Tonight was the rare late Sunday night game, meaning it started at 8pm for the national broadcast. I understand the appeal of the Boston-New York rivalry for marketing and enticing viewership. But a late Sunday night game is always tiring, and with these games notoriously going deep into the night (tonight’s game was 3 hours, 42 minutes and felt longer), it seems like its burning the candles at ends we never knew existed. Though looking at the broader scoreboard, I’m very glad the game was resolved in a regular 9 innings, unlike a couple of games today.
But the Yankees and Red Sox never make it easy, nor do they make it look easy. Even on years when one team is sheer perfection and the other is clutching to the bottom of the division, the rivalry games are still tense and nail-biters. Tonight was no exception, though I doubt you could say either team this year is “sheer perfection”.
David Phelps got the start tonight, but struggled his way through 53 pitches over just 2 innings. He allowed 6 hits, 5 runs, and 2 walks, without issuing any strikeouts. It was certainly a messy two innings for the Yankees pitcher. Back-to-back singles quickly put runners at the corners, and a sacrifice fly scored the first runner. A walk and a single loaded the bases, but then another single scored 2 more runs for the Red Sox.
The Yankees didn’t wait long to answer that 3-0 lead Boston claimed early. At the top of the 2nd, they loaded the bases with 2 walks and a single, so Stephen Drew’s ground out scored Teixeira. Another walk re-loaded the bases, and it was Brett Gardner’s double to score 2 Yankee runs. (If that seems rather similar to what the Red Sox just did, you’d be right. I thought so too.) But the game was now tied. 3-3
But again, Phelps’ struggled continued through his 2nd inning, allowing a 2-out 2-run home run to push the Red Sox up 5-3. Phelps was pulled from the game at the end of the inning, and upon further examination, they discovered an inflammation of his elbow. No one seems particularly concerned, mentioning that he might miss his next start, but really just wanting him to rest the arm before any further action is taken.
So it was Chase Whitley to the mound for the Yankees in the 3rd and 4th innings. Honestly, the 3rd inning was good defensively for both team, but the 4th, they seemed to match offensive attacks. (Actually, this was a pattern they clearly set early on in this game. And believe me, it got annoying fast.) In the top of the 4th, McCann led off with a double and scored on Drew’s double. (5-4 Red Sox)
Whitley struggled himself, in his 2 innings, throwing 52 pitches, allowing 2 hits, 2 runs, and 1 walk, getting 2 strikeouts. In the bottom of the 4th, a very large 2-out 2-run home run pushed the Red Sox up to a 7-4 lead, their second 3-run lead of the game.
It didn’t last long because it was that kind of game. In the top of the 5th, with 2 outs, Beltran doubled, McCann walked, Chase Headley doubled and scored Beltran, and then Drew’s single scored both McCann and Headley to tie up the game at 7-7.
New acquisition pitcher Esmil Rogers came on in relief of the struggling pitchers and turned the game around in his 3 solid innings. That’s right, 44 pitches over 3 innings, no runs, no hits, and just 1 walk, striking out 3 Boston batters. It was rather flawless, especially in light of the first half of the game. But what put him on the hook for the win tonight was in the top of the 6th, when Brett Gardner (because any more who else is it going to be?) hits his 15th home run of the season into the right center field seats, one of the longest parts of Fenway.
Betances’s flawless 8th allowed for Robertson’s 9th inning and 29th save, despite some rather tense moments just to keep fans on the edge of their seats. And on that last out in the bottom of the 9th inning, the score was 8-7 Yankees.
I also want to point out some rather impressive defense from the “new guys” as it were. Headley is so at home at 3rd base that whatever balls even come within range of the “hot corner” are fielded and played with such speed and excellence. Drew is making a good transition from his former spot as shortstop (with the Red Sox) to 2nd base with such ease that it’s almost hard to imagine he hasn’t played there since he was in high school; Drew has been the key player in quite a few crucial double plays over this series against his former team.
Martin Prado is getting himself comfortable in right field; a park like Fenway with an awkward right field shape can be tricky for players who don’t have much experience playing out there, but Prado seems to be making those long catches and runs as if he’s played there longer than the last few days (he was formerly an infielder). And Rogers debuted with the Yankees tonight and certainly silenced whatever critics were joshing at the trade a few days ago, proving that the best revenge is often exceeding low-set expectations with class, quality, and excellence.
So the Yankees take this series from Boston 2-1, and now head off back home to face Detroit and three of the leagues best pitchers. It’s going to be an interesting next couple of months, as most of the talking heads are already talking Wild Card races. I guess, it’s that time of year, but I prefer to focus on that come September. There’s still far too much baseball to play.