In their final regular season series of the season, the New York Yankees took care of business in short order against the Boston Red Sox. AL Wild Card home-field advantage was clinched, records were broken, the lineup got healthier and a spring training game broke out in the end. The Yankees capped off a remarkable regular season and while I’ll miss not having baseball every day, I’m pumped up for the possibility of another long postseason run and ultimately the prospect of World Series title 28!
No lead is truly safe at Fenway Park, so, even with four home runs, the Yankees still had some anxious moments near the end but staved off the Red Sox with an 11-6 victory. New York also saw the return of Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius to the starting lineup.
Boston certainly wasn’t tipping its hand with Brian Johnson starting on the bump. Hence, the New York offense was ready and eager to lock up home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card game.
Gary Sanchez got the Bronx Bombers on the board with a third-inning launch job off a 2-0 fastball from Johnson. Sanchez’s solo shot over the Green Monster provided the Yankees with a 1-0 lead and was No. 18 on the campaign.
After Aaron Judge walked and Hicks singled to left, Giancarlo Stanton doubled the lead with an RBI-single to center.
An inning later, the Yankees made quick work of the Boston bullpen, batting around in the process. Facing William Cuevas, Miguel Andujar lined a one-out double to left, tying Joe DiMaggio’s franchise rookie record with 44 on the season. After a Sanchez walk, Gleyber Torres smacked a two-run double to center. A lined single to left by Andrew McCutchen plated Torres. Judge would follow with a single to right.
Capping off the frame with an emphatic comeback note was Hicks, clocking a three-run homer to right on a 1-0 fastball. Hicks’ home run was No. 27 on the year.
J.A. Happ registered another solid start against the team he was brought in to beat. Is it me or do the Yankees always seem to have at least one inning at the plate where they bat for a half an hour during a Happ outing? Happ was especially dominant in the early going, holding the Red Sox without a hit through the first three innings and without a run through the first five frames.
Yet in the sixth, Happ’s blip was a big blast. Mookie Betts started the Boston offense rolling with a one-out single to left. Hicks got a bad read on a ball hit by Andrew Benintendi, which turned into a double. With two down Xander Bogaerts coaxed a walk. Ensuing batter Steve Pearce played Yankee killer again and swatted a grand slam to left.
Happ’s overall ledger was a fine tuneup, logging six stanzas, fanning seven, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks.
COOL HAND LUKE
Facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh, Luke Voit crushed a one-out solo homer to right off a first-pitch fastball. Voit’s home run marked No. 14 on his special season.
Later on in the inning, Gregorius scored on a fielding error by Bogaerts.
JUDGE RECORD CONFIRMED
In the eighth inning quite fittingly Judge’s first home run off the disabled list was a special one. Judge’s jolt to straightaway center was No. 27 on the campaign and helped the Bronx Bombers tie the 1997 Seattle Mariners MLB single-season record of 264 home runs by a club. Judge’s home run off Bobby Poyner gave the Yankees an 11-4 lead.
In the home half of the eighth, the Red Sox worked Dellin Betances and Pearce added to his RBI total with a base knock to center.
During the ninth, Boston even touched up Zach Britton. A Gregorius throwing error certainly didn’t help his cause either. A bases-loaded walk to Bogaerts would give Boston its sixth run. Yet, Britton was able to retire Pearce to end the game on a nice wire to wire play by Andujar and Voit.
A Saturday matinee served to check off all of the boxes when it comes to milestones. Earning 100 wins with an 8-5 victory, New York hit the century mark for the first time since 2009 (of course we all know what happened that season) and manager Aaron Boone became the first Yankees rookie skipper to guide his team to 100 wins since Dick Howser did so in 1980. Again the underbelly of the bullpen made this one feel closer than it was but the Yankees were able to take the series.
After the Yankees and Red Sox exchanged runs in the with RBI-doubles from Stanton and Jackie Bradley Jr. respectively, the Bronx Bombers left the ’97 M’s in the dust in the fourth frame.
