Yanks take 12-1 lead, then have to sweat it out
The Yankees ended the trip in Boston the way it began in Atlanta with a blowout victory, although matters got a bit dicey in the late innings, which is typical of life at Fenway Park.
Scoring runs was what this trek was all about for the Yankees, which they sorely needed following their prior disappointing homestand. Perhaps the upcoming, 10-game homestand against the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays that begins Friday night will be more successful for the Bombers now that they have loosened up offensively.
A 13-8 victory over the Red Sox in a late-afternoon start made it a 5-1 trip for the Yankees, who outscored opponents by a combined score of 57-24.
It did not take long for David Ortiz to break out of his funk. The day after he took a golden sombrero with four strikeouts Tuesday night, Big Papi broke the spell in the first inning with a double to right field that scored Mookie Betts, who led off with a double off the Green Monster but was still stuck on second base with two out.
Boston’s glee was short-lived, however. The Yankees responded in the second inning with an eight-run outburst that began with a two-run home run by Greg Bird. Yes, that was Bird at first base for the Yankees as manager Joe Girardi came to his senses and kept Alex Rodriguez as the designated hitter instead of using him at first base against a left-handed starting pitcher, in this case rookie Henry Owens.
With the injury to first baseman Mark Teixeira that has sidelined him for two weeks and likely will keep him out another fortnight, Girardi had been contemplating playing Rodriguez a first base on occasion even though he displayed no proclivity at the position when used there earlier this season. The feeling here is that A-Rod should not wander off the DH position at this time of year after spending all season in that role. Moving to a position in the field for a 40-year-old who has hardly used a glove all season did not seem to make much sense.
So Rodriguez stayed at DH with Bird at first base, and did that not work out for the Yankees as they chased Owen in that second inning? Bird’s homer following a one-out walk to Chase Headley was the rookie’s fourth hit in 10 at-bats against lefthanders, so it could mean that platooning him may not be necessary.
And A-Rod struck the blow that knocked out Owen, a two-run single, then trotted home after Carlos Beltran slugged the first pitch from reliever Ryan Cook over the Monster for the Yanks’ third home run of the inning. John Ryan Murphy had followed Bird’s blow with one of his own.
The inning also included yet more hits from red-hot Didi Gregorius (single) and Stephen Drew (double), both left-handed hitters, and another run-scoring hit off a lefty by Chris Young. Drew kept it up with a three-run home run an inning later as did Gregorius with a solo shot in the fifth.
Boston fans who remember his importance as the shortstop on the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series champions may wonder why Yankees fans have been so rough on Drew. Actually, Yanks fans have been awfully patient with Drew, whose batting average was below .200 most of the past two seasons.
After starting the trip 0-for-4 with his average falling to .192, Drew vaulted over the Mendoza the past four games with nine hits in 12 at-bats (.750) with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBI and is now hitting a robust .211.
Gregorius, another Yankees infielder who took a while to win over the fans, also had a huge trip with 14 hits in 24 at-bats (.583), one double, two home runs and 10 RBI. The shortstop walked three times and scored seven runs and lifted his batting average from .253 to .272.
An emotional spot for the Yanks was the appearance of Andrew Bailey in relief of winning pitcher Mashiro Tanaka (11-6) in the seventh inning. Bailey, the 2009 American League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award with the Athletics, last pitched in the majors two years ago for the Red Sox and came back from two shoulder injuries. The righthander showed some rust in giving up two walks and a single, but just getting back on a big-league hill was a major hurdle for the New Jersey native who now lives in Connecticut.
However, the lack of shutdown work by Bailey and Bryan Mitchell, who gave up two runs in the eighth, forced Girardi to use Dellin Betances in what was once a 12-1 game to get out of a bases-loaded situation with a strikeout of Pablo Sandoval and a force play by Zander Bogaerts.
Caleb Cotham did not make Girardi’s job easier as the skipper was forced to bring in Andew Miller in a non-closing situation after the first two Boston batters in the ninth reached base on doubles. Miller finally put an end to the trip that kept the Yanks within reach of Toronto in the American League East and bolstered their hold on a wild-card berth.