Who: New York Yankees
What: versus Boston Red Sox
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
When: 18 to 20 September 2018
Well, surely the Yankees – after their disappointing series loss against Toronto – couldn’t bounce back and manage to win the series against Boston — and still allow the Red Sox to clinch the AL East in the Bronx? Well, if anyone could, these contrary Yankees could. Read on…
First, the break down of the batters’ performances…
|New York Yankees 2018 – Batting – Month – September|
And then the pitchers’…
|New York Yankees 2018 – Pitching – Month – September|
Old met new for the Yankees in this first game. Taking the mound for Boston was former Yankee, Nathan Eovaldi. It was not too long ago that it looked like Eovaldi’s career might be over. He had departed the Bronx team after they were not convinced he would successfully recover from a second major arm surgery. Tampa Bay (always desperate for affordable pitching) gave him a chance and he became a team leader on their roster. As these things go in Tampa, he was allowed to depart at the trading deadline this year – and joined a strong contender for the world crown, the Red Sox. For the Yankees’ part, they have found themselves trying to bolster their rotation and brought in J.A. Happ from Toronto, who was Eovaldi’s opponent on the mound in this game.
Happ was to begin well, despite walking second in the line-up, Steve Pearce on four pitches. He struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the inning without further difficulties. But if anything Eovaldi began better as he took out the top of the line-up 1-2-3 without any noticeable problems.
Despite opening the second by striking out Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Phillips, Happ showed the first chinks in his armour when he gave up a single to Brock Holt on a line drive to left-field followed by walking Christian Vazquez. A weak ground-out by Jackie Bradley jr. meant that the Red Sox endeavours were to come to nothing. Aaron Hicks delivered the Yankees’ first hit but the inning came to an end with the now familiar sight of the flailing Gary Sanchez striking out.
The third inning was to see the Red Sox press their advantage home and finally break the deadlock. Ian Kinsler led off the inning with a single which dropped into short left-field and was advanced to second when Happ committed a balk. Happ, clearly rattled, then walked Steve Pearce and Sanchez committed one of his frequent mistakes to bring the runners to second and third on a passed ball. This gave J.D. Martinez a huge chance which was too good to refuse. He hit a sacrifice fly down the right field line to bring Kinsler home on the unearned run and advance Pearce to third. Fortunately, Happ was able to induce two centre field flyballs to end the inning. 1-0 to the team from Boston.
Eovaldi walked two in the third but a 6-4-3 doubleplay once again ended the Yankees’ hopes.
Neither team summoned a hit in the fourth or fifth but Happ gave up a double to Bogaerts followed by a single to, ex-Yankee, Nunez but struck out Holt without the team managing to score. In similar fashion, Eovaldi gave up a double to Torres to open the bottom half of the inning and hit Gregorius by pitch, but Giancarlo Stanton was struck out swinging on 7 pitches.
The last third of the game saw changes in the pitchers for both teams with Chad Green replacing Happ and Brandon Workman relieving the Red Sox starter. The Yankees change worked out better by far and massively affected the direction of the game. Green took down Vazquez-Bradley-Kinsler in order, but Workman couldn’t accomplish anything like the same. He walked Aaron Hicks on five pitches. After Miguel Andujar had fouled out down the first base side, Hicks stole second base and the Yankees spied their chance. Workman found himself over-stretched trying to keep one eye on Hicks and walked Sanchez and then was removed himself for Ryan Brasier. Brasier’s 6th pitch was hit over the right-field wall for a three-run homer and the game’s direction and outcome was set. 3-1.
David Robertson gave up a triple to the bubbly J.D. Martinez in the eighth but got out of trouble. In the bottom of the inning, reliever William Cuevas struck out Aaron Judge who was returning from injury but appears to be pressing a little hard at the plate. Gregorius was hit by pitched ball for the second time in the game, but the rest of the inning concluded without incident.
This left the Red Sox needing 2 runs to make the Yankees bat in the ninth, but despite some appallingly clumsy fielding from the New York team, they were unable to achieve this. With Aroldis Chapman still injured, the Yankees chose former Orioles closer, Zach Britton to complete the task but a throwing error from him and a catching error from Gleyber Torres gifted the Sox a run and a huge chance to get back in the game with only one out. Fortunately, Ian Kinsler returned a one-hopper to the pitcher and whilst the fielding still didn’t look exactly accomplished, it was enough to see the Yankees complete a 3-2 win with a double play.
So, the Red Sox’ celebrations were at least delayed. What would happen next?
