We get it. It was a joke. There are no such things as curses.
But since John Henry put those 13 characters on Twitter -- 'The MT Curse? -- back on June 11 of last season after a Red Sox win over New York, things haven't been the same between the Yankees and Sox. And, like it or not, whenever there is any kind of seismic shift between these two teams, and the word 'curse' inhabits the outset of the change, eyebrows are going to be raised.
All Saturday's 14-3 Yankees win over the Red Sox did was offer another reminder -- Mark Teixeira is potentially the single biggest difference-maker in this rivalry since (gulp) Babe Ruth. As hyperbolic as that may sound, the past, present and future make it a very realistic proposition.
First, the present.
Teixeira hit three home runs Saturday, impressive (even if the last one came off of outfielder Jonathan Van Every) if nothing else because no other Yankee had accomplished the feat against the Red Sox other than Lou Gehrig, who did back on June 23, 1927.
The homers went a long way to putting the Yankees at 21-8 -- riding a six-game win streak -- while dropping the Red Sox to 15-16, a mark they hadn't seen to begin a season since 1997.
Also, for some salt in the wounds, it just so happens that the player who is here because Teixeira is not, third baseman Adrian Beltre, continued his head-scratching defensive play in the loss, making his seventh error of the season while not getting to a few other grounders that a defensive player of his reputation would be expected to reach. And he went hitless (0-4) for just the sixth time this season.
Now, for some past.
This is what has happened since the Red Sox principal owner's fun on Twitter:
- The Yankees have won 13 of the teams' last 15 meetings.
- Red Sox pitchers have compiled a 6.97 ERA while allowing the Yanks hitters hit .319. On the flip side, the Sox have hit just .238.
- The Yankees have outscored the Red Sox, 110-64, during the stretch.
- Also, in the 15 games of this run Teixeira has hit .338 with a .434 on-base percentage, .662 slugging percentage, and six home runs.
- Oh, and the Yankees won a World Series.
Finally, and most importantly, about the future.
It really doesn't matter what has happened, because what is done is done. The meeting in Texas between Teixeira and his agent, Scott Boras, didn't go well, the Yankees offered more money, and New York ended up with its middle-of-the-order first baseman for the next seven seasons.
The question is whether or not the Red Sox can ever find a way to reverse this social media-induced curse.
Taking stock of this Teixeira-less Red Sox team, it is clear that regardless of its top-of-the-rotation pitching, the Sox aren't striking fear in the hearts of the teams that matter. In the five games vs. the Yankees this season -- of which the Sox have just the one win, coming on Opening Night -- the Red Sox have been outscored 40-20. Against the other team atop the American League East, Tampa Bay, the Sox are 0-4, having allowed 24 runs while only scoring nine.
In case you lost your abacus, that has the Red Sox going 1-9 while being outscored 64-29 against the two teams they are held up against. Also, Sox hitters are batting .233 against the pitchers from New York and Tampa Bay.
Would Teixeira have made a difference? Put it this way, he couldn't hurt.
Victor Martinez is a good hitter, as his third-inning home run suggested. But right now he and Kevin Youkilis don't offer the kind of difference-making presence a Teixeira-Youkilis combination would supply. (And, yes, I know the Yankees' first baseman is currently hitting just .207.)
Sure, there is the prospect of adding an Adrian Gonzalez. But not only are there no guarantees of Red Sox landing the Padre, and with San Diego carrying the best record in the National League the timetable for any such maneuver would appear to be altered from the original blueprint. And, unlike Teixeira, this player is going to cost more than money … a lot more.
It was thought that the true loss of Teixeira wouldn't truly hit the Red Sox until three years down the road. And while last season's affect is debatable -- David Ortiz did have comparable numbers from June 5 until the end of the regular season, totaling more homers and a better slugging percentage than Teixeira -- there is no argument about the current hit taken.
The combination of Ortiz, Beltre, Martinez and Mike Lowell (all players who might or might not be with the Red Sox if Teixeira was in the fold) has left the Red Sox with as much uncertainty as offensive punch. What the first baseman has allowed the Yankees is lock-solid certainty through the year 2016.
The Red Sox can still win, even with the group currently constructed. They talk about simply getting players to play to their levels and that will cure a lot of what ails them. The problem comes if they get to that ledge and find the Yankees, Teixeira, and the Rays are still looking down at them.
