Matsui lifts Yanks over Red Sox

FENWAY FUN:: New York batters attacked Boston starter Brad Penny and reliever Michael Bowden, with Hideki Matsui alone driving in seven runs in a 20-11 mauling


Sun, Aug 23, 2009 - Page 19

The cacophony of Fenway Park has never bothered Hideki Matsui. He loves it there, whether playing in front of the Green Monster, as he once did, or watching from the bench as the designated hitter. Matsui is at home at the home of the Boston Red Sox.

“I like the ballpark, I like the atmosphere, and there’s no doubt the fans are very passionate here,” Matsui said late on Friday, through an interpreter. “It elevates my concentration level for some reason.”

Matsui was locked in on Friday, just like the rest of the Yankees hitters. They rapped 23 hits around Fenway, finding nearly every crevice of the 97-year-old shrine. Only Matsui homered, connecting twice and driving in seven runs in a 20-11 mauling by the Yankees. Matsui is a .337 career hitter in Boston.

The Yankees have won 26 of 34 games since the All-Star break, storming past the sagging Red Sox in the American League East. They boosted their division lead to seven-and-a-half games, humbling a Red Sox team that is 15-18 since the break.

“I think, plain and simple, we got our butts beat pretty good,” Boston’s Mike Lowell said, adding later: “We didn’t really have a chance today.”

The Yankees had not scored 20 runs against the Red Sox since 2000, and the 31 combined runs were the most in a game between the teams. The Yankees had not collected 23 hits against Boston since June 6, 1934, a year Lou Gehrig won the batting title.

Derek Jeter — a team captain like Gehrig — needs only 22 hits to match Gehrig’s team record of 2,721. Jeter is gaining ground quickly. He led off Friday’s game with a ground-rule double and added two more hits, improving to 19 for 36 on the Yankees’ trip.

“He just keeps going,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s really ignited our offense on this road trip. He’s in some kind of streak.”

Of course, the Yankees have recent happy memories of games against Boston. They swept the Red Sox in four games at Yankee Stadium from Aug. 6 to Aug. 9, winning the first one by 13-6. That night, they manhandled John Smoltz, who was cut the next day. This time, the victim was Brad Penny.

Penny, who rarely deviated from throwing his fastball on Friday, has one victory in his last 11.

If Penny played the part of the hopeless starter, Michael Bowden played the hapless reliever.

The first batter he faced was Matsui, who drove in Penny’s last two runners with a three-run homer to right in the fifth. That finished Penny’s line: four-plus innings, 10 hits, eight earned runs.

It was Matsui’s 20th homer, and in the seventh, Alex Rodriguez tripled for his fourth hit. It was Rodriguez’s first triple in more than three years, and he scored on a groundout by Matsui.

Facing Ramon Ramirez in the ninth, Matsui hooked another three-run homer down the right-field foul line. It sent Matsui rifling through his mental scrapbook.

When was the last time he drove in seven runs?

“I don’t remember,” Matsui said. “Perhaps, maybe the last time was high school.”

In other MLB action it was:

• Rays 5, Rangers 3

• Blue Jays 5, Angels 4

• Tigers 3, Athletics 2

• Mariners 9, Indians 4

• Orioles 5, White Sox 1

• Twins 5, Royals 4, 10 inns

• Giants 6, Rockies 3

• Dodgers 2, Cubs 1

• Marlins 5, Braves 3

• Mets 4, Phillies 2

• Padres 4, Cardinals 0

• Astros 1, Diamondbacks 0

• Brewers 7, Nationals 3

• Pirates 5, Reds 2