By MIKE FITZPATRICK, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — With two home runs already, Ichiro Suzuki was thinking about No. 3. He took a huge hack in the eighth inning and fouled the pitch straight back.
"I swung too hard. My neck hurts," Suzuki said through a translator Sunday night after his rare power display.
Three players pushing 40 carried the New York Yankees to a 4-1 victory over Boston. Suzuki smacked a pair of solo shots, Hiroki Kuroda pitched eight innings of four-hit ball and Derek Jeter had three hits.
Jeter also scored twice for the Yankees, who took two of three from the Red Sox despite playing the entire series without slugger Mark Teixeira. The AL East leaders won for the ninth time in 12 games, ending a two-year streak of futility against Josh Beckett (5-11).
The right-hander was 5-0 in his previous seven starts against the Yankees since losing to them on Aug. 8, 2010. He kept his team in the game this time, but dropped to 0-4 in his past six outings overall. He is 1-7 in 13 starts since May 20 and has served up seven homers in his past three appearances covering 16 1-3 innings.
"I thought Josh had some of the best stuff that he's had in a while," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said, fiddling with a DVD of Les Miserables on his desk. "He just had trouble with two hitters, Jeter and Ichiro. They kind of did him in."
While Beckett has struggled when the Red Sox needed him, Kuroda (12-8) has provided a major boost to the Yankees with ace CC Sabathia and veteran Andy Pettitte on the disabled list. The 37-year-old right-hander, coming off a two-hit shutout against Texas, struck out four and walked none while reaching 100 pitches for the 11th straight start. His ERA is 2.96.
"This is how good he's been. He has been on a tremendous roll for us and the consistency of his sinker and slider is really the factor," manager Joe Girardi said.
Kuroda's only blemish was Adrian Gonzalez's homer in the seventh. Rafael Soriano worked a one-hit ninth for his 31st save in 33 tries.
Fourth-place Boston (59-63) has lost eight of 12 and left the Big Apple trailing the Yankees by 13½ games. The team said it will decide Monday whether left fielder Carl Crawford will have season-ending elbow surgery.
"We need a lot of things to happen now," Beckett said. "We need to play better and we've got to have some teams fall down."
Crawford singled leading off the ninth, perhaps his final at-bat of the year. He was promptly erased on Dustin Pedroia's double-play grounder.
Never known for his power, the 38-year-old Suzuki homered into the second deck in right with two outs in the fourth. Two innings later, he lined a shot into the lower seats for his seventh career multihomer game and second this season. He also hit two with Seattle on June 2 at the Chicago White Sox.
The 10-time All-Star popped out of the dugout for a curtain call, showing more than a few flecks of gray in his closely cropped hair. He has seven home runs this year, three for New York after he was acquired from the Mariners in a July 23 trade.
When he returned to his position in right field, fans in the sellout crowd of 48,620 chanted "Ichiro! Ichiro!"
"It felt so good, you know? Sometimes you just don't know how to react on the field, the timing of when to acknowledge it," Suzuki said. "I was embarrassed."
Suzuki added an infield single in the eighth — after taking that big cut. Asked if he was going for a third home run, he winked.
"I think he's probably hit to his ballpark, in a sense, all those years. Seattle plays extremely large and if he had been a Yankee for a number of years, who knows how many he might have hit? But we know that there's power there," Girardi said.
"You watch his BP and you can see it," the manager added. "Our ballpark's a little bit different, and you might see more power."
Suzuki finished 10 for 19 (.526) on New York's 5-2 homestand against Texas and Boston. The Yankees, who play 16 of their next 22 games on the road, have outhomered Boston 31-11 while going 8-4 against their longtime rivals this year.
Gonzalez hit his 15th of the season and second in two days with one out in the seventh, snapping Kuroda's scoreless streak at 16 2-3 innings.