After sweeping the Tuesday doubleheader against the Red Sox, the Yankees decided to double down on the fun. Beleaguered starter Andrew Heaney surprisingly mowed down the Boston lineup while the Bombers rallied against Nick Pivetta in the second, completing the three-game series sweep with a 5-2 win on Wednesday night in the Bronx.
After last week’s four-homer barrage off Heaney at the Field of Dreams, you’d be forgiven if your first reaction to Xander Bogaerts’ two-out solo shot in the first prompted thoughts of, “Here we go again.” Fortunately, that was the extent of the damage that the Red Sox offense put up. Heaney followed that home run up by striking out Rafael Devers, then spun consecutive one-two-three innings before walking Hunter Renfroe to open up the fourth. He would eventually reach third on a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch, but Heaney got J.D. Martinez to ground out to third to strand Renfroe. Similarly, Kevin Plawecki opened the fifth with a single, but that’s as far as he would get.
Ultimately, Heaney wound up twirling seven strong innings, giving up one run on two hits, striking out four and walking only two. This was by far his best performance in pinstripes — honestly, his only good performance in pinstripes — and while I remain skeptical that he will continue this level of performance, if he does, the American League needs to be put on notice by the Yankees’ rotation.
The Red Sox pitching staff largely kept the Yankees in check as well, allowing only five base runners in six of the first seven innings that the Bombers came to the plate. Fortunately for Heaney, the second inning was all they would need. With the Yankees down 1-0, Giancarlo Stanton singled to get the ball rolling, and Rougned Odor followed that up with a walk. Gary Sánchez singled to load the bases. Odor almost ruined that by nearly getting thrown out at second, but he was thankfully declared safe on a review.
Brett Gardner flew out to center, bringing in Stanton on the sacrifice fly for the Yankees’ first run of the game. Andrew Velazquez then stunned Red Sox fans by bringing in Odor with a single of his own to make it 2-1, New York:
Velazquez then stole second, which helped avoid a double play when DJ LeMahieu grounded out to third. Both runners then scored on an Anthony Rizzo smash off first base counterpart Bobby Dalbec’s glove, giving the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
All told, nine batters came to the plate in the second inning. Four singles, two walks, one stolen base, and a sacrifice fly added up to four runs. Just how the Yankees drew it up in March.
Due to Garrett Richards’ quality relief, it took awhile for the Yankees to plate an insurance run, but they got their chance against Josh Taylor in the eighth. Sánchez doubled with one out, reached third when Gardner grounded out to second, and scored when Velazquez singled to give the team a 5-1 lead. His production in this series compared to Boston as a whole was staggering:
Yankees No. 9 hitter Andrew Velazquez has driven in four runs in this series -- matching the total number of runs scored by the Red Sox over these three games.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) August 19, 2021
Unfortunately, the bullpen doesn’t understand the concept of “easy.”
Zack Britton pitched a scoreless eighth inning as he continues to try to figure himself out for the stretch run, but Aroldis Chapman was not so lucky. Fresh off the IL in the ninth, he allowed a monster homer to Renfroe, bringing the Red Sox within three. Chapman then sandwiched a groundout between a Bogaerts walk and Martinez single, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Plawecki and summoning manager Aaron Boone from the dugout.
The skipper called on Lucas Luetge to bail his nominal closer out, and with an assist from the defense, the veteran southpaw did the job to convert his first save in nine years:
To cap off a two-RBI day — and a four-RBI series — Velazquez made a great diving stop in the hole to get the Yankees bullpen out of the jam and secure the series sweep. Oh, and that was a pretty good scoop by Rizzo on that throw, too.
With that win, the Yankees improve to 69-52. Due to typical Orioles crappiness, no gains were made on the Rays, but thanks to a White Sox victory over the A’s, New York has now improved its lead in the Wild Card race over Boston and Oakland to one full game. The Blue Jays dropped behind the Mariners tonight with an ugly loss to the Nationals, so Seattle’s actually a game closer than Toronto, though neither are terribly close at the moment:
BUILD THAT LEAD pic.twitter.com/VJNYYpy9nB— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) August 19, 2021
The Yankees will be back in action tomorrow evening, as the disappointing Minnesota Twins come to town. Jameson Taillon gets the ball for the Bombers against John Gant; first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET.