Actually, for most of the game tonight, it was quite the pitchers’ duel. Bryan Mitchell got the start for the Yankees against the visiting Red Sox and ended up throwing a 2-hitter. Yes, the Yankees’ starter kept the AL East Division Champions (more later) to just 2 hits through the first 7 innings of this game. Well, he did give up 5 walks and just struck out 2 batters. But the lack of score is what made things rather interesting.
Not that the Yankees were hitting much off the Red Sox’s starter. In total, they got one hit and 2 walks off him in his 6 innings. The Yankees’ offense was also kept silent through the 7th and 8th innings under the Boston bullpen.
The Boston batters poked a hole in the pitchers’ duel in the 8th inning though. Adam Warren had a bit of trouble coming on in relief thanks in part to the lead-off batter reaching on a fielding error. A ground-rule double put runners in scoring position. Then with 1 out, Warren opted to intentionally walk a Boston favorite (and the fairly strong showing of Red Sox fans shared their displeasure). A double scored 2 runs to break the scoreless game before Warren again intentionally walked another power-hitter in the line-up. And that was it for Warren tonight.
Tommy Layne came on to close out the inning. A passed ball scored the runner from 3rd, who, though usually a slow runner, booked it home at the quickest he’d run all year. With another out recorded, Layne intentionally walked the next batter (the 3rd intentional walk of the inning) before getting that final out to get out of the inning.
In the 9th, the Yankees turned to Jonathan Holder for the first 2 outs and James Pazos to get the 3rd out before they turned things over to the Yankee offense for a last-minute rally. And boy, did they get one.
The Yankees certainly took advantage of the new reliever. Gardner led-off with a single and ended up at 2nd on defensive indifference. Ellsbury worked the first walk of the inning, and a wild pitch moved both outfielders into scoring position. Sanchez then worked a walk and was then pinch-run by Torreyes. Still with no outs this inning, Brian McCann earned the 3rd walk of the inning that walked in Gardner to get the Yankees on the board.
So the Red Sox, feeling the Yankees knocking on their lead, decided to pull their reliever who couldn’t seem to get an out tonight. The new reliever quickly got 2 outs, and Yankee fans were hoping against all hope as Mark Teixeira stepped into the batter’s box. A first pitch curveball on the outside edge of the strike zone. Then, the retiring veteran saw a pitch he liked — a 99 mph fastball — which he hit deep into the Yankees’ bullpen. That’s right, a walk-off grand slam home run!
Final score: 5-3 Yankees.
Okay, time for some Mark Teixeira and grand slam trivia… This was Teixeira’s 12th career grand slam, 205th career home run, and his 15th home run this season. Until tonight, Mark Teixeira held the record for most home run in his career without a walk-off home run, making tonight’s walk-off a major milestone for him.
Now, I did some research on walk-off grand slams, and apparently, they’re not as rare as you’d think. Between 1950 and 2015, they were more than 180 walk-off grand slams. Now, there are only 28 “super walk-off grand slams” or “ultimate walk-off grand slams”, where a team was losing by 3 runs and the grand slam’s 4 runs were the only thing needed. Unfortunately, the Yankees weren’t in that position thanks to McCann’s RBI walk.
This is the 4th Yankees walk-off grand slam with the team trailing, and it’s illustrious company — Alex Rodriguez (April 7, 2007), Jason Giambi (May 17, 2002), and Babe Ruth (September 24, 1925). Plus, Teixeira is the 1st Yankee to hit a walk-off grand slam against the Red Sox since Charlie Keller in 1942.
Now, that we’ve geeked out a bit on tonight’s Yankee good news. The Red Sox were also served their own good news tonight. Despite the loss, the Red Sox clinched the AL East division due to the Orioles beating the Blue Jays in their game. The Blue Jays were the last threat to the Red Sox lead, and thanks in part to the Yankees beating them in 3 games this weekend, the Red Sox eased into the lead and took the division title. Of course, the best comment of the night is wouldn’t it be weird to see both teams celebrating on the field — the Yankees for their grand slam win, the Red Sox for their division championship. But I’m glad they saved it for the visitor’s clubhouse.