NEW YORK -- The Yankees generally relish the idea of kicking off the summer this way, meeting the Red Sox in what has the early makings of a heated race for the division crown.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they've been at their weakest against the Boston crimson. Freddy Garcia was chased early and New York trailed the rest of the night on Tuesday, slogging to a 6-4 loss at Yankee Stadium.
"It's one of those days I couldn't put it together," said Garcia, who turned in his shortest start of the season. "To only go 1 2/3 innings, I'm disappointed. I couldn't get anybody out and they pulled me out early."
Opening a 10-game homestand, the Yankees had their chances against left-hander Jon Lester but ultimately weren't able to get the big hits they needed to turn their head-to-head score around.
The Red Sox have won six of seven against New York, including all four games in the Bronx. Thanks to the residuals of Boston's slow start, the Yankees remain percentage points ahead in the American League East.
"You lose six of seven and you're still tied for first, that usually doesn't happen," manager Joe Girardi said. "In a sense, we are fortunate that way."
They considered themselves lucky in other fashions as well, like when Mark Teixeira's X-rays came back without confirming fears of a fractured right kneecap.
Drilled by a Lester cutter in the first inning, Teixeira showed as much pain as he ever has in a Yankees uniform, going down hard and having to be helped gingerly down the dugout steps one at a time.
After Garcia was long gone, around the time that rookie Hector Noesi was saving the bullpen with six innings of two-run ball, the Yankees announced that Teixeira had suffered only a contusion and would be day to day.
"To get hit like that really square, it really hurt," said Teixeira, who is questionable for at least the rest of this series. "It calmed down a little bit after a few minutes."
While Teixeira ached, Garcia stewed. Chased with two outs in the second inning and four runs already home, Garcia's soft-tossing style was no match for the patient Red Sox, who had a bead on the veteran.
"I didn't have anything today," Garcia said. "I can't throw strikes, can't throw my slider. That's what happened. I didn't have the chance, really, to make any adjustments. Everybody's seen my offspeed."
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a solo homer, his seventh, while Adrian Gonzalez's RBI triple and a Kevin Youkilis sacrifice fly created an early cushion.
Dustin Pedroia's second-inning RBI double sealed Garcia's fate, leaving Luis Ayala (1 1/3 scoreless innings) and Noesi to soak up a good chunk of the contest out of the bullpen.
Girardi said he had no choice but to use a quick hook.
"He was up, he was behind," Girardi said. "His stuff wasn't crisp tonight. It's really been the first start we've seen from him. He struggled and they jumped on him early."
Robinson Cano drove in the first run off Lester with an RBI single in the first inning, and when Russell Martin was plunked to load the bases, the Yankees saw the first of several missed chances.
Nick Swisher bounced out on a nice play by third baseman Kevin Youkilis, starting a trend that would mostly have the Yankees lamenting the runners they left behind rather than complimenting Lester's work.
"We had our opportunities," Swisher said. "We can't play that woulda, coulda, shoulda game. He pitched a good game."
Around two more Derek Jeter hits, moving within 12 of becoming the 28th player all time to reach the 3,000 mark, Lester settled in.
He was helped to get out of the third inning by a leaping J.D. Drew catch in right field, until Swisher connected for a two-run double in the fifth inning.
The damage was lessened, however, by David Ortiz's long two-run homer off Noesi in the top half of the fifth. Big Papi flipped the bat, drawing Girardi's ire, but Noesi said he hadn't been bothered to look.
"It's going to happen," said Noesi, who retired the next 13 batters. "I'm going to throw the ball and they have a bat. I don't think too much about that. I just forget about it and keep throwing."
As Swisher's hit only dented Boston's advantage, Lester got Andruw Jones to foul out and then pitched a clean sixth, finishing having allowed three runs on eight hits to become the AL's first eight-game winner.
"They worked him hard early on," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That's a tough lineup. If you make any mistakes, they are going to make you pay. They made him work out of the stretch for almost the whole game, but he did very well in limiting the damage."
Jorge Posada, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for Teixeira, singled in the third off Lester -- his first hit of the year off a lefty, snapping an 0-for-27 drought.
Posada finished with his first three-hit game of the season, ripping a RBI single in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon to get the Yankees within shouting distance. But Papelbon struck out Alex Rodriguez swinging, securing his 200th career save.
"I thought our at-bats were good the whole night," Girardi said. "I didn't think we ran into a lot of good luck tonight. That's probably the difference in the game."