NEW YORK — After having a meltdown Saturday that earned him a suspension and nearly cost the Red Sox a game, Jonathan Papelbon really needed a positive outing.
Save No. 200 will do just fine.
Papelbon labored through the ninth inning to notch his milestone save in the fewest number of appearances in big league history, finishing off Boston’s 6-4 victory over the New York Yankees on Tuesday night – its sixth win in seven meetings this season between the AL East rivals.
“For me, confidence is everything and going into outings when you’re not sharp, the No. 1 thing I’m trying to do is go back and be sharp, get confidence back under my belt,” Papelbon said. “So it’s a big deal.”
Derek Jeter had two hits to move within 12 of 3,000 for the Yankees, but first baseman Mark Teixeira left the game with a bruised knee.
Working on seven days’ rest, Jon Lester (8-2) gave up three runs and eight hits – seven singles – in six innings. He felt he had his best mechanics in a while, but he was concerned for Teixeira after hitting him on the right knee with a pitch in the first inning.
“It’s tough to hit a guy like that and see him kind of go off the field not feeling too good,” Lester said. “To be able to get back up on the mound and throw strikes was key.”
X-rays on Teixeira’s knee were negative. Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said the All-Star first baseman had a bone bruise.
“He’ll be day to day. Will he play (tonight)? I doubt it,” Girardi said. “It’ll take a couple of days, probably.”
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a home run and Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI triple as the Red Sox roughed up Freddy Garcia (4-5) early to move within two percentage points of the first-place Yankees in the AL East.
The Red Sox have been on a tear since arriving in the Bronx on May 13, starting a run in which they have won 17 of 23 with a three-game sweep of the Yankees.
David Ortiz irked Girardi with his showy bat flip after hitting a two-run homer off Hector Noesi in the fifth to make it 6-1.
Girardi was concerned that Ortiz would offend the 24-year-old rookie reliever.
“Yeah, I didn’t really care for it,” Girardi said. “I’ve never had a problem with David Ortiz. He’s been a clutch player for a long time. My reaction’s probably more protecting our young kid. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Ortiz dismissed any ill intent on the flip.
“That’s Papi style,” Ortiz said.
Papelbon was pitching while he appeals a three-game ban for making contact with an umpire Saturday – a game in which he blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning before the Red Sox won in the 14th. He gave up an RBI single to Jorge Posada but struck out Alex Rodriguez with a runner on second for his 12th save.
Papelbon reached 200 saves in 359 appearances, fewest in baseball history. Mariano Rivera is next at 382 games.
“I’ve always called him the godfather,” Papelbon said of Rivera. “He’s the godfather of this role. He’s made this role what it is today.”
Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks left in the seventh after throwing just four pitches because of tightness in his back. Jenks said it was a flare-up of an injury he had early in his career and that he was fine after coming out of the game.
Jenks will have an MRI today and probably be out a game or two.
Matt Albers came on and finished a walk to Posada before retiring three in a row. Daniel Bard was perfect in the eighth.
Ellsbury hit the fourth leadoff homer of his career, and the Red Sox chased Garcia soon after.
Garcia had gone at least five innings in each of his nine starts this season, but was knocked out after just 12/3 innings.
After Ellsbury connected, Dustin Pedroia walked, Gonzalez tripled and Kevin Youkilis hit a sacrifice fly.
Pedroia had an RBI double in the second to make it 4-1. Garcia intentionally walked Gonzalez to load the bases, ending his night.
The Yankees scored in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of Lester’s early wildness, but received a scare when Teixeira was hit. Teixeira immediately crumbled to the dirt and rolled back and forth, holding his knee.
“It was very painful, but once we got the ice and the compression on it, it didn’t hurt as much,” Teixeira said.
Posada, on the bench with the left-handed Lester on the mound, ran for Teixeira and stayed in at first base.
Robinson Cano drove in Curtis Granderson, who walked. Lester also hit Russell Martin with a pitch near the right knee, but Martin walked to first and appeared to be fine.
Posada, who pulled himself out of the lineup after he was dropped to ninth in the order the last time the Red Sox were in town, later got his first two hits of the season against a lefty.
He snapped an 0-for-27 skid from the right side with a single in the third inning.