NEW YORK (AP) — The big-name Boston Red Sox got a lift from their unheralded Venezuelan battery to win their season-high sixth straight game.
Sandy Leon homered and drove in four runs, Eduardo Rodriguez again dominated the Yankees in his return from Triple-A, and Boston beat New York 5-2 on Saturday.
Leon hit his second homer this season and the third of his career in the sixth inning — a three-run shot off CC Sabathia for a 5-1 lead. The catcher has 13 RBIs in 20 games this year after compiling only eight in 75 career games before that. He’s hitting .458 through 59 at-bats this season.
“He looks different now,” Rodriguez said. “He hits the ball everywhere.”
Leon also helped his countryman hold New York to a run and four hits over seven innings after the Red Sox recalled the left-hander from the minors Friday. Rodriguez (2-3) improved to 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA against Boston’s archrival.
Rodriguez opened the season on the disabled list with a knee injury, then posted an 8.59 ERA in six starts before being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Boston believed Rodriguez was telegraphing his pitches and had him adjust his delivery during two starts — one shortened by rain — in the minors.
“Now, I’m not thinking about the tipping stuff,” Rodriguez said. “I just throw the ball right where I want it.”
Rodriguez threw 97 pitches Saturday, working quickly against New York’s veteran-heavy lineup. Rodriguez had previously struggled throwing to Leon, posting an 8.03 ERA in five starts, but the duo cruised early on a steady diet of fastballs and sliders.
“His seven innings today is potentially a major shot in the arm for our rotation,” manager John Farrell said. “But it was just good to see, the struggles that he’s gone through, to come back after 1 1/2 starts and pitch like he did here today.”
Sabathia (5-7) allowed five runs, four earned, in 5 1/3 innings, giving up five or more runs for the fifth straight start. Boston chipped away at the big lefty by reaching base mostly on soft, well-placed contact and a couple of New York errors until Leon’s homer.
“I felt good,” Sabathia said. “Just the result is not coming.”
Koji Uehara closed for his sixth save.
Leon added an RBI single in the fourth. His hot hitting has been timely for Boston, which has had catchers Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan on the disabled list this season. The 27-year-old went into the All-Star break batting .455 (25 for 55), the highest first-half average ever in the majors, with a minimum of 50 at-bats.
“Playing almost like four times a week, I think that’s helped,” Leon said.
Jackie Bradley Jr. tied a season high with three hits, and Boston’s 6-through-9 hitters went 7 for 16 while 1-through-5 went 3 for 21. That helped the Red Sox win their eighth in nine games and 10th in the past 13.
“The difference between us and potentially some other teams is the production we get out of that bottom third,” Farrell said.
Brett Gardner ended a stretch of 180 homerless at-bats when he lined a solo shot into the Yankees’ bullpen in the third. It was his first homer since May 18 and sixth of the season.
Chase Headley hit a solo homer in the eighth for the Yankees against Matt Barnes.
BUCHHOLZ TO THE BULLPEN
Clay Buchholz has been moved to the Boston bullpen to clear space in the rotation for newly acquired All-Star Drew Pomeranz. The Red Sox hope to keep Buchholz stretched out with multiple-inning outings and possibly a simulated game next week. The 10-year Boston veteran is 3-9 with a 5.91 ERA in 18 appearances this season, including 13 starts.
The Red Sox also expect to activate Junichi Tazawa from the disabled list Tuesday and bring up Joe Kelly from Pawtucket soon. Relief pitcher William Cuevas was sent to Triple-A to make room for Pomeranz, but Farrell said before Saturday’s game that the team has yet to decide how to make room for the other arms.
Red Sox: Boston will activate Pomeranz on Sunday after acquiring the left-hander from San Diego in a trade Thursday. Pomeranz was expected to meet the Red Sox in New York on Saturday night and is slated to make his first start on Wednesday against San Francisco at Fenway Park.
David Price (9-6, 4.34 ERA) pitches for Boston on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium after putting together three straight games with exactly 10 strikeouts and one walk. Price leads the AL with 140 strikeouts, the most by a Red Sox left-hander prior to the All-Star break. Masahiro Tanaka (6-2, 3.23) is coming off six days of rest after allowing a season-high seven runs (three earned) in an 11-7 win against Cleveland.