NEW YORK — Bobby Valentine sat in the interview room at Yankee Stadium on Friday afternoon and said without the slightest hint of irony that he liked the direction his Red Sox were going in.
General manager Ben Cherington said earlier in the day he couldn’t conceive of a scenario where he would deal off veteran players before Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline. The Sox, he insisted, were focused on the postseason.
Are they watching a different team?
Once the optimistic words stopped and the game started, the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 10-3, before a sold-out crowd of 49,571.
It was an embarrassing performance for the Red Sox, marked by poor pitching and fielding and an approach at the plate that bordered on unprofessional, so quickly were the hitters rushing through at-bats late in the game.
The Red Sox have lost six of seven games, and at 49-51 sit 11½ games behind the Yankees in the American League East, their largest deficit of the season.
They are 1-6 against the Yankees this season with 11 games left against their rivals.
Now the Sox will send struggling Jon Lester to the mound on Saturday afternoon against All-Star CC Sabathia. Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA) allowed 11 runs in his last start and has given up 22 in his last 12⅓ innings.
“We need to get on a roll, and we’ve got to start tomorrow,” right fielder Cody Ross said.
Dustin Pedroia has heard enough talk. The second baseman angrily accused his teammates of not playing the game the right away.
“The first 100 games have been [lousy]. I mean, two games under .500? We’re the Boston Red Sox,” Pedroia said. “If anyone’s thrilled about where we’re at, we need to reevaluate because I don’t like losing. I know everyone else doesn’t like losing.
“We just have to play good. That’s it. We didn’t; their guys did. Late in the game they extended themselves from us. That’s what great teams do.
“We didn’t do anything. Our at-bats later in the game were not good; swinging early in the count. I mean, heck, if their eighth-inning guy is going to come in the game, let’s at least get 25, 30 pitches so maybe he can’t pitch tomorrow, you know? Do something productive, and we’re not doing that. That’s a sign of not a winning team. Those are the little things we need to do better.”
The numbers back Pedroia up. The Red Sox saw 47 pitches over their final 15 at-bats after going down by three runs.
David Robertson, who worked the eighth inning for the Yankees, threw nine pitches. The first two hitters that inning, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, saw three.
Aaron Cook, who pitches to contact with his sinking fastball, was no match for the Yankees at their hitter-friendly ballpark. He lasted four innings and allowed six runs.
It started in the first inning when Curtis Granderson doubled to right field with one out and went to third on a single to right by Robinson Cano.
Cook (2-4) got Mark Teixeira to ground to second base for what should have been an inning-ending double play. But after Pedroia flipped the ball to the shortstop, Mike Aviles was slow making the relay to first base and Teixeira was safe as Granderson scored.
Aviles was shifted to the right side of second base against Teixeira, making it an unusual play. But the ball was hit so sharply that there was time.
Valentine said the play had to be made. Aviles declined comment.
“We have to turn that ball, especially with the team they have, an offense like that,” Pedroia said.
Then the Yankees, as they so often do, punished the opposition for their mistake. When Cook left a 2-and-2 sinker way up in the strike zone, Raul Ibanez lined it into the stands in right field for his 13th home run.
“It was probably the highest pitch I threw all night. He’s had some success off me in the past but I don’t believe he’s ever hit a pitch up there off me,” Cook said. “I missed by 3½ feet.”
Instead of a nine-pitch scoreless inning, the botched double play led to Cook throwing 17 pitches and giving up three runs.
“It was an odd play that happened,” Cook said. “I could have made better pitches moving forward to minimize the damage right here and that’s on me.”
Trailing, 3-2, in the third inning, Cook allowed a leadoff single by Derek Jeter. Granderson followed with a grounder up the middle. Cook missed the ball and a chance to start a double play. Then it rolled past Aviles into center.
Jeter reached third base, never hesitating against the weak arm of Ellsbury. Teixeira came through with a sacrifice fly.
The Yankees went ahead, 6-3, in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by Russell Martin. Granderson delivered the final blow with a grand slam off Mark Melancon in the eighth inning.
The Red Sox hit three solo home runs against Yankees starter Phil Hughes (10-8). Pedroia hit his second home run in as many games in the first inning, a deep shot to left field.
In the third inning, Crawford snapped an 0-for-18 streak with a blast into the second deck in right field. It was his first of the season and his first in 117 at-bats dating to Sept. 3.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia connected against Hughes in the fourth inning. Hughes went seven innings, allowing three runs on five hits.
Valentine, managing his first game in New York since 2002, clung to what is at this point blind faith.
“We’ll turn it around. We’ll get on a good streak. We haven’t had our big streak yet, that’s the good news,” he said.
Valentine was asked what led him to believe that.
“I just believe,” he said.