So here we are, six games to go in the 2016 regular season and the Yankees are still not eliminated from a playoff spot. Even if it is only mathematically still alive, the fact they are still alive would not have been plausible back in July. Only two weeks removed from an eight game win streak, the team has struggled down the stretch. Putting off a Red Sox division clincher or even spoiling their chances at home field advantage may be what they are really playing for.
A late dinger saves the day
Luis Cessa got the start in the opener against the Red Sox and was very solid, limiting Boston to 2 runs on 6 hits. Cessa has been excellent in his time in the rotation and seemingly is a front-runner for a spot going into 2017. He was most impressive in the sixth inning when he struck out David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez with the tying run on base.
Gary Sanchez got the Yankees out to an early lead with a two-run home run off of David Price, his 20th of the season. The home run on the first pitch of the at bat gives Sanchez a first pitch slash line of .667/.571/1.917 with 5 HRs and 10 RBIs. The stuff of video game legend. He also seemingly likes Red Sox pitching with a line of .371/.389/1.160 and 4 HRs and 8 RBIs. That’ll work.
After Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead, the Red Sox rallied against Tommy Layne to tie things at 4 apiece. Tyler Austin would come to the rescue with a 2-run home run to right field in the seventh to put the Yankees back up at 6-4. His opposite field power has shown as all four of his home runs have gone to right field at Yankee Stadium. He is still a work in progress, but still could be an important piece in 2017.
The bullpen would manage to cobble together the final two innings. And after the meltdowns of last week in Boston, that was huge. The game would end on a strikeout of Ortiz by Tyler Clippard. The Yankees have shown some resilience the past couple of nights and have many players contributing that are going to be an important part of seasons to come.
Another crazy ninth inning
Bryan Mitchell would pitch his best game of a limited 2016 season for him on Wednesday night. He would limit the Red Sox to 2 hits in 7 shutout innings. He would walk 5, but 3 of those came in the fifth inning alone. He was bailed out partially by a caught stealing at second base in that inning, which was easily his biggest jam of the night. Mitchell was certainly solid in his starts after coming off the disabled list and should be able to parlay this to success in 2017. At this point, I think is certainly a no doubter that he would be penciled in for one of the back of the rotation spots for next season.
Clay Buchholz had the Yankees number for the six innings of work he gave Boston. Before the ninth inning, the Yankees had exactly four baserunners and only one hit. Buchholz has been pitching better of late, but one measly hit? Once again, the Yankee offense needing pitchers to stay perfect.
An error and a ground rule double in the eighth inning would set up Boston to put the first runs of the game on the board. A high chopper over Chase Headley‘s head produced two of those runs and the third came across on a Sanchez passed ball. The Red Sox had manufactured three runs and with the Yankee offense mailing it in through eight innings, the Yankees opponents looked ready to celebrate a division title on the road.
Craig Kimbrell came out for the ninth and faced only four batters, failing to retire any of them. A leadoff single and three consecutive walks plated a run for the Yankees and brought on Joe Kelly, who has been a mirror image of Luis Severino this season with his bullpen numbers. Kelly would quickly get a strikeout and pop up and suddenly a blown opportunity was staring the Yankees in the face. Mark Teixeira would have something to say about things when he did this:
If that was his last career home run, he has definitely been sent off with a lovely parting gift. It’s been a rough week for closers and Teixeira played a big role in that.
The Yankees had scored five runs in the ninth after only having one hit prior to that inning. Three hits for the game was enough to get it done on this night and just goes to prove why baseball is the greatest game. There is no running out the clock or taking a knee. Gotta get all 27 outs each and every day.
Sabathia turned in one of his better performances of 2016 in the series finale on Thursday night as he limited the Red Sox to 4 hits and 1 run in 7.1 innings. The big left hander struck out eight and was totally in control on the night. His season had some rough patches in it, but overall he exceeded everyone’s expectations this year. Can he take this new found pitching strategy and do it again in 2017? We can only hope as the Yankees will probably be counting on him in a big way.
Early on, things looked like they were going to be pretty tight. A Starlin Castro double scored the Yankees first run and Boston answered with a Bogaerts home run. Things would stay tied at 1 until the Yankees would create a little space in the fifth and sixth innings. Doubles by Ellsbury and Hicks sandwiched around a bases loaded walk pushed the lead to 5-1 and Clippard and Richard Bleier finish the deal as the Yankees completed the three game sweep.
The Orioles beat Toronto to officially eliminate the Yankees from playoff contention, but from where this team stood earlier in the year, it has been one fun ride the past two months. Things look to be much more exciting heading into 2017 and although this year’s free agent class is severely lacking, it would not be a shock to see Brian Cashman pull off a trade or two and have the team right in the thick of things. The Yankees finish the season with three games with Baltimore and if nothing else can make life difficult for the Orioles as they try to lock down a wild card spot.