An afternoon that began with turmoil -- Jason Giambi's visit to 245 Park Ave., Carl Pavano's upcoming one to Dr. James Andrews -- ended in happier fashion. Andy Pettitte whirled seven strong innings and helped pitch the Yankees past the Red Sox, 8-3.
The victory gave the Yankees a series victory over the American League East-leading Red Sox, and though Boston still holds a sizable 9 1/2-game advantage as summer approaches, the sentiment was that the Yankees had passed a test of sorts.
"It's not necessarily a statement to impress the Red Sox," manager Joe Torre said. "It's about us. It's all about what we are capable of doing. Going out and beating the Red Sox two out of three is important for us. It's a building block."
Wearing caps to pay tribute to the victims of last month's tragedy at Virginia Tech, the Yankees rolled to their 21st victory behind a pair of home runs off ineffective Boston starter Curt Schilling. Hideki Matsui blasted a two-run homer in the first inning, and Doug Mientkiewicz contributed a fourth-inning solo shot off the facade of the upper deck in right field.
That was more than enough for Pettitte, who turned in one of his best outings of the year. The left-hander defeated the Red Sox for the first time since returning to the Bronx, limiting Boston to one run -- which scored on Mike Lowell's double in the sixth inning -- and nine hits in a seven-inning performance.
"Andy's been pitching so good all year, and it was great to see us play a full nine innings for him," Mientkiewicz said. "He should have about eight or nine wins right now."
Pettitte walked one and struck out two in the outing, which helped seal the Yankees' first series victory since they swept a three-game set at Texas on May 1-3.
The fact that it came over Boston was simply icing on the cake for the Yankees, who have spent all of one day this month at the .500 mark, never bobbing above it.
"Right now, we don't have a choice," said Alex Rodriguez, who doubled in four trips to the plate. "Every series becomes somewhat of a mini-playoff series. We have to play with that kind of urgency to keep this thing under control."
The victory helped raise the spirits of a club whose media fishbowl swirled a little quicker than usual, but even had Pettitte not pitched well, he said, there was confidence that the season's lights weren't going dark any time soon.
"It was a huge series, there's no doubt," Pettitte said. "It was a big series. But going into it, you just didn't want to look at it that way. You've still got to remember that it's so early, and I just feel like we've got such a good team that we're going to start playing a lot better, and we're going to roll off a lot of wins."
The evening also featured a moment of Yankees history, as Derek Jeter slapped a second-inning single for his 2,215th career hit, passing Joe DiMaggio and moving into fifth place on the team's all-time list. With Jeter tapping first base, the crowd of 55,000 broke into chants of the shortstop's name and offered a standing ovation.
"It's not something that I ever sat down and said, 'This is a goal of mine,' " Jeter said. "I think it just comes with time and playing for a lot of years, I guess."
With Schilling's velocity down from his best games against the Yankees, New York pounced in the first inning. Johnny Damon led off with a double -- the opening of a three-hit night -- and Jeter followed with an RBI single to right, tying DiMaggio in the process.
Matsui celebrated his fifth consecutive game as the Yankees' No. 3 hitter by ripping a two-run line-drive shot to right, his fourth home run of the season.
As right fielder Bobby Abreu deals with his offensive skid, Matsui has picked up the slack, and his contributions have not gone unnoticed.
"Matsui can hit, I don't care where you put him," Jeter said. "When we got him, everyone heard 'Godzilla' and expected that he'd hit home runs. But he hits the ball all over the field in big situations. He does the little things. You can put him anywhere."
The Yankees extended their lead in the third, when Jorge Posada -- who finished the evening tied with Jeter atop the American League batting race, holding identical .367 marks -- came through with a run-scoring hit to right.
Mientkiewicz clubbed his fourth home run of the year in the fourth to complete the scoring against Schilling, who surrendered six runs (five earned) and 12 hits in six innings.
"The bottom line is, I don't think he had his velocity," Mientkiewicz said. "Give us credit for taking advantage of it, but he's going to go down as one of the best who ever pitched. He had a bad night."
The Yankees put up runs in the seventh and eighth innings against relievers Brendan Donnelly and Joel Pineiro, with Boston touching Kyle Farnsworth for two runs in the eighth -- including Coco Crisp's solo homer -- but going quietly in the ninth against Mariano Rivera in a non-save performance.
That allowed the Yankees the chance to rest easy on their upcoming off-day Thursday, with thoughts of the incoming Angels too far off to handle right now. Asked by a radio reporter about the club called Los Angeles of Anaheim, Pettitte laughed and admitted he didn't know too much about the team's lineup except for the presence of Vladimir Guerrero.
But Pettitte really had little reason to know anyway, considering that his attention needed to be placed on the dangerous members of Boston's lineup.
"That was big for us right now, but it doesn't matter if we don't continue putting together some series," he said.
Perhaps, but even Rodriguez smirked and said that his only thoughts heading into the day of respite would be spending quality time with his daughter. The Angels were a problem for another day. For now, they wanted to savor this one.
"We have to take small bites," Rodriguez said. "We understand we have an uphill battle all year. That's a very capable team over there that we have a lot of respect for, but for the last three days, mission accomplished."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.