Game 2 set two of the American League’s leading starters in opposition to each other. David Price was pitching for the Red Sox whilst Luis Severino was on the mound for the Yankees. Price had 15 wins in 2018 but a history of struggling against the Yankees. Severino had won 17 but his second half of the season had been a shadow of the first half. This game could have gone either way, but the money was probably on Boston tying the series. Before the season started, it was said that the Yankees were the team to beat. The Red Sox had surely shown that they could do that.
The game didn’t begin well for Severino but somehow, he managed to get himself out of a mess. He opened the inning by walking Mookie Betts and then with one out gave up a single to Martinez. A wild pitch then put the runners on second and third but soft outs by Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland meant that the Boston team did not open the scoring. However, there was little sign of life in the top of the Yankees’ line-up. An opening walk for Andrew McCutchen was the only bright spot in an inning which ended with Stanton striking out looking.
Gary Sanchez failed to cleanly catch the final strike on Sandy Leon but was able to toss the loose ball over to Luke Voit at first to complete the defensive half of the second for the Yankees. But it was in the offensive half that the New York hitters grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. With one out and nobody on, Miguel Andujar hit a home-run over the right-field wall to begin things well but that wasn’t going to be the end. Sanchez was walked and Voit hit a single to take him to second. A further walk to McCutchen with two outs, loaded the bases. Vitally, a fielding error by Eduardo Nunez allowed the Yankees to add to their lead. Judge advanced to second and Sanchez and Voit advanced for unearned runs. 3-0.
Severino took the next three Boston batters down in order and although the Yankees were not able to add further to their total, they looked most likely to be next to score. And so, it was to prove. A single from J.D. Martinez came to nothing and Yankees hero, Luke Voit added a further homer as first batter in the bottom half of the fourth. 4-0.
If the Red Sox were going to get back into this one, they needed to do it now and they grabbed a chance that came their way. Nunez hit a groundball which snuck between the diving fielders at second and short. This was followed by a single from Leon which put one Boston one run on the board. However, Severino recovered and a lineout-strikeout-groundout combination closed down the inning.
It would be the 6th inning before there was any further scoring and crucially that came in the form of two runs to New York. Price walked Gary Sanchez on five pitches and he was then brought home on a four-bagger by the ubiquitous Luke Voit who is fast becoming a legend that Yankees’ fans will mention in the same conversations as 1998’s Shane Spencer. A fan took possession of the home run ball before it had clearly left the stadium and the umpires reviewed the moment, but it was clear that the crowd member claimed the ball when it was sat atop the outfield wall and the score stood. The review gave the Red Sox a moment to consider the hand they were holding, and they decided to exchange the struggling Price for Joe Kelly. Kelly started well, making Torres ground out but it wasn’t to last. He then gave up singles to McCutchen and Judge before a triple from Hicks added three more to the balance. Hector Velazquez came in for Kelly and struck out Giancarlo Stanton to end the inning at 8-1.
Severino and Velazquez saw out the seventh with little difficulty but there were to be pitching changes for both clubs in the eighth. Jonathan Holder came in for Severino and gave up a single to Blake Swihart before adjusting and shutting down the Sox’ ambitions. There was going to be no such adjustment for new Red Sox pitcher, William Cuevas. He gave up singles to Voit and Torres and a ground ball from McCutchen advance the runners to second and third at the cost of only his own out. A further grounder from Greg Bird who had come into pinch hit for Aaron Judge brought home Voit and then a single from Hicks scored Torres. 10-1.
With the game effectively over, the Yankees brought in debutant rookie, Justus Sheffield who wasn’t under pressure beyond anything he placed upon himself, but this didn’t stop him loading the bases as he looked like anything but the top-rated pitcher in the Yankees’ farm system. Fortunately, a 6-4-3 doubleplay dug him out of the hole he’d created, and the debut will go down in the record books looking a little tidier than it was in reality.
So, all of a sudden, all the momentum lay with the Yankees and the possibility of a series’ sweep no longer seemed remote. That would mean that the Red Sox would still win the division, but they would, thankfully, have to go and celebrate somewhere else.
So, no doubt, the Yankees approached game 3 with a lot more confidence than they had the first game, but that confidence was misplaced as the New York club managed to make downs out of their ups just as they had transformed an up into a down at the conclusion of the Toronto series.
In this game, Masahiro Tanaka was on the mound for the team in the pinstripes and as the form starter, that should have been a real asset. It wasn’t going to work out that way. Eduardo Rodriguez was going to be his opponent and it wasn’t going to be a good evening for him either, but the Yankees were going to need to call upon 8 pitchers to get them through 9 innings. It wasn’t going to be a pretty picture.
