Unlike the 1st-place Yankees, I am 5 games behind. Time to make up some ground.
After beating the Mets 2 out of 3, and showing their idiot fans what they think of their blue & orange "swagger," the Yankees welcomed the desiccated husk of the Tampa Bay Rays to Yankee Stadium II last Monday. Adam Warren pitched into the 6th inning, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and (I love to see these words in connection with a Yankee starter) no walks. He struck out 6, but, as I often say, it doesn't matter how the outs come, only that they do.
But he left with the game tied 1-1 -- the Yankee run scored on a bases-loaded walk by Brett Gardner -- and Justin Wilson came in. He, David Carpenter, Dellin Betanches and Andrew Miller pitched 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing just 2 baserunners, a walk by Carpenter and a single by Miller.
In the bottom of that 6th inning, Brian McCann, who has snuck under the radar to become possibly the Yanks' most interesting hitter not named Alex Rodriguez, hit a go-head home run, his 2nd round-tripper of this still-young season. Doubles by the much-maligned (both of them) Carlos Beltran and Stephen Drew added another run. Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the 8th, to make the final score Yankees 4, Rays 1.
WP: Wilson (1-0). SV: Miller (8). LP: Brandon Gomes (0-1).
Miller has been a bit of a surprise. I thought Betances was going to move up to the closer's role, as Mariano Rivera did when John Wetteland left after 1996, and David Robertson did when Mo retired after 2013. Many of us (I was not one of them) were worried that Betances wasn't up to the task. But he's continued to do well as the setup man, and Miller has been a revelation.
Robertson? He's doing just fine for the Chicago White Sox, 2-0 without having allowed a run yet. Good for him, and good for the White Sox and their fans. And yet, we haven't missed him a bit. Whatever reasons we might have to be unhappy, that's not one of them.
On Tuesday night, the Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the 1st, and coasted the rest of the way. McCann struck again, driving in 2 with a 5th-inning double.
Chase Whitley, who wouldn't have been starting if Masahiro Tanaka hadn't gone on the Disabled List, was fine. He only went 5 innings, but that was enough to hand the ball over to Chasen Shreve, Esmil Rogers and Chris Martin, who were fine.
Yankees 4, Rays 1. WP: Whitley (1-0). SV: Martin (1). LP: Jake Odorizzi (2-2).
On Wednesday afternoon, the Yankees could not complete the sweep. Don't blame the pitching. Michael Pineda went 5 2/3, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and (there's those words again) no walks. The next 5 pitchers -- Wilson, Carpenter, Betances, Miller and Martin -- went 5 1/3, not allowing a single baserunner until Martin walked a batter in the 11th inning.
No, blame the offense. Chase Headley homered in the 5th (his 3rd of the season), and Chris Young did so in the 6th (his 5th). That was it, as another "Yankee RISPfail" happened: The Bronx "Bombers" were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
It was 2-2 after 6 innings. The Yankees went 1-2-3 in the 7th, the 8th and the 9th. With 2 out in the 10th, they drew 2 walks, but they got stranded. Ellsbury singled to lead off the 11th, but got stranded. Beltran singled to lead off the 12th, and with 1 out got moved over to 2nd when McCann was hit by a pitch, but got no closer.
Shreve came in to pitch the top of the 12th, and got into trouble, but the Yankee bullpen was gassed, and Joe Girardi decided to stick with him. Shreve got out of it. But a James Loney single in the top of the 13th gave the Rays a 3-2 lead. Young singled with 1 out in the bottom of the 13th, but A-Rod grounded into a double play. And it wasn't even October.
WP: Gomes (1-1). SV: Ernesto Frieri (2). LP: Shreve (1-1).
And then, it was up to the belly of the beast. Beantown. Fenway Park. Le bête noire: Les Chaussettes Rouges. Kind of appropriate that the game was played on May 1, because the more nervous among us may have wanted to shout, "Mayday!"
("Mayday," of course, was the nickname of the most famous fictional Red Sox player: Sam Malone, the reliever-turned-bartender played by Sam Malone on Cheers.)
Ellsbury, appropriately enough, led off the Friday night game with a line-drive single to right off Justin Masterson. A walk drawn by Mark Teixeira, flanked by flyouts, led to Beltran smacking a double that scored the speedy Ellsbury -- but not, as you might guess, the less-than-speedy Teix. It should have been 2-0 Yankees before the Sox even came to bat; alas, it was 1-0, which is still a lead over The Scum, and we'll happily take it.
