There are very few must-win games in baseball, despite very frequent claims to the contrary. This game was not a must-win in a technical sense, but it may very well have been one emotionally. New York needed to kick off this four-game set against the Red Sox on a positive note, and they were able to do just that.
CC Sabathia turned in another good start after his return from the disabled list, gritting through six innings without his best stuff. The big left-hander walked five batters, but scattered just four hits and allowed just one run. Making it through the sixth allowed the Yankees to go right to their best relievers in order to keep the Red Sox at bay.
Although Sabathia managed to hold off a dangerous offense, the star of the show was Greg Bird. The Yankees needed Bird to return and inject some life into their offense, and he has looked much better since returning to the field. With a home run tonight, Bird has more home runs in the last two games than he did from the start of the season until he was finally placed on the disabled list. It’s almost like he was injured and not able to perform instead of merely forgetting how to hit. Weird.
Boston actually got on the board first on a Xander Bogaerts ground out that scored Eduardo Nunez. Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro were nearly able to turn the double play to get Sabathia out of the inning without a run scoring, but Mookie Betts was able to beat the force at second base.
The Yankees came right back on a Gary Sanchez solo home run to right in the bottom of the inning, because the calendar says it’s still August and Sanchez wasn’t about to let his favorite month go quietly. New York grabbed the lead for good on a Sanchez RBI single that brought home Brett Gardner in the fifth.
Enter: Bird. The Yankee first baseman launched a ball deep to right in the sixth inning for a 100+ mph, 390-foot two-run homer. Bird added another RBI to the score sheet with a single to left that plated Aaron Judge in the 7th, and gave the Yankees a 6-1 lead.
Chase Headley, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro, and Sanchez all joined Bird with two hits in the game. For as quiet as the Yankees’ offense has been at times lately, it certainly qualified as an offensive outburst. Judge was the only Yankee to go hitless in the game, though he did work two walks.
Out of the bullpen, David Robertson was able to pitch two scoreless innings in relief of Sabathia. Dellin Betances did not have as easy of a time in the ninth. A walk and consecutive hit-by-pitch incidents loaded the bases with no outs and put the tying run on deck. Betances was able to strike out Eduardo Nunez before walking Andrew Benintendi with the bases loaded. Mookie Betts popped it up on the infield and Mitch Moreland flew out to left to end the threat.
The Yankees are now 4.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Tonight’s game was crucial, but the next three are very important as well. Winning this series would be a huge boost to the team’s chances of being able to eventually overtake the Red Sox as the season comes to its conclusion. Winning tomorrow would be a great place to start.
New York sends Sonny Gray to the mound tomorrow opposite Doug Fister for Boston. The game starts at 7:05 pm ET.