Gregorius propelled the offense with a leadoff single against Eduardo Rodriguez. Following an Andujar flyout, Greg Bird doubled to left plating Gregorius for a 2-1 lead. The ensuing batter Torres topped a two-run tater to right-center. Torres’ home run gave the Bronx Bombers 265 as a team, setting a single-season MLB record for home runs by a team and by doing so out of the nine-hole it also meant the 2018 Yankees became the first squad in history with 20+ home runs from every spot in the batting order.
During the fifth frame Andujar, facing Brandon Workman, lined a two-run double to left. With his 45th two-bagger, Andujar broke Joe DiMaggio’s franchise rookie record for doubles in a season. Andujar would also crack the top ten in franchise history with double No. 46 in the ninth.
As I tweeted out during the game, this whole “throw it back” nonsense needs to end before a player gets killed. A few years back a Yankee fan throwing back a home run pegged Gardner in the back of the head at Yankee Stadium and Saturday it was Stanton by a Red Sox fan.
In the seventh, Stanton smashed home run No. 38 and recorded RBI No. 100 on the season off Steven Wright and into the Green Monster seats. A Boston fan from the high up Monster seats chucked the ball back and hit Stanton rounding second on one hop. When you factor in the height and distance it wasn’t as impressive of a throw as they were making it out to be on the FOX broadcast but that combination is basically asking for trouble.
Some pitchers made their way onto the postseason roster, while others may have pitched themselves off of it.
Domingo German showed some life with three K’s in his abbreviated 1.1 inning start. Stephen Tarpley absolutely needs to be on the roster and continued his excellence against lefty batters, fanning one in 0.2 of an inning. Lance Lynn registered four K’s and allowed one run in three frames, continuing his solid outing streak against Boston this season. Sonny Gray also made his case with two scoreless frames and three K’s.
Boone certainly has no shortage of ways to mix and match in the playoffs.
On the bad side, Tommy Kahnle was erratic with a huge lead, walking a pair and allowing a run. Jonathan Holder, perhaps fatigued from warming up with Kahnle on the bump in the eighth, allowed two runs on three hits in 0.1 of a frame.
Aroldis Chapman looked solid with the mixing of his fastball and slider. Chapman is still trying to harness the fastball but it did touch triple digits and accomplished enough to keep hitters honest with his slider. Returning to his familiar ninth inning, Chapman struck out the two batters he faced and closed out the Red Sox.
For all intents and purposes, the regular season finale could’ve been played in Ft. Myers, Fla. Other than a couple of housekeeping notes it was a meaningless 10-2 loss for the Yankees.
OVER BEFORE IT STARTED
Both teams marched out a combined 15 pitchers and Luis Cessa didn’t even make it out of the first frame, colliding at first base with Eduardo Nunes. Cessa only recorded one out and yielded four runs. David Robertson polished off the first flawlessly. Jonathan Loaisiga wasn’t helped by his defense with three unearned runs. Loaisiga also allowed a home run to Bogaerts. Justus Sheffield surrendered three runs which were earned, including a home run to J.D. Martinez.
On the plus side, Tarpley, A.J. Cole and Chance Adams didn’t allow a run the rest of the way.
A-VOIT-ING THE SHUTOUT
One can’t help but get the feeling that Voit is going to hit a big homer during the playoffs. Entering play Sunday, Voit’s 14 home runs were only second in MLB to the 15 of Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers since August 24. Impressive considering Yelich is probably going to earn NL MVP honors. Think the St. Louis Cardinals could’ve used some of those home runs down the stretch?
In the fourth frame, Voit capped off the Bronx Bombers record-setting home run total at 267 with home run No. 15 on the campaign.
Also during the fourth frame, Andujar tied Fred Lynn’s AL rookie record by hitting double No. 47 off the Green Monster. While he didn’t get the three hits needed to bat an even .300 on the campaign, Andujar’s numbers from this season and 2017 give him a .300 average on his young career. Quite the rookie season.