Teixeira pulls cork out of Red Sox’ champagne
A hero one night, on the bench the next. That was the story with Tyler Austin, whose two-run home run in the seventh inning Tuesday night made the difference in the Yankees’ 6-4 victory over the Red Sox. All four of Austin’s homers have been go-ahead blasts to right field at Yankee Stadium.
Yet he was not in the lineup Wednesday night as manager Joe Girardi decided to go with Mark Teixeira at first base because of his familiarity with Boston starter Clay Buchholz. Tex is only a .161 hitter in 31 career at-bats against Buchholz, but two of his hits are home runs. Austin has never faced Buchholz.
The Red Sox righthander was long out of the game when Teixeira rewarded Girardi for his confidence in him. Tex kept the Yankees’ wafer-thin playoff hopes alive with a dramatic grand slam to cap an astounding ninth-inning comeback for a 5-3 victory that put a crimp in Boston’s plans to celebrate its clinching the American League East title.
The Red Sox did that minutes earlier when the Orioles pulled off a dramatic comeback of their own in Toronto with one run in the eighth and two in the ninth to knock off the Blue Jays, 3-2. Going into the bottom of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, it appeared as if the Yankees would suffer a double dose of pain by watching the Red Sox celebrate their clinching and being eliminated from the AL wild card race all at the same time. After all, the Yankees had only one hit over the first eight innings and seemed destined to go down without a fight.
Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel came in to finish the Yanks off but could not find the plate. Brett Gardner, the one Yankees hitter the Red Sox could not get out (two hits, two walks) started things off with a single to center. Kimbrel then walked the next three hitters to force in a run. The third walk was to Brian McCann, Kimbrel’s old catcher from their days together in Atlanta.
Boston manager John Farrell had seen enough and summoned Joe Kelly, who did the opposite and threw nothing but strikes. He fanned Starlin Castro on three pitches and retired Didi Gregorius on a foul pop. Kelly got ahead in the count 0-1 to Teixeira, who caught up with a 99-mph fastball on the next pitch and slammed it into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field for his 15th home run of the season and what he told the fans on the field “I hope it will be my last.”
Teixeira, who is retiring at the end of the season, has hit two huge home runs for the Yankees this week. The other was a solo shot in the ninth inning Monday night at Toronto that tied the score and headed the Yanks toward a five-run rally and 7-5 victory. He did not do much against Buchholz, but neither did anyone. Buchholz allowed one hit over six scoreless innings. Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell pitched seven innings of shutout ball and got away with five walks.
The Red Sox struck for three runs in the eighth off Adam Warren, although only one was earned due to an error by Castro. AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Mookie Betts got the key hit, a two-run double, with the third run scoring on a passed ball by Gary Sanchez with another retiring player, David Ortiz chugging down the line.
In the end, the incredible finish was fashioned by the veteran first baseman who got the starting nod over the guy who was the hero the night before. The Yankees remained four games behind the Orioles with four to play, three against Baltimore after the series finale with Boston Thursday night.
Austin was 3-for-3 Tuesday night, which marked the third time this season that a hitter in the 9-hole had at least three hits in a game. Ronald Torreyes was 4-for-4 Aug. 19 at Anaheim, and Donovan Solano was 3-for-5 Sept. 21 at St. Petersburg, Fla. The Yankees ate tied with the Indians for the most such games this season.
With his 20th home run Tuesday night, Gregorius joined double-play partner Castro in the 20-homer club. Castro has 21 homers. The YES Network reports that Gregorius and Castro are only the third shortstop-second base combination aged 26 or younger in major-league history with at least 20 homers each. The other combos were the Astros’ Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve last year and the Mariners’ Alex Rodriguez and David Bell in 1999. Gregorius tied Tom Tresh (1962) and Roy Smalley (1982) for the fourth highest home run total for a shortstop in franchise history, topped only by Derek Jeter’s 24 in 1999, 23 in 2004 and 21 in 2001.
The Yankees’ 82nd victory guaranteed their 24th consecutive winning season, the second longest stretch in franchise history. The Yankees had 39 straight winning seasons from 1926 through 1964.