I have to say this game drove me nuts for a lot of reasons. I mean, mostly because the Yankees had this game. They played really well. And then they just let it all slip away in the very last inning. It’s the worst possible result of “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”. And of course, it was against Boston, in front of a sold-out crowd in Boston, to start this long weekend series in Boston.
Anyway, leading up to that, Masahiro Tanaka certainly stayed in command of the game tonight at Fenway in a rather strange way — without recording any strikeouts at all during his outing. Tanaka threw 93 pitches (61 of them strikes, by the way) over his 7 innings, only gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and a run. But no strikeouts, something he’s never done in his entire MLB career. But that does say a lot about the Yankees’ defense, though. It should be noted that in his last game, he struck out 10 batters. (But more on that later.)
The lone run the Red Sox made under Tanaka’s watch was in the 3rd inning. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a ground out and then to 3rd on a single. The bases were loaded with another walk before a sacrifice fly scored that lead runner. But Tanaka got out of the jam with a pop-up on the next batter. Like I said, the defense was good tonight under Tanaka.
In the mean time, the Yankees earned themselves a healthy lead thanks to a poor outing by the Red Sox starter. In the 1st with 1 out, Ellsbury singled and ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s ground-rule double. He then scored on Starlin Castro’s single. Sanchez scored on Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly. (No, that’s not a misprint, more on that later.)
In the 3rd, with 1 out, Castro doubled and then scored on Butler’s RBI single. Gregorius’ double put runners in scoring position, where Butler then scored on Chase Headley’s single. That would be it for the Red Sox starter, and the first reliever promptly shut down the rally in that inning. He had a bit more trouble with Gardner in the 4th. Gardner led-off with a walk, stole 2nd, and took 3rd on a passed ball. He then scored 2-outs later on Castro’s single to solidify the Yankees’ nice lead.
The rest of the Red Sox bullpen shut down the Yankees batters fairly well, adding 6 more strikeouts to their total over the next 5 innings. The Yankees’ bullpen wasn’t so lucky.
Adam Warren came on in relief of Tanaka in the 8th, but had a bit a trouble, giving up a big 1-out solo home run to the retiring Red Sox power-hitter. (Random trivia: Ortiz has 53 home runs against the Yankees, the 4th most all-time behind Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, and Manny Ramirez — all mostly Red Sox players, by the way.) A single, a wild pitch, and a walk put Warren into a jam, but he worked his way out of it in the end.
Tommy Layne came on for the 9th inning to start things right, which he does with a fabulous 3-pitch strike out. Layne is a specialist reliever, so the Yankees go to a new pitcher — Blake Parker, who has his own 3-pitch outing hits his batter. Oops.
So it’s on to Dellin Betances. But Betances has struggled lately and continued to do so tonight. First, the batter advanced on defensive indifference (not uncommon in the 9th inning), and Betances walks the batter. Both runners advance to scoring position on defensive indifference (okay, maybe throwing on that one would’ve been smart). The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice, which instinctively meant the out was at home. And it was, as part of a rundown (and those are always entertaining).
Now, with 2 outs, the Yankees just needed that final out for the win. But it wouldn’t come. Two more singles scored two more runs, and with 2 runners on base, Betances threw a 99 mph fastball to someone who hits well off fastball, who also promptly hit the ball to center field for a big 3-run walk-off home run.
Final score: 7-5 Red Sox.
First up, Tanaka: so, according to some random trivia hounds, Tanaka came into tonight’s game with a record of 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA over his previous 7 starts, walking off the mound tonight with a season ERA of 2.97. This makes him the AL ERA leader. Joining the likes of 1997 David Cone (2.82) and Andy Pettitte (2.88). The last Yankee to lead the AL in ERA was back in 1980 with Rudy May. This was also Tanaka’s 9th start with at least 7 innings pitched and 1 run or less allowed, officially the most in the AL.
Okay, roster news: the Yankees transferred Nathan Eovaldi from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, effectively removing him from the 40-man roster. Eovaldi, as you might remember, is currently out with a right elbow tendon injury and currently healing from his second Tommy John surgery.
And then, the Yankees opted to sign Billy Butler. Now, if that name sounds familiar, you probably remember the uncomfortable situation between then Royals’ rising star Butler and then Yankees’ star Robinson Cano leading up to and including the 2012 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. A quick recap: Cano was the HR Derby captain after winning the previous year and was tasked with filling out his AL team, and after toying with the idea of choosing the “hometown hero” Butler, he opted to choose better hitters (who went on to trounce the NL players).
But Kansas City fans got rather “enthusiastic” with their vitriolic jeering during the HR Derby, the Red Carpet parade, and the All-Star Game. All while Butler remained rather silent, almost soaking in the fan loyalty and shrugging off the caustic treatment of Cano (and to some extent Jeter and Granderson, who were also at the 2012 ASG). To this day, Royals fans still maintain their hatred to the now Mariners’ infielder, though Butler would sign with Oakland last season and be released this season shortly after an “unspecified altercation” in the clubhouse.
After his release, Butler considered calling it quits for this season, but then when interest from Detroit and New York, he made a deal with New York, who were looking for someone with some consistency against left-handed pitchers. Which I can understand because who doesn’t want to be a Yankee. Butler made his debut with the Yankees tonight and contributed a lot to the Yankees’ lead. But as he’s yet to perform in front of the sometimes hostile Yankee crowd (who are known for their rather long memories).