NEW YORK — Clay Buchholz has never pitched well against the Yankees and over the last two seasons, it has taken him several weeks to get into any sort of rhythm on the mound.
But the Red Sox righthander felt confident when he took the mound at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night, even in winter-like conditions.
Buchholz had pitched extraordinarily well in spring training and knew he was facing a Yankees lineup missing Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez.
If ever there was a chance to put two bothersome issues to rest, this night was it.
Buchholz made good on the opportunity, allowing one run over seven innings as the new-look Sox beat the Yankees, 7-4.
The Red Sox are 2-0 for the first time since 1999, when they started with five consecutive victories under Jimy Williams. The Sox went to the American League Championship Series that season.
For now the John Farrell-led Sox would settle for a sweep of the Yankees. Ryan Dempster will face Andy Pettitte Thursday night.
The Sox have scored 15 runs on 26 hits in their first two games. They scored 18 runs in the eight-game losing streak that ended last season.
“It’s two games of the season. But, hey, it’s a positive start for us,” said Shane Victorino, who had two hits and drove in a run. “It’s always good to start like that.”
Buchholz was 2-5 with a 7.19 earned run average in nine career starts against the Yankees. But this time he scattered six hits, walked two, and struck out four.
“First start of year, get it out of the way. Especially here,” Buchholz said. “Pitching against this team; it’s never an easy task coming in here and throwing to these guys.”
It was 43 degrees when the game started and dropped seven degrees over the course of nine innings. Buchholz stayed loose by throwing in the batting cage behind the dugout while his teammates were at the plate.
“It was cold, man. It’s probably the coldest I’ve been while I was pitching,” Buchholz said.
Buchholz was working on a two-hit shutout before Travis Hafner hit a solo home run in the fourth inning. But the Red Sox had already built a 6-0 lead by that point.
Buchholz held the Yankees down from there. The conditions made it difficult to command his curveball, but he compensated with two-seam fastballs inside to lefthanded hitters and changeups to righthanders.
“Under the conditions, under the circumstances, he did an outstanding job and continued to put up zeroes when we did score,” Farrell said.
Said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “That’s a different [Yankees] lineup than we’re used to, a lot of new faces. It’s kind of a feel thing. But Buck’s going to go out there and pitch his game and that’s what he did.”
Trailing, 7-1, after seven innings, the Yankees got a three-run homer by Vernon Wells in the eighth inning off Alfredo Aceves. Joel Hanrahan closed out the Yankees for his first save as the Red Sox closer.
With the exception of Will Middlebrooks, every Red Sox starter had at least one hit. Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, and Dustin Pedroia each had two hits and one RBI.
Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. had his first career hit, a single in the third that drove in a run. He has been on base five times in his first 10 plate appearances.
“It’s a big thrill. You always want to get the first one out of the way. I’m glad I did it,” Bradley said. “It was a big opportunity right there and I got an RBI out of it, too. It was pretty sweet.”
The ball was tossed into the Red Sox dugout and ended up on the shelf in Bradley’s locker. He didn’t know it was there until a reporter pointed it out.
“There it is,” said Bradley, whose parents were at the game. “I didn’t even know. It snuck up there.”
The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and could have had more against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda.
Nava, batting second against a righthander, singled with one out. Singles by Pedroia and Saltalamacchia scored Nava.
The game changed in the top of the second when Victorino led off with a line drive up the middle. Kuroda stuck his right hand up instinctively and the ball ticked off the top of his middle finger.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and head athletic trainer Steve Donahue came out to check on Kuroda. He threw a few practice pitches and stayed in the game.
That proved to be a mistake as three of the next four batters reached base and the Sox scored another run.
Kuroda hit Bradley with a pitch. Jose Iglesias failed to get a bunt down twice then hit a swinging bunt in front of the plate. Victorino was thrown out at third.
But Jacoby Ellsbury walked on four pitches to load the bases. Kuroda then hit Nava with his second pitch to force in a run. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild went to the mound to visit Kuroda then called for the trainers. That was the end of his night.
The Yankees announced that Kuroda had a bruise. X-rays were negative.
The Red Sox scored four runs against Cody Eppley in the third.
Saltalamacchia had a one-out single and took second on a wild pitch. He scored on a single by Victorino. After Victorino stole second, Bradley drove him in. Iglesias followed with a double down the line in left, sending Bradley to third.
Eppley was lifted and Ellsbury singled to center off Adam Warren to drive in two runs and make it 6-0. Ellsbury has four RBIs in two games.
The Sox were 0-6 to start the 2011 season and 1-5 in 2012.
“I’ll tell you what, 2-0 feels a lot better than 0-2,” Saltalamacchia said.