For a little while on Wednesday night, the Yankees appeared to be in the process of repeating an annoying early-season trend. Several times in the first half, they would win the first two games of a series against a lesser opponent before allowing them to escape the finale with a victory. In a similar style, Texas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead while the Yankees’ offense flailed against a so-so starter.
Thankfully, the first half is a thing of the past and even with some early-September struggles, this Yankees ballclub plays a lot better than the previous edition. Thanks in no small part to catchers Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sánchez, they rallied to tie it up before breaking out with a four-run eighth. That was enough to slam the door on the Rangers, 7-3, and finish a much-needed three-game sweep. With Toronto’s loss, the Yankees are back in the second Wild Card spot.
Corey Kluber got the start for the Yankees, and the Rangers did their part to ensure that he would not duplicate his no-hit mastery from May 19th. They got their first hit one out into the ballgame, and while Kluber struck out the side to strand the runner, Texas dented home plate in the second.
Adolis García led off with a slow roller up the middle that went for an infield hit, and then moved himself into scoring position with a stolen base. Willie Calhoun followed by smashing a ball that a better first baseman than Luke Voit would’ve handled, but it bounced past his glove and into right field for an RBI single. Kluber labored but kept Texas to the one run. Nonetheless, he walked off the mound at the end of the second with 46 pitches on his arm and a 1-0 deficit.
The Yankees had their shot to counter the Rangers’ run in the home half of the second against Taylor Hearn. Giancarlo Stanton smoked a 378-foot missile off the right field wall and Joey Gallo walked to put two men on with no one out. A slow roller by Gleyber Torres advanced them, but Gio Urshela’s subsequent fly ball wasn’t deep enough to score Stanton and the Yankees stranded the runners after a Higashioka fly out. A leadoff single in the third from Brett Gardner didn’t turn into anything either, as Hearn continued to turn them away.
Texas added to its lead with two outs in the fourth. DJ Peters lined a ball over Gallo’s leaping attempt and off the left-field wall for a double. It would’ve taken an excellent defensive play to snare it, but no cigar. Brock Holt was next up and while he barely made good contact, it blooped in behind DJ LeMahieu at third. Peters scored and Texas had a 2-0 advantage.
An inning later, the Rangers knocked Kluber out of the game. Yonny Hernandez reached second on a hustle double to shallow center, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled through the left side to make it 3-0, Texas. Kluber got the next out, but manager Aaron Boone called it a day there. Wandy Peralta got Kluber and the error-prone Voit out of a jam, so Kluber departed with a line of three runs allowed on eight hits and no walks in 4.1 innings of work with four strikeouts. There was a bunch of weak contact in there, but Kluber wasn’t as sharp as he was against Cleveland during his last outing.
The Yankees finally scored a run off Hearn in the fifth. Torres walked and Urshela lined a single to center to again put two men on with no one out. This time, they didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, as Higashioka clobbered a 368-foot double to center field:
Just like that, it was a 3-2 game with the threat for more.
Brett Gardner did his job by grounding a ball to first to move Higashioka along to third, and LeMahieu then lifted a 276-foot fly ball to García in right. Even with a catcher on the bases, it seemed deep enough for third-base coach Phil Nevin to send Higgy home. Alas, García unloaded an absolutely perfect throw to nail Higashioka at home. The Rangers held their 3-2 lead, but just barely.
Peralta threw a quick inning of relief in the sixth, and the Yankees put Hearn back on the ropes as the southpaw lost control. With one out, he issued back-to-back walks to Stanton and Aaron Judge. In came righty Dennis Santana in relief of Hearn, and he joined the fun by giving a free pass to Gallo, loading the bases. With one out and a prime opportunity to put a crooked number on the scoreboard, Torres and Urshela put together a couple of highly uncompetitive at-bats to squander it ...
... but not before the Yankees’ low-key 2021 MVP stepped up to knot the game at three apiece:
Good ol’ Wild Pitch With Runner On Third. Where would the 2021 Yankees be without you?
Clay Holmes entered afterward and made quick work of the Rangers’ hitters to put the Yankees back up to bat. Down went Hernandez and Kiner-Falefa on strikes, and the most that Andy Ibáñez could manage was a weak roller in front of the plate. The righty reliever continues to be the find of the trade deadline by Brian Cashman.
Higashioka had made a nice throw to end the top of the seventh, and he singled to right to lead off the home half. Tyler Wade pinch-ran and did his job by swiping second on Gardner’s strikeout, and then third with LeMahieu up to bat. This time, a fly ball surely would’ve scored the runner, but LeMahieu pathetically waved at a bad pitch from Josh Sborz for strike three. Anthony Rizzo popped up, and another scoring chance went by the wayside.
Remember when García threw Higashioka out at home earlier in the game? Higgy’s fellow catcher got a small measure of revenge on the rookie slugger. García reached base in the eighth on an error at shortstop by Urshela, and he bolted for second. This time, however, it was Gary Sánchez behind the plate:
Like the tweet says: Don’t run on Gary. The Rangers’ brief rally attempt was squashed.
After many teases, the Yankees’ offense finally erupted in the bottom of the eighth. It all started with a little two-out bloop by Gallo. It went to the left side, where there was no one in sight due to the shift, and he reached second on a double. Given a chance to atone for his previous at-bat, Torres capitalized by lining a ball into the right-field corner for a double of his own to put the Yankees in front:
It’s been a long season for Gleyber, but that one had to feel good.
An infield single from Urshela and error by Hernandez allowed Torres to just barely score, making it a 5-3 game. The insurance run was appreciated, but thankfully, Sánchez decided that a little more wouldn’t hurt. The hard-hitting catcher walloped a 420-foot home run to center field, allowing teammates and fans to go berserk and breathe a whole lot easier:
What a night for the Yankees’ catching tandem. Higashioka and Sánchez combined to go 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, and four RBI.
Since the Yankees have an off-day ahead on Thursday, Boone decided not to mess around, even with a four-run lead. Aroldis Chapman entered for his second outing in three days and never gave the Rangers a chance. He retired the side in order on 11 pitches, striking out the last two batters for good measure.
Mission accomplished and sweep secured. The Yankees will rest tomorrow before heading up to Boston for a pivotal three-game set at the Dreaded Hall of Doubles. Gerrit Cole will square off with Nathan Eovaldi in a primetime matchup on Friday at 7:10pm ET. There’s no doubt that it’s going to be intense, so take a deep breath and we’ll see you in the game thread this weekend!