalry between the Sox and Yankees being like that of the rivalry between hammer and nail. It’s partly because of this that I’ve always been interested in those games when the nail beat the hammer. Even now that the rivalry has evened, if not swung slightly in the other direction, that interest has yet to fade — probably because I still like the Red Sox and still hate the Yankees, and enjoy reveling in those instances throughout history — rare though they may be — that the Sox have gotten the upper hand.

So if I hadn’t been otherwise occupied last week, I might have mentioned that while Jon Lester’s shutout of the Yanks nowhere near approached the best games ever pitched against the pinstripes (Pedro’s 17-K 1-hitter in 1999, Ray Culp’s 11-K 1-hit shutout in 1968), it was one of only eight complete game shutouts by a Red Sox pitcher who struck out at least eight Yankees since 1956. Limit the hits to five or fewer, and Lester’s was only the seventh in the last 52 years, and the first since Pedro in 2000 four-hit the Yanks.

With yesterday’s demolition of the Twins, the Sox recorded their most hits and largest margin of victory since 2005, when they decimated New York, 17-1. I can honestly say I don’t remember that game. The Red Sox actually beat the Yankees 17-1 twice that year, the most runs the Sox have ever scored against the Yankees in the Retrosheet era. I went back and found the game threads (here’s July 15‘s and here’s the one from May — classy!) How did I forget about these?

Anyway, so as not to make this just a completely nihilistic post, here’s a list of the Top 5 beatdowns the Sox have out on the Yanks over the last 52 years, followed by the corresponding beatdowns the Yanks have laid on the Sox:

  1. The 2005 Twin Killings, May 28 and July 15. The Red Sox still left 13 men on base in May, racking up 27 hits. It should surprise no Yankee fans that Carl Pavano and Paul Quantrill were the chief perpetrators of the massacre. It likely will surprise Sox fans that Matt Clement was the beneficiary — not that he needed it, with his six shutout innings. The Sox were ahead 5-0 in the sixth when Edgar Renteria (grand slam) and Trot Nixon (three-run homer) iced the contest. Both batters finished with 5 RBI. In July, it was Tim Redding, Darrell May and  Jason Anderson giving up 14 runs in the first five innings of the game. May and Anderson would never pitch another game in the majors. The big blow was again provided by Nixon, with a tree-run inside-the-park homer in the second to make it 8-0. David Ortiz also smacked a grand slam in the sixth.
  2. Sept. 1, 1990, 15-1. This was all on Andy Hawkins, who allowed five of the first six batters he faced to score — Ellis Burks and Tom Brunansky each hitting home runs. Still, it was "only" a 5-1 game until the fifth, when Mike Greenwell hit an inside-the-park grand slam on a ball that rattled around Fenway’s right-field corner. Burks later hit another homer and finished with four RBI. Greenwell had five. The loss pushed the seventh-place Yankees 19 games behind Boston, which won its ninth straight. Hawkins fell to 5-11 with a 5.30 ERA while Mike Boddicker on his 14th.
  3. May 9, 2006, 14-3. This opened as a battle between former NL stars who had helped beat the Yankees in recent World Series, Josh Beckett v. Randy Johnson. The Yanks actually took a 2-0 lead on Jason Giambi’s first-inning homer, but the Sox took the lead in the third on an error, wild pitch and single, then jumped away in the fourth on Mark Loretta’s two-run single and Melky Cabrera’s two-run error in right. Alex Gonzalez of all people drove the final nail with a three-run homer off Aaron Small in the fifth.  Every Red Sox batter reached base — even pinch hitters J.T. Snow, Willie Harris and Trot Nixon. Johnson gave up seven runs, but only two were earned.
  4. July 9, 1959, 14-3. Not a great season for either teams. The Yanks were in fourth, the Sox in eighth. Bullet Bob Turley, coming off a 20-win season, fell in a hole after a pair of second-inning solo homers (Vic Wertz and Ted Williams doing the damage) then imploded in the third: groundout, walk, E-6, three-run homer (Bobby Avila), walk, walk, pitching change (Jim Coates), two-run double (Williams), groundout, single, RBI single (Frank Sullivan), RBI single (Don Buddin). Avila added another homer in the fourth. According to WPA, the Sox had a 100 percent chance of winning the game once Jackie Jensen doubled home two runs with two outs in the sixth to make it a 12-3 game. Talk about ugly: The Yankees committed two errors, leading to five unearned runs, and balked home a sixth.
  5. Sept. 21, 1991, 12-1. Joe Hesketh had a great game for the Sox, going eight innings and allowing one run. No Yankee pitcher, startiong with Wade Taylor, had a good game. Each gave up at least one run, and the Red Sox scored in every inning but the first. So there was no big blow in this one. There was Jack Clark’s two-run homer in the third, Jody Reed’s two-run single and Carlos Quintana’s two-run single in the fourth, Phil Plantier’s solo shot in the sixth, and back-to-backers by Plantier and Bob Zupcic in the eighth. Young Mo Vaughn was the only Sox starter unable to reach base.
  6. Sept. 6, 2003, 11-0. The biggest shutout the Sox have posted against the Yanks pitted Tim Wakefield against Roger Clemens. Wakefield was terrific; Clemens was not. It was only a 1-0 game in the fourth, when Clemens came unraveled: Todd Walker single, Nomar homer, Manny single, Ortiz on E-6, Millar RBI single and out advancing, Nixon walk, Mueller RBI single, Mirabelli walk, Damon RBI single, pitching change to Chris Hammond, Walker sac fly. Walker’s eighth-inning three-run homer iced the deal.


