NEW YORK -- The Red Sox weren't at all preoccupied by whatever substance Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda might have had on the palm of his right hand on Thursday night. The truth of the matter is, they have far more relevant things to be concerned with at the moment -- the inconsistency of the offense foremost among them.
For the second straight day, the Boston bats were handcuffed and held to four hits, this time in a 4-1 loss to the Yankees in which Pineda dazzled and the New York bullpen applied the finishing touches.
This time there were no late-game heroics from David Ortiz to fix the problem. After losing the first of 19 rivalry matchups this season, the Red Sox fell to 4-6.
"There were a number of pitches where [with] two strikes, I'd like to see us battle a little bit more," said manager John Farrell. "But no, we're looking to get some continuity and really be able to bunch some hits together, which really hasn't been the case. The ability to string hits together is where we've been a little bit lacking. When we have, it's been a couple of base hits wiped out by a double play at times. That's kind of the stretch we're in right now."
And with not much offense at his back, right-hander Clay Buchholz took the loss, despite a strong rebound from his first start of the season. Over six innings he allowed seven hits and two earned runs, walking none and striking out six.
"I felt a lot better. Just in the last five days, with my arm strength and everything, it got a lot better within a five-day span," said Buchholz. "Usually, it doesn't happen that quick. I felt a lot more comfortable with each pitch out there tonight. I've got to minimize the damage a little bit more in a couple of spots. Other than that I felt like I threw the ball pretty well."
But Pineda threw it better, giving up four hits and one run over his six frames, walking two and striking out seven.
But his performance was overshadowed by the buzz that was overshadowed by controversy.
Early in the game, the Twitterverse was abuzz with screen shots that showed a substance that looked like pine tar near the bottom of Pineda's right hand.
"I don't use pine tar. It's dirt," said Pineda. "I'm sweating on my hand too much in between innings. Between the innings I'm sweating too much on my hand. I'm putting dirt [on it]."
By the time Farrell was told of the controversy, Pineda's hand looked clean.
"I became aware of it in the fourth inning through the video that some had seen," Farrell said. "And then, when he came back out for the fifth inning, it looked, based on what was told to me where it was located, it looked like the palm of his right hand was clean. That's the extent of it."
Last year, Buchholz was the one accused -- by Blue Jays' broadcasters -- of using something to improve his grip on the baseball.
"Especially on cold, windy nights, it's tough to get a grip on a baseball," Buchholz said. "I had that instance last year in Toronto about having stuff all over my body. You can use resin, water, the whole sunscreen stuff, whatever. [You] either have a grip on a baseball and semi-know where it's going, or don't have a grip at all and get somebody hurt. How hard [Pineda] was throwing early in the game, nobody wants to get hit by that, especially up around the head, so I don't think there'd be any organization that would want to do anything about it."
Pineda carved up the Red Sox, no-hitting them over the first four innings.
"Obviously, we need to score more runs," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We've had some good at-bats but hit some balls at guys. That stuff will even out over the course of the year. It's a small sample, but obviously, we have to have better at-bats and score more runs."
Buchholz also had dominant stuff early, but a defensive miscue in the bottom of the fourth helped the Yankees break out first.
Jacoby Ellsbury, playing for the first time against his former team, opened the inning by hitting a grounder to third that Jonathan Herrera muffed for an error. Carlos Beltran followed with a single to right, and that was the perfect chance for Brian McCann to snap his 0-for-14 drought, which he did, lacing an RBI single to right. Alfonso Soriano followed by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play, but a run scored to make it 2-0.
"We gave [them] the extra out in that fourth inning, and a couple of base hits found some holes," Farrell said. "I thought it was a positive step for [Buchholz] tonight."
The Yankees extended their lead in the fifth. Dean Anna belted his first career home run, a solo shot to right. Derek Jeter added a two-out double over the head of right fielder Daniel Nava and scored on a single by Ellsbury.
Ortiz gave the Red Sox their first extra-base hit, and second hit overall, with a two-out double to right-center in the sixth. But Mike Napoli flied out to center, ending that threat.
"Nothing's wrong with the offense," said Ortiz. "We've just faced good pitching, I guess."
Nava broke out of his slump and put Boston on the board in the seventh with a solo homer into the second deck in right, slicing New York's lead to three runs.
"It was a good swing he put on the ball," said Farrell. "Good to see him square a pitch up. That's been a little inconsistent. We've got to regroup and put together a better effort offensively."