So close… but not enough. And even after 3 hours and 44 minutes, the AL East rankings still don’t change (thanks to the Indians of all teams!).
Ivan Nova got the start in the first game of this 3-game Fenway series. He wasn’t quite as sharp as his SuperNova persona, the one Yankee Universe practically expects every time the young pitcher steps up to the mound. But it wasn’t terrible either. He threw 92 pitches through 6 innings, giving up 7 hits, 1 walk, and 3 runs, and striking out 3 Boston batters. Both teams tonight collected their runs as if they were supposed to spread it out through the game.
In the 3rd, with 1 out and 1 runner on base, the Red Sox batter hit the a 2-run homer into the Green Monster to get the Red Sox on the board and in the lead. And in the 4th, the lead-off veteran power-hitter of the Red Sox hit a big home run that chipped the edge of the Green Monster for another run scored.
Adam Warren came on in relief in the 7th and really had kind of an off night. After a nice strikeout, Warren let runners on the corners with consecutive hits. So it was on to Chasen Shreve. A ground out scored Boston’s fourth (and thankfully final) run of the evening. But consecutive walks loaded the bases and set both teams on edge until a line out ended the inning and saved any further runs from scoring that inning. Shreve threw a fairly flawless 8th inning, getting a quick 3 outs to turn the game back over to the Yankees.
Look, the Yankees were hitting tonight (a total of 10 hits) and getting on base a lot (8 total walks), but the Yankees really struggled with getting runs across the plate. The last place Red Sox were playing better defense than they’ve played in a few years (maybe since their 2013 championship year). Boston certainly knows how to keep the rivalry alive.
Anyway, the Yankees started their offensive march right at the beginning of the game. Leading off the game, Ellsbury reached on catcher’s interference (why am hearing this phrase a lot this year?), Young reached on a failed force attempt, and Rodriguez singled to load the bases with no outs. This would be the first time of far too many of this pattern set for this game. Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly scored Ellsbury to get the Yankees on the board (and add to their 1st inning runs scored total, still leading the entire league in that stat).
Then in the 4th, down 2-1 to the Red Sox, the bases were loaded again with no outs — a walk and 2 singles. Didi Gregorius singled home McCann to tie up the game. A ground out got the force out at home to cut off the Yankee run scoring (in the first display of Red Sox defensive prowess tonight). A line out became a double play at the plate when the outfielder who caught the line out fired the ball into home to nab Bird as he tried to score. Again, who are these defensive Red Sox?
The Red Sox bullpen was not great to the Yankees and protected the Red Sox’s small lead into the 9th inning. With the Red Sox leading 4-2 in the 9th, they were looking for an easy 3 outs for the win. But the Yankees played to pattern and made their win rather difficult and dramatic. With 1 out, and the tying runs in scoring position after a single, a walk, and a wild pitch, McCann walked to load the bases (again). And for some reason, Chase Headley drew a walk himself, and that walked in Drew to put the Yankees within 1 run and kept the bases loaded. Another strikeout and both teams were on edge once again, each fan base praying for very different outcomes. And Didi Gregorius, who went 4-for-5 tonight, hit a long fly ball that missed the wall and a grand slam by just a few feet for the fly out to end the inning, the rally, and the game.
Final score: 4-3 Red Sox.
September call-ups are literally minutes away (as I write this blog post nearing midnight EST), but I’ll save the updates on that until the final list is made tomorrow and added to my least favorite blog bit.
Instead, I’ll remind everyone that September 1st is the day when all 30 teams expand their active rosters from 25 to 40 for the rest of the season. This is done with several things in mind. First, the additions give managers the option to rest and rotate out some of the players that are nursing late-season injuries (like Teixeira). Second, it gives managers a chance to see if there is anyone on the extended roster who might help the team with both their postseason race and then into the postseason. Third, it shakes up things the final weeks where teams mainly play division rivals who are used to playing against the same old players all season and giving them new faces, new bats, new pitches to deal with.
If your team makes it the playoffs, the team reduces back to a 25-man roster, but the only players allowed to participate in the postseason are those who were on the active roster come September 1st. Seeing as how things are lining up, the Yankees postseason probabilities are still very high, so who is part of the September call-up is going to be very crucial for both the race to the postseason and then the postseason itself.