NEW YORK — The Red Sox had three rookies in their lineup against the Yankees Tuesday night and will start another, righthander Anthony Ranaudo, against their rivals on Wednesday.
For the last-place Sox, the remaining games in this season are a dress rehearsal for next year with young players in leading roles.
“Our situation isn’t good. Might as well play the kids,” David Ortiz said. “I don’t have time to wait and see if we’re going to be good next season, we need to see what they can do.”
A 9-4 victory against the Yankees proved even meaningless games in September can be intriguing and bring hope to an aging designated hitter.
Xander Bogaerts, a star prospect searching for his identity as a player, had his first four-hit game. He doubled, homered, and drove in two runs.
Mookie Betts, another 21-year-old, was 3 for 5 with a home run and a leaping catch in center field.
“Those guys make me smile. We need to see that,” Ortiz said.
Joe Kelly, one of the players acquired at the trade deadline to help rebuild the roster, pitched into the seventh inning for his first win with the Sox. He allowed three runs and struck out six in his first career start against the Yankees.
The Sox also punched another hole in New York’s playoff chances. The 70-66 Yankees have lost three straight and are five games out in the American League wild-card race with 26 games left.
Sox manager John Farrell said before the game that ruining the season for the Yankees is not necessarily a motivator.
“We always know that there’s an added level of attention given to our series. Unfortunately we’re not in the position they are,” he said. “We’re gathering as much information as we can on our own guys.”
For Betts, the data is trending the right way. He is 17 of 54 (.315) over 15 games since his most recent call-up with seven extra-base hits, eight RBIs, and nine runs.
“Just being around, being in the atmosphere, you eventually settle in,” Betts said. “Having the opportunity to play and play more is helpful.”
Betts made an airborne play near in the wall in center field in the fourth inning to take extra bases away from Mark Teixeira. A second baseman in the minors, his improvement in center is hard to miss.
“That’s the fun part. When those opportunities happen I try to take advantage of it and make those catches,” Betts said.
Bogaerts is 7 of 13 in the last three games with four extra-base hits. After what has been a numbing three-month slump, he is again showing his potential.
“It’s a happy day. Big night tonight for me to contribute to a W,” he said. “I’m just working with the hitting coaches and trying to get my comfort zone back. Trying to feel comfortable with what I’m doing at the plate. Not do too much and just let it go.”
Yankees starter Shane Greene (4-2) lasted only 2⅔ innings. He allowed six runs.
Betts singled in the first inning before Ortiz walked. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a double to left field to drive in Betts.
It was the 24th RBI in 29 games with the Red Sox for Cespedes. He is 14 of 35 with runners in scoring position since his acquisition from Oakland.
Mike Napoli’s fly ball to shallow center field was enough for Ortiz to tag up and score against the weak arm of Jacoby Ellsbury.
Cespedes started the third inning with a single and Napoli drew a walk. Daniel Nava connected on a fastball and drove it deep into the bleachers in right field for his third home run, the first in 245 at-bats since April 15.
With two outs, Bogaerts connected to right center. Betts homered leading off the fourth inning against Esmil Rogers. It was his fourth, the third in the last eight games.
Cespedes tripled and scored on another Napoli sac fly in the ninth inning. Bogaerts then singled in a run. The Sox had 12 hits against six Yankees pitchers.
Kelly (1-1) retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. The only exception was a home run by Martin Prado in the third inning.
Ahead, 7-1, Kelly was in command. He then lost command of his fastball in the fifth inning as the Yankees scored two runs.
“I felt myself rushing, jumping off the mound a little bit. I was getting really, really frustrated with myself,” Kelly said.
Carlos Beltran led off with a single. Brian McCann then beat a defensive shift with a perfect bunt down the third-base line.
Prado hit the ball hard again, driving it to left field. The ball got over the head of Cespedes but Beltran and McCann moved up only one base, waiting to see if Cespedes caught the ball.
Prado was not paying attention and advanced to second. The Red Sox caught him going back to first.
Kelly walked Chase Headley and Francisco Cervelli on 11 pitches to force in a run.
Kelly went to the windup and Ellsbury lined to shortstop for the second out before Derek Jeter grounded to shortstop.
Umpire Tim Welke called Jeter out on a close play. Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged the call, which was quickly (and correctly) overturned.
Kelly ended the inning by striking out Brett Gardner looking on a fastball that was well off the outside corner but framed nicely by David Ross. Gardner spiked his helmet and was ejected by umpire Tim Timmons.
Kelly recovered and got into the seventh inning. Lefthander Tommy Layne, a reliable late-inning option in recent weeks, retired four of the five batters he faced.