CC Sabathia started for the Good Guys, and the old fears of what happens to lefty starers at Fenway returned. The Big Fella allowed single runs in the 3rd and the 4th to tie the game, and left after 6, trailing 2-1. It looked like another game where a Yankee pitcher would have toiled nobly with little support.
Didi Gregorius, who has not impressed very many people as Derek Jeter's replacement at shortstop, worked Masterson for a walk to open the 7th. Tommy Layne was brought in to relieve. He popped up Ellsbury and struck out Gardner, but hit Teix with a pitch -- which, contrary to occasional Sox strategy, would not have been a good idea if it was on purpose. Once again, McCann was the man, singling Didi home, tying it up.
Top of the 8th. Junichi Tazawa now pitching for Boston. A-Rod's 1st appearance in Fenway since his return. Naturally, fans of the most steroid-aided franchise in baseball booed the hell out of him.
A-Rod said (not really, but it worked out this way), "You think I'm a villain? Fine: I'm gonna make like one of your biggest heroes, Carlton Fisk." And he hit a screaming liner that juuuust got over the Green Monster, although it didn't quite hit the foul pole that Fisk made famous in the 1975 World Series. And it wasn't a walkoff homer like that one -- obviously, since the Yankees were the visiting team. But, like Fisk's capper, it was the hit that made the difference.
(If this sounds familiar, it's because Tazawa had a rather memorable major league debut: On August 7, 2009, he pitched the bottom of the 15th inning at Yankee Stadium II, and gave up a walkoff home run to, yes, A-Rod. I guess this makes Tazawa A-Rod's... How do you say, "my bitch" in Japanese?)
It was also the 660th home run of A-Rod's career, tying him with Willie Mays for 4th on the all-time list. The Yankees have been fighting him on the "performance incentives" for advancing on the all-time home run list, and the New York Post's back page headline the next day read, "CHECK PLEASE."
The Daily News decided to be less cute, more self-righteous: "SAY IT AIN'T SO." Considering that it was Mays that A-Rod tied, maybe it should've been, "SAY HEY IT AIN'T SO."
Except that Mays, whose 84th birthday will be this Wednesday, and who stood by Barry Bonds as he passed all the greats including Mays himself, has supported A-Rod, too: He released a statement saying, "Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez on his 660th home run. Milestones in baseball are meant to be broken and I wish him continued success throughout his career."
Judging by the photo above, his teammates seem to approve as well. Although Girardi looks less than pleased. "Company man," toeing the company line?
I imagine David Ortiz was thinking, "No fucking way! Not in my fucking house! Not in our fucking city! And he cheated, too! Not like me. I would never use performance-enhancing drugs... "
Anyway, it ended like that: Yankees 3, Red Sox 2. WP: Rogers (1-1), who pitched the 7th. Betances pitched the 8th. SV: Miller (9). The 3 relievers allowed no runs, no hits, and 2 walks in 3 innings. LP: Tazawa (0-1).
And then, yesterday, a day game after a night game, and a Fox Saturday Game of the Week, the kind of game the Yankees tend to lose, fell to the Yankees' favor as well.
Nathan Eovaldi, another revelation thus far, led 3-1 going into the 7th. A Gardner double scored a run in the 3rd. Dustin Pedroia tied the game with a homer in the 4th, but Gardner struck again, driving in 2 runs with a single in the 5th.
Eovaldi got into trouble in the 7th, but Martin, after allowing Eovaldi's baserunner to score, got out of it. In the 9th, Young hit one out, his 6th of the season. Bringing up Reggie Jackson's line from a game where he homered to lead the Oakland Athletics to victory, as the famous insurance company-named skyscraper loomed over Fenway's right-field fence:"We needed an insurance run, so I hit one to the Prudential Building." Young's homer didn't go as far, but it got the job done.
Yankees 4, Red Sox 2. WP: Eovaldi (2-0). SV: Betances (1), doing just fine in the closer's role as Miller got the day off. LP: Wade Miley (1-3).
The series concludes tonight, the ESPN game. Warren starts against Joe Kelly.
Come on you Bombers! Sweep The Scum!