  1. June 19, 2000, 22-1. While the three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth Brian Rose allowed were bad enough, nothing could top the amazing eighth inning, in which Rob Stanifer (who?) allowed one earned and eight unearned runs. When Wilton Veras’ error — what would have been thethird out had Nomar not earlier also committed an error — allowed the third run of the inning to score, Renifer self destructed, allowing RBi hits to Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez, then after inducing Derek Jeter to ground out, serving up a three-run homer to Shane Spencer. Tim Wakefield mopped up in the ninth by allowing two more homers and seven more runs. Spencer and Scott Brosius each recorded four RBI, and Spencer fell a single shy of the cycle.
  2. July 2, 1965, 16-2. It was a pretty standard 7-0 shutout entering the eighth, with Mel Stottlemyre throwing a gem for the Yanks and Dave Morehead allowing a three-run dinger to Roger Repoz in the fourth, when Jerry Stephenson was annihilated with two on and two out. He allowed four straight singles, three driving home runs, threw a wild pitch, gave up a two-run double, then watched as Dennis Barrett served up a two-run homer to Elston Howard. That’s six straight hits, scoring eight runs.
  3. Sept. 7, 1978, 15-3. While the score wasn’t the biggest blow in the history of the rivalry, its import certainly was. The struggling Red Sox were leading the Yankees by a mere four games, having lost most of their 14-game July lead over the pinstripes, and hoping to all but seal their entry to the playoffs with a split or even a win of the Fenway series. Instead, they were massacred, 42-9 in the four games, and the series started with Mike Torrez, Andy Hassler, Dick Drago and Bill Campbell having no answer for the blanaced Yankee lineup. Thirteen Yanks got a hit, 14 of 15 reached base, 10 scored runs and nine drove in at least one. Torrez gave up two unearned runs in the first, then allowed four straight hits to open the second. Hassler was no better, allowing two more baserunners before retiring the side, but allowing four more hits for two runs in the third and opening the fourth with two more singles. Drago came on, allowed a two-run single, loaded the bases anew, and Willie Randolph cleared them with a double. Just like that, 12-0 after four innings, and the 1978 season began to crumble away.
  4. July 7, 1961, 14-3. The Red Sox were beginning the post-Williams early 1960s funk that endangered the team’s status in Boston; the Yankees had Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris each challenging Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old home run record. Sox starter Gene Conley was on the tail end of a respectable career, and threw an atrocious game, stranding two in the first but failing to retire any of the seven batters he faced in the second, digging the club a 6-0 hole. Opposing pitcher Bud Daley, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek and Maris all touched him for RBI singles and sent him to the showers. Three more runs in the seventh and an Elston Howard three-run jack in the eighth were the other big blows in the game. Howard finished with two hits, three runs and four RBI.
  5. April 21, 1975, 12-1. An inauspicious start to a memorable year for the Red Sox, as Yankee starter Pat Dopson won his first game of the year with a six-hitter and Spaceman Bill Lee was hammered in the first and fourth innings of this Patriots Day affair. In the first, with runners on the corners and one away, Lee gave up three straight singles, to Thurmon Munson, Alex Johnson and Lou Piniella. Only Piniella’s ill-conceived attempt to tag from first on Greg Nettles’ sacrifice fly limited the damage, the double play ending the inning after Johnson crossed the plate. In the fourth, Lee opened the inning by giving up four straight singles, leading to a run. A double play made it 6-0, but seemed to put Lee in position to get out of it. Instead he gave up another RBI single to Reggie White. He was done. Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t, as Dick Drago allowed three more baserunners and two more runs before retiring Johnson. Munson finished the game with three hits and three RBI. White reached base five times in six appearances, including a home run, and he scored four times.
  6. Sept. 8, 1978, 13-2. Game 2 of the infamous ’78 series was no less ugly for Boston, this time Jim Wright and Tom Burgmeier combining to dig an 8-0 hole entering the third. Bill Lee wound up pitching the final seven innings for the Sox, allowing just one earned run — but five unearned tallies. In fact, the Yankees scored more unearned runs (seven) than earned runs (six). The big hit in this one was Reggie Jackson’s three-run home run in the second to give the Yanks a 7-0 lead.

