With the Bombers looking for a series sweep and trying to gain a game in the American League East, Sidney Ponson was instead roughed up and put his club in an early hole. The deficit was too large to make up as the Yankees fell to the Red Sox, 9-2, snapping their eight-game winning streak.
"We had a good series; we could have had a great series," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You put this game behind you. We talk about winning the first game of a series and winning series."
Making his fifth start since joining the Yankees, Ponson was hit early and hard, putting New York down by three runs to tough left-hander Jon Lester after the first inning. Ponson would serve up seven runs through four frames in a contest where David Ortiz homered and Manny Ramirez doubled twice and drove in a pair of runs.
"I felt pretty good, but feeling pretty good doesn't mean anything," Ponson said. "I couldn't execute my pitches today. I threw it right down the middle, Big Papi hit a home run and Manny got a couple of doubles. It's a downer, because we were playing so good, and today, I didn't have my stuff."
The loss kept the Yankees three games back in the AL East, while the Sox moved one game behind the division-leading Rays, who lost to the Royals on Sunday. It was a dramatic evening at Fenway Park all around -- hours before the game, Ramirez had spoken about being open to a trade that would send him out of Boston, saying that the sides were mutually "tired" of each other.
Whether or not the Red Sox actually would trade Ramirez remains to be seen, but Ponson would have certainly loved to see a deal become official before Sunday's game. Ramirez stroked an RBI double in the first inning and ran through third-base coach DeMarlo Hale's stop sign to score on Mike Lowell's two-run single.
The mercurial slugger added another double in the third, scoring on Jason Varitek's two-base hit, and later knocked in Boston's ninth run with a single. Dustin Pedroia tacked on a sacrifice fly for the Sox against Ponson, who allowed 10 hits while walking one intentionally and striking out one.
"I was throwing the ball up in the zone, down the middle," Ponson said. "I tried to go inside on a couple of guys and it didn't get there. Especially with that team over there, you can't [make] any mistakes. When you do mistakes, they hit you hard."
The Yankees fell to 4-1 in games that Ponson has started since he signed with New York. After Dan Giese saved the bullpen with four innings of long relief, Girardi said he offered Ponson the verbal equivalent of a pat on the rear end, telling him to shake this start off and get ready to face the Angels later this week at Yankee Stadium.
"I think he just got a little bit too much of the plate," Girardi said. "He got behind in some counts and got a little too much of the plate. He had a hard time getting that third out. It's going to happen sometimes. You just move on and get ready for his next start."
Stifled through the first four innings by Lester, the Yankees' offense awoke with two runs in the fifth, loading the bases on three straight singles before Derek Jeter dribbled a run-scoring infield hit to third base.
Bobby Abreu worked a bases-loaded walk to force in the second run, but Lester settled in to strand three runners aboard. Alex Rodriguez lined out hard to third base, Xavier Nady popped a 2-0 pitch to center field that Damon could not tag up on and Robinson Cano bounced back to the mound to end the threat.
Otherwise, Lester held the Yankees silent, as he scattered nine hits over seven innings, turning a seven-run lead over to the Red Sox's bullpen. Lester walked one and struck out eight in beating the Yankees for the second time this month, having also pitched a five-hit shutout on July 3 in New York.
"From what I understand, he's been pitching pretty good against everybody," Jeter said. "He gets his fastball up there and he's got good control. He'll mix in a breaking ball if he wants to. He only fell behind hitters that one inning. ... Other than that, he didn't seem to have too many control problems."
The Yankees had won eight straight coming out of the All-Star break, marking their longest such streak since winning nine in a row from June 5-14 of last season. Jeter said the loss would be easier to absorb by turning the clock a few hours ahead to the Yankees' next game back in the Bronx.
"Sometimes, other teams are going to beat you, and they beat us," Jeter said. "We didn't beat ourselves. They came, they hit, they pitched and played good defense. If that happens, they're not going to lose too many. You forget about this one."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.