BOSTON (AP) — Mariano Rivera has jogged from the right-field bullpen to the Fenway Park mound a number of times in his 18-year career. He's probably never been greeted like he was by the rival Red Sox fans on Saturday.
Rivera entered to a nice ovation and worked a scoreless ninth inning for his 31st save, closing out a strong effort by New York's pitchers that carried the Yankees to a 5-2 victory.
"I always love to pitch here, always," the 43-year old Rivera said. "Yankee Stadium's home, but I love to come here. It's a great atmosphere. We've played big games here. It's always good."
Lyle Overbay and Brett Gardner each collected three hits and drove in a run to back Hiroki Kuroda's seven strong innings. David Robertson worked a scoreless eighth, setting the stage for Rivera, the All-Star game MVP.
"That doesn't surprise me," Overbay said of Rivera's ovation. "He deserves it. I think everybody's embracing what he's done as a pitcher, so it's well-deserving and shows you the respect they have for him."
Rivera could smile when he was reminded about a standing ovation he got on opening day in 2005, the year after Boston rallied from a 3-0 deficit against New York in the American League Championship series en route to the World Series title.
"That's what happened," he said.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the injury-riddled Yankees, who hope to be bolstered by the return of captain Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez soon.
Mike Carp had three hits and scored a run for the Red Sox. It was just Boston's second loss in its last 11 games in Fenway.
In a matchup of veteran right-handers, Kuroda and John Lackey both mostly relied on fastballs in the low 90s with hard sliders to go along with outstanding control. The pair combined for just one walk — by Kuroda — and threw a high percentage of strikes.
"It was a close game all along, so I had to be careful with my pitches," Kuroda said through a translator. "But when they gave me the run support, I think I was able to be more bold."
Kuroda (9-6) gave up two runs and five hits, striking out four with a pair of wild pitches — one that led to a run. Robinson Cano added two RBIs.
"I think what was most impressive was, in these conditions, to be able to touch 95 in the sixth, seventh innings against the meat of our order when he needed it," Boston manager John Farrell said of the 38-year-old Kuroda. "He's a very good pitcher and had a good day today."
The game was tight when Lackey left with a pair of runners on, trailing 2-0 in the seventh. New York then built its lead to 4-0 in the inning on consecutive RBI singles by Cano and Overbay against reliever Matt Thornton.
Lackey (7-7) was charged with four runs on 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings, striking out seven. It snapped a stretch of six consecutive starts when he allowed two or fewer runs, and was just the third time in his 17 starts this season he's given up more than three.
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