CC, Warren, long ball clich wild card spot for Yanks
In what seemed a foregone conclusion at the start of the final homestand of the regular season that the Yankees would clinch their first postseason appearance in three seasons, it took until the last home game of 2015 for them to make it a reality.
After three straight losses to the Red Sox, the Yankees ended the agonizing path to a wild-card playoff berth Thursday night with a 4-1 victory over their long-time rivals. The Yankees were able to taste some champagne before (and perhaps during) their charter flight to Baltimore where they will start a three-game series Friday night (weather permitting) with one more task remaining, that of guaranteeing they are the home team for the wild-card game next Tuesday night.
Just qualifying for that game had been a chore for the Yanks, who were eliminated from the American League East race Tuesday by the division champion Blue Jays. Boston put up a roadblock for three nights, but the Yankees broke through on a damp, chilly night in a game that was played through a steady drizzle over the first six innings.
Having had trouble hitting with runners in scoring position in the series (6-for-29, 30 runners left on base in 27 innings), the Yanks resorted to their traditional ally — the home run — to provide the support for the quality pitching supplied by CC Sabathia, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances.
Solo shots by Carlos Beltran off starter Rich Hill in the second inning, Greg Bird off Jean Machi in the seventh and Rob Refsnyder off Heath Hembree in the eighth powered the Yankees to the 10,000th victory in franchise history. The other RBI for the Yankees was by Brendan Ryan on a two-out single off Hill in the second.
The hearty souls in the announced crowd of 40,033 at Yankee Stadium were rewarded for their endurance under miserable weather conditions.
Upon returning from the disabled list Sept. 9 after recovering from right knee inflammation, Sabathia vowed to have impact on the Yankees’ drive to the postseason, and he did exactly that. The big lefthander held Boston to one run, six hits and three walks (one intentional) with three strikeouts in five innings. In five starts since his return from the DL, Sabathia was 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 29 innings.
Sabathia leads the Yankees in innings pitched with 167 1/3. Excluding the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994, the Yankees have never completed a season in which no pitcher reached 170 innings.
Even more impressive Thursday night was Warren, who supplied three innings of shutout, one-hit, three-strikeout relief. Manager Joe Girardi planned to have Warren pitch out of the bullpen in the wild card game, so nailing down Thursday night’s game meant that Warren does not have to bs used as a starter in Baltimore.
Betances worked the ninth and retired the side on order with two strikeouts for his ninth save. Betances’ game-ending strikeout of Josh Rutledge was the 589th punchout by the Yankees’ bullpen this season, which ties the major league record set in 2012 by the Rockies. The Yanks will likely establish a new standard sometime over the weekend.
This year’s Yankees are the first team in major league history to have seven pitchers get at least 100 strikeouts in a season. Prior to this season, they had never had more than five pitchers reach triple-digit strikeouts in a season (four times, most recently 2013).