If the Red Sox need any more clues to figure out what went wrong during a season of infighting and ineptitude, they only had to look across the field Sunday night to see everything that's right about the Yankees.
That long list starts with Derek Jeter, who had three more hits, a pair of doubles, a stolen base and scored two runs as the Yankees coasted to a 4-1 win over the Red Sox at the Stadium.
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But it didn't end there. Hiroki Kuroda limited Boston to four hits over eight innings as he improved to 12-8 with a 2.96 ERA. Kuroda, now the stabilizing force in the Yankees' injury-marred rotation, has pitched seven or more innings in 12 of his last 16 outings since May 27 and is 9-2 with a 2.22 ERA during that stretch.
"We got guys that can play," said Jeter, who has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games and is batting .373 (25-for-67) over that span. "It might be a mentality, but we have guys that know what their jobs are, are capable of doing their jobs and they've been doing them all year."
Ichiro Suzuki blasted a pair of home runs off Josh Beckett, both into the rightfield seats. The first came in the fourth, when Ichiro stunned Beckett by pulling a high fastball. The encore was in the sixth, and inspired an even louder round of "I-Chi-Ro" chants -- along with his first-ever Yankee Stadium curtain call.
Trying for the hat trick, Ichiro was welcomed by loud applause when he stepped to the plate in the eighth, and took a healthy cut in fouling off a pitch by Junichi Tazawa. He wound up settling for an infield single. When asked if he was swinging for the fences in that last at-bat, Ichiro winked and smiled. "I swung too hard," Ichiro said. "My neck hurts."
With the Yankees in the midst of playing 20 games in 20 days, and anticipating 5 a.m. arrival Monday morning in Chicago, taking two of three from the rival Sox was a nice pick-me-up. As for Boston, it heads home 13 1/2 games in back of the Yankees and 7 1/2 out in the wild-card race.
The stark contrast between the two AL East rivals was on display this weekend. With the Red Sox dealing with the latest drama of Text-Gate and internal strife, the Yankees beat them for the 11th time in 16 games. "I think there's an extreme amount of professionalism in that room," Girardi said of his clubhouse. "There are expectations in that room, and I think they feed off it. There's no excuses. We go out and we play to win."
Not bad for a depleted Yankees team that has the oldest roster in the majors with an average age of 31.3 years -- and it was the 38-year-old Jeter who jump-started them last night.
Jeter led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on Curtis Granderson's two-out double. In the third, Jeter ripped a ground-rule double that hopped over the centerfield wall, executed a double-steal with Nick Swisher and then hustled home on a wild pitch when Beckett's curveball skipped past Ryan Lavarnway.
Jeter entered the game with the most hits in the majors (160) and his three-hit night not only padded that lead, but moved him to within one of tying Nap Lajoie (3,252) for 12th on the all-time list. He also has 1,843 runs -- one behind Craig Biggio, who is 13th.
Kuroda, who threw a two-hitter in his previous start, retired the first eight before Nick Punto's two-out single in the third. From there, he allowed one more single until Adrian Gonzalez's one-out homer in the seventh. With Kuroda's pitch count at 112 through eight innings, Rafael Soriano -- Mariano Rivera's season-long replacement -- pitched the ninth for his 31st save in 33 opportunities.
"We've been doing it all year," Jeter said. "If you're going to be a good team, you're going to have to have a lot of people step up. Fortunately a lot of guys have done that."