NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran started the evening as a power-hitting outfielder, blasting his third home run in a Yankees uniform. He finished the night with an unfamiliar first baseman's glove dangling off his left hand, praying that the ball wouldn't be hit his way.
It wasn't exactly how Beltran had envisioned the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry, but his depleted Bombers did what it took to squeak by. Beltran banged three hits, and Ivan Nova pitched into the eighth inning, helping New York to a 3-2 victory on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, their third win in the four-game series.
"We've got to find a way to play with what we've got, go out and do our best," Beltran said. "At the end of the day, we feel that we still have a good team, even with the guys that are out."
As the innings piled across the scoreboard, that list seemed to grow by the hour. Derek Jeter was unavailable with a stiff right quadriceps, Brian Roberts had visited an MRI tube with back discomfort, and Francisco Cervelli sacrificed his body on a fourth-inning play that proved to be the difference in the game.
"This was pretty regular last year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I got a lot of good practice last year with this, sometimes trying to find 10 healthy bodies to play."
New York was credited with its third run following a replay challenge in the fourth inning, after Cervelli stepped up with one out and runners at the corners. He was initially ruled to have grounded into an inning-ending double play, but Girardi immediately challenged the call by first-base umpire Bob Davidson.
After a brief review, the call was overturned, allowing Brian McCann to score on the play. Red Sox manager John Farrell came out to argue and was quickly ejected by Davidson, later saying that "it's hard to have any faith in the system" on the heels of an incorrectly called replay in Saturday's game that ruled Yankees' Dean Anna to be safe at second base.
Cervelli limped off the field and down the clubhouse tunnel, heading for the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, and was replaced on the basepaths by Ichiro Suzuki. That switch bumped Beltran to first base, marking the 36-year-old's first career appearance at the position in 2,076 big league games.
"When they told me that I was going to go to first, a lot of things went through my mind," Beltran said. "I was like, 'Oh, God, I hope they don't hit the ball to me.' Thank God nobody hit the baseball to me."
That unforeseen swap also paid dividends when Ichiro made a highlight-reel catch in the eighth inning, robbing David Ortiz of an extra-base hit against the bullpen wall, possibly saving the game.
The Yankees started the night taking some healthy hacks against left-hander Felix Doubront, who was hit for three runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. Beltran -- who entered the game 1-for-11 this season against left-handed pitching -- led the way, clearing the left-field wall with a two-run shot off Doubront in the fourth.
Coming off two inconsistent outings to open the season, Nova had a much more effective curveball and was able to limit Boston to two runs and eight hits over 7 1/3 innings.
Jonathan Herrera's second-inning RBI single and a long Mike Napoli home run in the sixth accounted for the Boston production against Nova, who walked none and struck out four to log his second victory of the year.
"I worked a little bit down in the zone a little bit more," Nova said. "I said the other day, I threw more strikes than ever up in the zone, and I just wanted to get the ball down."
Nova said that he thought his night was done after seven innings, but he was pleased that Girardi asked him to get one more out in the eighth, which he recorded on a flyout and exited to a standing ovation.
He watched from the dugout as things got hairy from there; with Matt Thornton on the mound, Ichiro contributed a terrific leaping catch at the right-field wall, taking away a sure extra-base hit from Ortiz.
"He's the one guy that's made that play on me a few times," Ortiz said. "He got that good read, man. Playing the game, he plays deep, but he knows how to read the wall, too. He's good."
With two out and none on, Napoli greeted David Phelps with a double, Daniel Nava walked, and Phelps hit A.J. Pierzynski with a pitch to load the bases. Phelps rose to the occasion, striking out pinch-hitter Mike Carp to leave all three men on.
"It's one of the biggest situations I've pitched in this rivalry, any game, period," Phelps said. "It was a lot of fun. The juices were definitely flowing."
Phelps pumped his fist as he came off the mound, and Shawn Kelley enjoyed a less eventful ninth, racking up his third save as Jacoby Ellsbury laid out in left-center field to rob Grady Sizemore of a hit.
"We're pretty fortunate," Girardi said. "Outstanding pitching, some big outs when we needed them from our guys. It was a really good game."