For the record, the Yankees’ largest shutout of the Red Sox is 10-0, on July 3, 1957, and May 18, 1979.

6 comments… add one
  • “Even now that the rivalry has evened, if not swung slightly in the other direction”
    Oh, you mean based on the 13 straight playoff appearances? Or the 26 world championships?
    Sorry, pops, but you guys have a long way to go before THAT ever happens. And luckily it won’t be in my lifetime.

    A YF July 10, 2008, 6:38 pm
  • Just a great thread, Paul.

    SF July 10, 2008, 8:14 pm
  • Agreed. Awesome work, Paul.

    attackgerbil July 10, 2008, 8:41 pm
  • Paul you never cease to amaze… fantastic post.
    Thankfully the Yankees haven’t laid a smack down on the Sox in a while, so none of the above are in my memories. The two 17-1 games and the 14-3 ones, however, are still fresh. Good times.

    Atheose July 10, 2008, 8:49 pm
  • Great work, Paul (even though SOME folks love to … or maybe are forced to … live in the past. More reasonable people know that what happened 50 years ago might have historic significance but does not speak to the current state of affairs.)
    However, I presume that you did season games and not post-season games, which would explain the absence of the 2004 ALCS Game 3, which laid the foundation for HISTORY.
    Knowing what happened afterward in ’04 brings to mind another thought … I know that in a few of the recent Red Sox beatdowns, the game(s) following usually were somewhat one-sided the other way.

    I'mBillMcNeal July 10, 2008, 9:46 pm
  • The Marlins say their thrashing at the hands of the Red Sox was the turning point of their World Series-winning season. So, yeah, sometimes these games can turn out to be blessings in disguise. I think some of this may be that when you’re being plastered, you’re simply not working as hard as the other team, and may be a little fresher the next day than the guys who have been running around the bases all night.
    The Yanks won Game 3, 19-8, so, you are correct, Bill. That would be tied with the 1961, 1975 and 1978 games.

    Paul SF July 10, 2008, 10:05 pm

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