What we do know is that because Teixeira is wearing pinstripes finding the solution is going to be a bit more difficult. Besides, nobody knows how hard it is to break 'curses' than the Red Sox.
LIKE OLD TIMES FOR VAN EVERY
Van Every was quite the pitcher for the University Christian School in Madison, Miss., and did his best to continue that progression while at Itawamba Community College.
But it wasn't until he major leagues that the 30-year-old truly made his mark on the mound.
He was first reunited with the pitching rubber in a game against the Rays on April 30, 2009, in which he allowed a walk and a hit in 2/3 innings. Then came Saturday, which provided next level kind of challenge.
With the Sox trailing by 10, Van Every was asked by pitching coach John Farrell prior to the eighth inning to warm up. A little while later he was facing at least two potential Hall of Famers. Sporting a high 70's fastball, Van Every allowed a Derek Jeter, struck out Brett Gardner looking, and allowed Teixeira's two-run homer before closing out the outing by retiring pinch-hitter Kevin Russo (fly out) and Robinson Cano (ground out).
"I threw as an outfielder on the mound," he explained. "You can look at mechanics and see they're not that good."
Van Every became the first position player to pitch for the Red Sox since catcher Dusty Brown performed the task last Sept. 30. He joined David McCarty, George Schmees, Eddie Lake,and Henry Eibel as the only position players to ever make multiple pitching performances. Lake (July 16, 1944) was the only one to do it against the Yankees.
The impetus for the appearance was an attempt to save the Red Sox' bullpen which saw Manny Delcarmen pitch an inning, Scott Schoeneweis face 11 batters and Daniel Bard go up against four Yankees hitters in getting one out.
Ramon Ramirez also threw two pitches -- the second, an 85 mph changeup, getting deposited in the right field seats by Teixeira -- before leaving with tightness in his right triceps.
“I thought it was necessary,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “I thought it’ll help us win tomorrow. That was the idea.”
MATSUZAKA LIKES FASTBALL, NOT RELIEVING
Speaking before the Red Sox’ game against the Yankees Saturday afternoon Daisuke Matsuzaka said that despite two subpar pitching lines he is happy with the quality of his pitches thus far in his first two starts, specifically identifying his fastball as encouraging.
“When it comes to the fastball it’s really in the best place it’s been since I’ve arrived here,” Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. “It’s a little frustrating to know how good my fastball is right now and not see the results I would like to see coming out of it. It’s all about not necessarily the pitches themselves, but how I go about using them.
Matsuzaka, who has allowed 12 runs over his 10 innings of work (all but one coming in two separate innings), has produced similar velocity on his fastball compared to his previous three seasons with the Red Sox, averaging 91.9 mph on the pitch (according to Fangraphs.com). He had been clocked at 100 mph once in the 2004 Olympics.
“The pitches themselves aren’t really that bad. I think it’s a matter of approach and figuring out what situations I need to improve in,” he said. “If you want to talk about the results or the performances, not at this point am I happy with them.”
In regards to the prospects of working out of the bullpen if the Red Sox ever decided to go that route, Matsuzaka explained that because of his inexperience in the role it might not be ideal. That last time he pitched out of the bullpen was in the 2004 Japan Series, coming on in relief after starting the previous game.
“I just have so little experience pitching in relief I just don’t know how long it would take me to get loose, I think it would be very hard to judge initially,” Matsuzaka said. “For that reason if you were to throw me in the bullpen right now I wouldn’t make that great of a relief pitcher.
“If that was to happen I think I would take whatever steps necessary to get prepared. I think it would really depend on the situation how I would be able to make that mental adjustment going into the game. For example — if it was a situation where if I allowed any more of these runners to score and it will affect the outcome of the game if I hold these hitters, if it’s a big situation like that and I’m able to feel that adrenaline, that’s something you don’t really get to experience as a starting pitcher. If that was a case than I think I would able to make the proper mental adjustments.”
Matsuzaka also spoke on the differences of pitching with a better conditioned body, having lost 10 pounds since the beginning of last season.
“When I’m out there moving around I don’t feel any big difference. It’s not like I feel lighter or quicker on my feet out there,” he noted. “But according to my wife when she sees me my movements are a little different.”