Mookie Betts opened the game with a double off what was only Tanaka’s fifth pitch. Martinez who had been the Yankees’ nemesis through this series hit a single with one out, to give Boston the lead. Tanaka struck out former Yankee, Yangervis Solarte but an error by the gaffe prone Sanchez let Martinez get to third and the Yankees were lucky to get out only 1-0 in arrears. Bett’s single in the second was to make more problems. 3-0, Boston.
Sanchez, who has shown an amazing inability to either hit or field, has at least shown patience at the plate and this has resulted in walks like the one which he was gifted in the bottom of the second. When this was followed by a long home run to centre field by Voit, this meant the Yankees had an undeserved chance that they needed to take a grip on. 3-2. However, a home run from Holt off Tanaka meant the comeback was short-lived but the Yankees were going to be gifted another chance in the 4th. With 2 outs, Rodriguez walked the three batters at the top of the line-up as he utilised 21 pitches only to result in loaded bases. McCutchen, Judge and Hicks were granted the base-on-balls in turn. The Red Sox had no option but to take out the fatigued and ineffective Rodriguez and replace him with Heath Hembree. Hembree’s second pitch was a grand-slam given up to Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees were amazingly ahead 6-4.
The 5th was opened by the struggling Tanaka giving up a double to Betts (his third hit of the game!) and a single to Andrew Benintendi. This sent Boone to the mound to replace the Japanese pitcher with the reliable David Robertson. With runners on first and third as he entered, Robertson did well to get out of there having only given up one run. The key out involved getting J.D. Martinez to hit into a 6-4-3 doubleplay. The Yankees were holding at 6-5.
Steven Wright entered as Boston’s third pitcher of the game and the corresponding move brought in Chad Green for the Yankees. Both escaped any damage between the bottom of the fifth and the bottom of the 6th but it was Green who looked like he had the edge, striking out the three batters he faced on 11 pitches. He looked aggressive and likely to be economical.
It was therefore more than surprising when Jackie Bradley took the second pitch of the next inning over the rightfield wall to tie the game. When Green next gave up a single to Vazquez, it was time for him to exit. Dellin Betances started better than he had in a memorable recent outing causing the troubling Mookie Betts to strike out looking but it was all downhill from there. Betances gave up a double to Benintendi and then was instructed to intentionally walk Martinez to load the bases as the Yankees attempted to get at the slightly less-threatening Bogaerts. Ah! But the best laid plans and all that. A sacrifice fly from the shortstop, planted in deep centrefield, brought home not one but two runs. 8-6 to Boston.
A single from Didi Gregorius off Wright didn’t make any difference to the way things were flowing and the top of the 8th saw yet another hit from Betts. The Yankees had decided that the fit again Aroldis Chapman wouldn’t be used in his usual spot as closer given the inherent pressure of that role but seemed to give no thought to the fact that the point they were now introducing him at was the key moment of the game. He looked all-at-sea from the first and an home run to Betts added three to the score and saw him hastily replaced by Jonathan Holder, who perhaps would have been a better choice to come in first in the circumstances. Chapman needs to get innings under his belt before the post-season playoffs, but this probably wasn’t the moment. 11-6.
In all truth, as in the Chapman decision, the Yankees seemed to be suffering from the lack of a Plan B. Boone had decided that the best way to break Gary Sanchez out of his slump was to keep putting him out there. Sanchez looked so promising in 2017 but looks listless and directionless a year later. Another player in a similar downturn, Greg Bird spends his life on the bench with seemingly little thought to give him a chance to show what he can do. So, Sanchez led off the bottom of the 8th and once again, he delivered a whole lot of nothing.
Psychologically, the Yankees ought to have been taking every opportunity to put themselves in with even a small chance of getting back into this. Boston were going to win the division, but it would be better if they completed the task somewhere else. And, if nothing else, the Yankees needed to keep proving to themselves that they could beat them. 5 runs were always going to be a big ask but Boone seemingly gave up and his foot-soldiers simply followed his lead. Sending in Stephen Tarpley and A.J. Cole as the relievers to pitch the 9th had resignation, defeat and surrender written all over it.
And so, the bottom of the 9th didn’t look like it was going to go anywhere but then Andrew McCutchen hit a triple off the second pitch from Craig Kimbrel. A small, faint chance was there but nobody seemed to believe it – and the ones most guilty of expecting nothing to come from it were the Yankees’ batters. Two of the three that followed struck out swinging, their bats making wide arcs as they wildly disregarded the chance of even bringing the outfielder home from third.
To be fair, the Red Sox did not overdo their on-field celebrations, leaving most of the dancing and shouting until they were back in the visitors’ clubhouse.
But this wasn’t a good night to be a Yankees’ fan.