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BOS@NYY: Montero falls a triple short of the cycle

NEW YORK -- Jesus Montero's powerful bat has had the Yankees buzzing for quite some time, and now the Red Sox can consider themselves introduced to the young slugger's potential.

The 21-year-old Montero homered and drove in four runs in a three-hit performance as New York trounced Boston, 9-1, on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

"I'm really happy to win against them and do a good job to help the team win," Montero said. "I put really good swings today on the ball and had fun today."

The drubbing dealt another blow to the gasping Sox, who saw left-hander Jon Lester pounded for eight runs and chased in the third inning, with Derek Jeter's three-run homer highlighting a six-run second.

New York has already locked up home-field advantage for the American League Championship Series, thanks to the win over Boston and Detroit's 6-5 loss to the Orioles at Comerica Park.

"We'd like to have home-field advantage, but we're not thinking about it," Jeter said. "We're thinking about playing well and staying sharp. That's what you've got to concern yourself with. We're in a position now where if we play well, the rest will take care of itself."

As encouraging as the offensive display was for 49,556 witnesses, the largest-paid crowd yet assembled at the new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees had even more to be thrilled with on the pitching side.

Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia all but locked up a start in the ALDS, limiting the Red Sox to six hits over six scoreless innings.

"I needed to pitch good today," Garcia said. "I did it. I'm really happy about it, and now I'm looking forward to my next start. I don't know when, but hopefully it'll be in the playoffs."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said that it is safe to assume CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova will start in the playoffs, and Garcia's 102-pitch performance of one-walk, three-hit ball slots him right in that mix.

"He's definitely one of the guys that you consider," Girardi said. "Freddy's a guy that's been there and done all that."

Finishing up a season in which he gave the Yankees everything they could have asked and more, Garcia skidded down the stretch, taking two no-decisions and a loss in three previous September starts.

But he finished strong, using all of his pitches and piquing Girardi's interest.

"He is the one guy that really brings a different look for us," Girardi said. "I do like different looks in our rotation; I like different looks in the bullpen. I think when you get guys that are all similar, it's easy for guys to stay on that stuff."

As pleased as Garcia was by his own outing, the veteran seemed quite impressed by his fellow Venezuelan Montero, with whom he chatted during the game.

"This kid is something else, man," Garcia said. "Today he had a really good game because he wasn't trying to hit the ball hard. With contact, he's got the power, so that's all he needs to do."

Montero helped start the damage against Lester in the second inning with a bases-loaded single, an at-bat that produced flashbacks.

On Sept. 1, Montero's first Major League at-bat was a bases-loaded chance against Lester at Fenway Park; Lester won that battle with a swinging strikeout.

"I just remembered that first time in Boston, and I was like, 'Wow, this is like a movie. Again?'" Montero said. "You get kind of nervous in that moment, but I got the base hit, thank God."

Russell Martin -- who spiced up the rivalry by saying on Thursday that he "hate[s] the Red Sox" and it would be "amazing" to knock Boston out of the playoffs completely -- then contributed a two-run single that tipped Carl Crawford's glove in left field.

Jeter followed with a three-run blast to right, the captain's sixth homer of the season.

"We made some mistakes, and they really made us pay for it," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We know what's in front of us. We just have to play better."

Montero chased Lester with a two-run double in the third and added a solo blast, his fourth, off Junichi Tazawa in the sixth -- evidence, it seems, of getting accustomed to big league pitching.

"I feel better," Montero said. "I'm not saying I'm like Derek Jeter -- I still get nervous, you know?"

The performance may turn out to have been key for Montero, who is being considered to make the club as a backup catcher while Francisco Cervelli recovers from a concussion.

"I don't really know," Montero said. "I wish I can be there to help them, but I don't decide anything. I'm just going to do the best I can -- and try to hit a lot of home runs."

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