NEW YORK – After losing his way in two horrid starts, Vidal Nuno was right on target against the Boston Red Sox.
Nuno rebounded nicely from losses to Baltimore and Oakland to pitch two-hit ball into the sixth inning Friday night, Kelly Johnson and Brett Gardner hit consecutive homers, and the New York Yankees beat Boston 6-0 in the opener of a series between struggling powers.
“He really answered the bell tonight,” Yankees catcher Brian McCann said. “He came out and established the strike zone, established what he wanted to do and got big outs after big outs.”
McCann added a two-run homer for New York, which has won six of the eight meetings with Boston this season.
In his first at-bat as a 40-year-old, Derek Jeter fisted a single to right field with one out in the first. His birthday was on Thursday.
Jeter went to third on Jacoby Ellsbury’s double and scored on Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly off Brandon Workman (1-1) for the early lead. The Yankees captain also singled in the fourth for hit No. 3,390 and went 2-for-4 in New York’s second straight win following four losses.
The Red Sox have been playing even worse, scoring three runs or fewer for the 11th time in 13 games and losing for the sixth time in eight games. Fourth in the rugged AL East, Boston trails the third-place Yankees by six games.
New York manager Joe Girardi could have skipped the struggling Nuno (2-4) and given the ball to rookie ace Masahiro Tanaka because of the extra day of rest but, in a feisty pregame Q&A with media, Girardi insisted he was interested in protecting his entire staff, not just the Japanese sensation.
Nuno rewarded Girardi with 5⅔ impressive innings after he gave up a total of 13 runs in 9⅓ innings in losses to the A’s and Orioles. He yielded a leadoff single to Jonny Gomes in the second and a one-out double in the third to Brock Holt. Nuno then retired 10 straight before walking David Ortiz, his last batter.
“I’ve had confidence in him but we’re in a situation where these are the five guys that we have,” Girardi said. “He’s pitched some good games for us. . . . He seems to always bounce back and give us a good outing.”
Ichiro Suzuki finished 0-for-4 for the Yankees.
Astros 4, Tigers 3 (11)
In Houston, Jason Castro hit a solo homer in the 11th inning.
White Sox 5, Blue Jays 4
In Toronto, Jose Abreu hit two solo home runs, Alexei Ramirez added a two-run blast and Chicago survived a shaky ninth.
Rays 5, Orioles 2 (1st)
Orioles 4, Rays 1 (2nd)
In Baltimore, Nelson Cruz and Nick Hundley homered to back a commanding performance by starter Chris Tillman.
Royals 8, Angels 6
In Kansas City, Omar Infante capped a seven-run inning with his first career grand slam.
Rangers 5, Twins 4
In Arlington, Texas, Adrian Beltre homered, and Choo Shin-soo had three hits in his return to the leadoff spot.
Mariners 3, Indians 2
In Seattle, Endy Chavez homered for the first time in over a year.
Braves 4, Phillies 2
In Philadelphia, Freddie Freeman homered, doubled and drove in all four Atlanta runs.
Cubs 7, Nationals 2
In Chicago, light-hitting catcher John Baker had three hits, a walk and four RBIs.
Pirates 3, Mets 2 (11)
In Pittsburgh, Josh Harrison doubled home the winning run with two outs in the 11th.
Brewers 3, Rockies 2
In Milwaukee, Ryan Braun was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning that scored a run and had an RBI single in the ninth.
Cardinals 3, Dodgers 1
In Los Angeles, Jhonny Peralta hit a tiebreaking two-run double and Yadier Molina homered for St. Louis.
Diamondbacks 2, Padres 1
In San Diego, Brandon McCarthy went seven innings and won for just the second time this season.
Reds 6, Giants 2
In San Francisco, Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce drove in two runs apiece.
Athletics 9, Marlins 5
In Miami, Coco Crisp scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning on a replay reversal.