NEW YORK — Grady Sizemore and CC Sabathia were the young stars of the Cleveland Indians a decade ago, the kind of players who made it possible to compete against big-market monsters like the Red Sox and Yankees.
Sabathia became too expensive not to trade and eventually settled in New York with a contract befitting his stardom. Sizemore stayed behind and prospered before numerous injuries drove him out of baseball for two years.
Sizemore returned this season, making a comeback with the Red Sox. For the first time in nearly three years, the old friends faced each other Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
“CC was a great teammate and a good friend,” Sizemore said before the game. “Looking forward to facing him again.”
For Sizemore, it was a reunion to remember. His three-run homer in the sixth inning was the difference as the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 4-2, before a crowd of 44,121.
Jonny Gomes also homered for the Sox. Jon Lester worked into the seventh inning before Junichi Tazawa and unexpected closer Edward Mujica got the final seven outs.
Mujica retired the side in order in the ninth inning for a no-drama first save with the Red Sox.
Koji Uehara, the usual closer, felt discomfort in his shoulder during a pre-game throwing session and was not available.
“We felt it was best to stay away from him, more precautionary,” manager John Farrell said. “This will be a day-to-day type thing.”
Mujica found out just before the national anthem that he would close if needed. Finishing off the Yankees helped atone for allowing four runs in the ninth inning of the home opener and taking the loss a week prior.
“First time facing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium,” Mujica said. “Pretty excited I got the save today. I’ll keep working.”
Lester (1-2) allowed two runs over 6⅔ innings and struck out six. He has won eight games at the new Yankee Stadium, the most among visiting pitchers.
Sabathia (1-2) took the loss, giving up all four runs. The series is 1-1 with two games to play.
Sabathia was working on a one-hit shutout through five innings and had struck out six to that point, setting down the Red Sox with ease despite a fastball that rarely broke 90 mph.
The lefthander is in a transition period at the age of 33, learning to pitch with diminished velocity. But Sabathia was sharp early, especially when tested, as the Red Sox were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the first five innings.
The Red Sox, at that point, had scored five runs on nine hits in their previous 22 innings. Frustration was mounting as they trailed, 1-0.
“CC was kind of cruising,” Sizemore said.
It changed quickly in the sixth inning. Gomes, the unorthodox leadoff hitter, was up first. Sabathia lost his location and left an 89-miles-per-hour fastball down the middle. Gomes lined it over the fence in left field for his first home run.
With one out, David Ortiz checked his swing and hit the ball slowly toward third base. With the Yankees pulled over to the right side in a shift, Ortiz had a rare infield hit.
Mike Napoli followed with a sharp single up the middle. Sizemore was next and he took a slider on the inside corner for a strike before Sabathia came back with the same pitch in the same spot.
This time Sizemore was on the pitch and drove it deep into the seats in right field for a 4-1 lead.
“I was just trying to look for a good pitch. I wasn’t really sitting on anything,” said Sizemore, who had faced Sabathia seven times before Friday. “Just trying to get a ball out over the plate, something good to hit.”
It was the second homer for Sizemore against Sabathia, the last coming in 2009.
“I feel like I let my emotions get the best of me, not being able to concentrate and make a pitch right there,” Sabathia said. “Just hung a breaking ball and he put it in the seats.”
Sizemore was a leadoff hitter for much of time in Cleveland. But outside of two games on top of the order, Farrell has hit him fifth or sixth.
“He profiles a little bit more in the middle of that order,” the manager said. “I’m not saying he won’t find himself in that leadoff spot. But he’s got that ability to drive the ball out of the ballpark.”
Sizemore isn’t focusing on power. Just staying healthy and making consistent contact is enough for now.
“The more I play the better I feel,” he said. “I’m still kind of rusty.”
Sabathia was done after seven innings and 111 pitches. He is 8-8 with a 5.05 earned run average in 21 starts against the Red Sox since joining the Yankees in 2009.
Lester held the Yankees to one run on four hits over the first six innings. The run came in the second inning when Alfonso Soriano led off with a home run down the line in left field. The Yankees were otherwise quiet until the seventh inning.
Ichiro Suzuki singled with two outs before Lester walked Brian Roberts. Kelly Johnson, hitless in 14 career at-bats against Lester, singled to right, driving in Suzuki.
With Lester at 113 pitches, Tazawa came in to face Derek Jeter and got him on a popup to right field.
Lester lost his first two starts despite allowing four earned runs over 14⅓ innings. This time. Sizemore provided enough run support.
“It’s great to see him back. We all know what he did early in his career,” Lester said. “Long road back for him. Obviously everybody in this clubhouse, everybody in baseball I’m sure is glad to see him back playing and being healthy.”
Maybe not quite everybody.
“Me and Grady, we are really close and have been for a long time. That’s what makes it even more frustrating, giving up the home run to him,” Sabathia said. “He got the best of me tonight.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.