NEW YORK — There were bountiful empty seats at Yankee Stadium for Friday night’s game against the Red Sox and it likely had little to do with the heavy rain that started falling in the first inning.
The best rivalry in baseball is bereft of much buzz these days. The Yankees are preparing for the postseason and the Red Sox for another tumultuous offseason. Their games, once heavyweight fights, are just another date crossed off the schedule.
“It’s a little different,” Yankees first baseman Nick Swisher said. “They’re going through their problems and we’re just trying to do our thing. A different feeling, for sure.”
Swisher punched the clock with two of the five solo home runs hit by the Yankees as they beat the Red Sox, 6-4.
That’s seven losses in the last 10 games for the Red Sox, who trail the Yankees by a whopping 13½ games in the American League East.
The Yankees have taken seven of the 10 games between the teams this season and 10 of 14 going back to last season. History says the teams are rivals; the results suggest otherwise.
For a two-run game that featured six home runs, it was rather uneventful. The Sox took a 4-3 lead with four runs in the third inning, three on a home run by Dustin Pedroia, then were held scoreless over the final six innings by Phil Hughes (12-10) and two relievers.
Yankees pitchers retired 14 of the final 15 Red Sox who came to the plate. That allowed the game to finish in a tidy 2 hours, 49 minutes.
“We kind of let Hughes off the hook,” Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. “We have him a couple of innings where we hit some balls real early in the count.”
Franklin Morales (3-4) has been a surprisingly effective starter for the Sox this season, just not against the Yankees.
The lefthander lasted 5⅓ innings, giving up five runs on six hits. Four were solo home runs by Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, and Derek Jeter.
In two starts against the Yankees, Morales has allowed 11 earned runs on 12 hits — eight of them home runs — over 8⅔ innings.
It started in the first inning Friday when Swisher homered to left field. Granderson and Martin then connected back-to-back in the second inning, each hitting the second pitch of the at-bat over the easy-to-reach fence in right field.
Granderson, who has 31 homers, was the first lefthanded batter to hit a home run against Morales this season.
Down 3-0, the Sox scored four runs in the third inning. Mike Aviles singled and took third when Hughes fielded a ball hit back to the mound by Scott Podsednik and fired it into center field. The ball appeared to slip out of the pitcher’s hand in the heavy rain that was falling at the time.
Pedro Ciriaco grounded into a force play at second base that scored Aviles. Ciriaco has seven RBIs in six games against the Yankees.
After Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk, Pedroia celebrated his 29th birthday with a line-drive home run into the stands in left field. That extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
Pedroia and Ted Williams share the distinction of hitting home runs on their birthday in three separate seasons. Pedroia has 10 home runs this season.
The 4-3 lead appeared to rejuvenate Morales. He sailed through the third and fourth innings and retired the first two batters of the fifth before Jeter came to the plate.
Jeter pulled a 3-and-1 slider just inside the foul pole in left field for his 10th home run of the season and the 250th of his career. The historic blast also gave the Yankees 10 players with at least 10 home runs, tying a franchise record first set in 1998.
“I always hear I don’t hit home runs,” Jeter said. “In my mind, 250 is a lot.”
Morales has allowed nine home runs in 43 innings as a starter, all but one against the Yankees.
“I tried to go after them and it didn’t work out,” he said. “That’s how I pitch. But they’re a good team.”
The Yankees took a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning.
Casey McGehee and Granderson had singles, the first hits allowed by Morales that weren’t home runs. With runners on first and third, reliever Clayton Mortensen struck out Martin for the second out. But Jayson Nix flicked a single down the line in right field to drive in McGhee.
The lead grew to 6-4 in the seventh when Swisher, batting lefthanded this time, homered to right-center off Clayton Mortensen. It marked the 12th time in his career that Swisher homered from both sides of the plate in the same game; the career leader is Mark Teixeira with 13.
The Yankees have hit 186 homers, the most in the majors.
“That’s the way they live and they had a bunch of them tonight,” Valentine said,
David Robertson pitched an eventful eighth inning for the Yankees. With one out, Crawford hit the ball sharply back to the mound. The ball deflected off Robertson’s leg and rolled all the way to right field for a double.
Pedroia was next and hit a towering fly ball to the gap in left field. Granderson raced over and caught the ball at the base of the fence.
Pedroia, watching the ball all the way as he ran to first base, jumped up in the air when it was caught then spun around in frustration. He thought he had tied the game, but it was only a loud out.
Pedroia walked silently past a group of reporters waiting at his locker after the game.
But the look on his face spoke plenty. It was one of pained disgust.