NEW YORK — Clay Buchholz threw five strong innings during his first start in 11 days, and Jose Iglesias and David Ortiz hit solo homers Sunday night as the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 3-0 in a game shortened to 5 1/2 innings due to rain.
The start of the game was delayed 45 minutes because of a forecast for rain around the scheduled 8:05 p.m. first pitch. That particular set of showers never arrived, but pouring rain started after the fifth inning.
The game was suspended first with one out in the top of the sixth and resumed 37 minutes later, but the rains returned with a vengeance during the four minutes it took for Mike Napoli to get caught stealing and for Jarrod Saltalamacchia to strike out.
Play was suspended again as the grounds crew put the tarp back on while the Garbage song “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” blared from the loudspeakers.
The game was finally called at 12:10 a.m., 32 minutes after a deafening thunderbolt shook Yankee Stadium.
By winning the final two games of the three-game series, the Red Sox (35-23) extended their AL East lead to 2 1/2 games over the Yankees (31-25), who fell into a tie for third place with the Tampa Bay Rays, a half-game behind the Baltimore Orioles. Boston has won seven of its last 10 while the Yankees, who were swept by the cross-town Mets earlier in the week, have lost seven of their last eight.
Buchholz, who missed his previous turn with a sore right collarbone, improved to 8-0. He allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out four in a 71 pitch-performance. He didn’t allow a runner past second base and retired the final eight batters he faced. The five shutout innings lowered his AL-leading ERA to 1.62.
Napoli had two singles and an RBI for the Red Sox.
Hiroki Kuroda (6-4) allowed three runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. Kuroda, who walked none and struck out five, allowed more than two runs in a start for just the fourth time in 12 outings.
Ichiro Suzuki and Austin Romine had singles for the Yankees.
The pitchers’ duel between Buchholz and Kuroda — who entered Sunday ranked first and fifth in the American League in ERA, respectively — met expectations early on.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz singled, and Napoli’s grounder to short brought home Pedroia.
Iglesias, the hot-hitting rookie, hit a leadoff homer in the fifth to put the Red Sox up 2-0. The homer extended Iglesias’ hitting streak to seven games.
On Saturday night, Napoli and Daniel Nava were very successful at their roles Saturday night, combining for seven hits and eight RBI as the Red Sox rolled to an 11-1 rout of the Yankees.
Napoli set the tone for Boston’s third win against the Yankees by hitting a grand slam on a 2-2 count with one out in the third inning off Phil Hughes (2-4). He also had two other two-strike singles hitting behind Ortiz in the order.
“It’s a great feeling,” Napoli said. “It’s my job to be his protection, and when something like that happens, it feels good to come through.”
The pivotal decision for the Yankees came down to overall numbers for the two players as Ortiz entered with 16 strikeouts in 138 at-bats and Napoli had 78 in 207 at-bats.
“To me, you’re looking for a strikeout in that situation,” New York manager Joe Girardi said.
Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said, “That’s tough, I understand, obviously, with David, he’s been hot, he’s been swinging a good bat, but with Napoli you just never know,. You play the numbers and you take your chances. It worked out for us.”
Napoli hit his second home run after an intentional walk to Ortiz. The other instance was in the seventh inning of a 10-1 rout at Toronto on May 1 against Esmil Rogers.
“I think any hitter when they see that, it’s maybe a little bit of an extra challenge and obviously he responded well,” Boston manager John Farrell said.
Napoli homered on a 3-0 pitch in Toronto, but his at-bat against Hughes came on the sixth pitch after he fell behind 0-2. It also was one of 11 two-strike hits for the Red Sox, who had a season-high 18 overall.
“I was recognizing his pitches pretty good tonight,” Napoli said. “The first at-bat I was battling, fouling tough pitches off and was able to get a base hit. So going to the other side, I felt pretty good and confident that if I got two strikes, just put a ball into the outfield.”
Nava said, “That was a huge hit in a big spot for us and he did a great job of trying to get a fly ball out there and it turned into a hit. That big hit came and that kind of (gave us) some breathing room.”
Nava had three two-strike hits as part of his third career four-hit night, capping a 4-for-6 performance with a three-run homer off reliever Adam Warren in the eighth. Nava’s strong showing came on his second night filling in for leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury (groin) and occurred a night after he went 0 for 3
“I think you have to learn it is 162 games and if you’re going to live and die by every game, every at-bat, you’re not going to be around too long,” Nava said.
Stephen Drew also homered and rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. had three hits for Boston, which had six players have multi-hit games. The Red Sox have outscored the Yankees 25-7 in three wins at Yankee Stadium and posted their most lopsided victory in the Bronx since a 14-3 rout on May 9, 2006 at the original Yankee Stadium.
Boston’s prolific offense enabled Felix Doubront (4-2) to win for the first time since beating Houston on April 27. He allowed a run and six singles in six innings and turned in his fifth career quality start in as many games against the Yankees.
“He had a good cutter working, curveball for a strike,” Saltalamacchia said. “He had everything working.”
Hughes lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and seven hits while throwing 100 pitches. He failed to win for the fourth straight start while pitching less than six innings for the fifth time.
“They worked him hard tonight,” Girardi said. “His pitch count got up early in the game and when you do that, you’re usually going to give up some runs because your stuff is not as sharp.”
The Yankees lost for the eighth time in 11 games and played their second game since Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira came off the DL. Teixeira had a single in his first at-bat but struck out three times, Youkilis struck out three times after drawing a walk.
NOTES: Ellsbury was unavailable with tightness in his groin. The Red Sox said he is day-to-day but were encouraged by his improvement in the last 24 hours. … OF Shane Victorino (strained left hamstring) could start a rehab assignment Monday with either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket. Victorino felt no issues in early batting practice but the Red Sox want to see how he responds to increased intensity in other activities before proceeding. … 3B Will Middlebrooks (low back strain) took swings in the batting cage and is expected to take batting practice Sunday. …Youkilis started at DH for the second straight day because the Yankees are facing a left-handed starter. He is expected to play third base Sunday. … SS Derek Jeter played catch on the field for the fourth straight day. He has a CT scan on his left ankle after New York’s homestand ends Wednesday against Cleveland and could increase activity if the scan does not show any issues. … The Yankees invited 111-year-old fan Bernando LaPollo to the game. He attended games in Manhattan’s Hilltop Park and met Babe Ruth. … Former Utah Jazz guard and NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton attended the game..