Coming into this game, the New York Yankees had a series victory in hand, but let’s be honest, with six games coming up against the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, finishing the sweep was of utmost importance. In a game that both teams did their best to hand to their opponent, the top four hitters in the Yankees order scored four runs in the eighth inning to seal the sweep, as the Yankees won, 6-3, on Sunday night in Boston.
The Yankees’ bats were stifled by Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez through the first four innings and they trailed 1-0, with the only excitement being the five-minute delay that occurred during Giancarlo Stanton’s at-bat in the fourth because the fire alarms were going off in the stadium. In the fifth, however, they finally remembered that it’s a lot easier to score when you put multiple runners on base at once.
Gleyber Torres opened the inning by working a walk after falling behind 1-2, moving to second when Gary Sánchez snuck a ground ball single through the left side of the infield. Brett Gardner followed that up with a single to center field to load the bases. Although Gio Urshela grounded into a 4-4-3 double play, Torres scored to tie it up at one apiece. With a runner on third and two outs, DJ LeMahieu drove a 2-1 single into right field to bring home Sánchez and give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Anthony Rizzo then struck out to end the inning, but the Yankees had grabbed the lead.
With the Bombers mostly held at bay early on, the Yankees needed a strong outing from Jordan Montgomery, and the left-hander demonstrated why the team can rely on him for a win-and-go-home scenario if the need arises. Montgomery sailed through the first three innings, striking out three and allowing only two baserunners, a leadoff hit to Kiké Hernández to lead off the bottom of the first and a two-out single by Christian Arroyo in the second.
The fourth and fifth innings, however, were a battle. Rafael Devers singled to open the fourth, stole second without a throw, and advanced to third on a Xander Bogaerts single. J.D. Martinez plated Devers with the game’s first run on a long sacrifice fly at the warning track in left, during which Bogaerts advanced to second because Joey Gallo made a mental mistake and threw home, rather than to second. Fortunately, that mistake did not matter, as Montgomery struck out Bobby Dalbec on three pitches and induced a slow comebacker to retire Arroyo and end the inning.
Alex Verdugo similarly opened the fifth by lacing a single 97.8 mph off the bat against the shift. He would be erased, however, as LeMahieu robbed Christian Vázquez of a double and turned it into a 5-4-3 double play.
That turn was vital, as Hernández and Hunter Renfroe followed with loud singles. Montgomery then fell behind on Devers 3-0, but got him to fly out to right field. The inning was filled with hard contact — four of the five batted balls in the inning had exit velocities over 95 mph.
The final line for Montgomery was one run on seven hits in five innings, striking out four and walking none; it was his 24th start allowing three runs or fewer this season, most on the Yankees and fourth most in the American League. Boston hitters managed nine hard-hit balls against him, good for an xBA of .296. By no stretch of the imagination was it an easy game for Montgomery, but he battled well enough to keep the potent Red Sox offense at bay.
Alas, Montgomery’s commendable work was nearly wasted by the event-filled bottom of the seventh inning. At the time, it completely changed the outlook of the game. After Clay Holmes struck out the side on just 11 pitches in the sixth, the Red Sox announced lefty-swinging Travis Shaw as a pinch-hitter for Arroyo; this prompted the Yankees to pull Holmes in favor of southpaw Joely Rodríguez, and Red Sox skipper Alex Cora countered with righty José Iglesias.
The platoon advantage was lost, and Iglesias proceeded to hit a single to left field, which would have been a double if Gallo had not played it perfectly off the wall. Verdugo then dropped a perfect bunt that got past the mound, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. A wild pitch advanced both runners, allowing Iglesias to score on a Vázquez sac fly to right field; Verdugo, however, made a mental error, and did not advance to third on Aaron Judge’s throw home.
Having seen enough, manager Aaron Boone turned to Chad Green with one away, and the right-hander responded by doing his job, striking out Hernández and inducing three popups off the bat of Kyle Schwarber, who was pinch-hitting for Hunter Renfroe. Unfortunately, the normally-surehanded DJ LeMahieu dropped the first popup in foul territory, the second one landed in the third-base seats, and the third one was dropped by Gallo in left-center field. These two mistakes — in calm weather with no wind, mind you — allowed Verdugo to come around and score, giving the Red Sox a 3-2 lead. Schwarber would get thrown out trying to get to second on the play, but the damage was done.
Down by a run thanks to substitution tomfoolery and defensive miscues going into the eighth inning, the top of the Yankees order got right to work (albeit after a bad-looking caught stealing from pinch-runner Tyler Wade). With one away, LeMahieu worked a 3-2 walk. Rizzo sent him to third with a double to right field, the first extra-base hit of the night by either team and his hardest-hit ball in the so-called Statcast Era (115.2 mph off the bat).
Former Yankee Adam Ottavino entered for Boston, and Judge took advantage of a couple golden-ticket gifts. The first baseman Dalbec took a page from LeMahieu and Gallo’s book by missing a popup in foul territory, and soon-to-retire home-plate umpire Joe West then made a faux pas as well. The veteran play-caller erroneously ruled that Vázquez dropped a foul tip that would’ve been strike three; in reality, he caught it cleanly but dropped it transferring the ball to his throwing hand.
With an improbable third chance, Judge drove a one-hopper off the wall in center field that scored both LeMahieu and Rizzo, returning the lead to New York:
It was Judge’s seventh go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later this season, tied for tops in baseball and the most for the Yankees since Graig Nettles had seven in 1974. That hit, however, is not the one that anyone will remember.
Not to be outdone by his fellow large outfielder, Stanton launched his second home run onto Lansdowne Street in as many days:
Ladies and gentlemen, Big G has left the building. pic.twitter.com/leXl5sI4YV— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 27, 2021
Statcast recorded that at 116.4 mph off the bat — believe it or not, slower than Judge’s double, which registered at 118.4 mph — and measured it at 448 feet (four shy of the titanic grand slam last night). It capped off a monster weekend by the righty masher, who has 3 homers and 10 RBI over the last 3 days — just the third Yankee to record this stat line in three games against the Red Sox, joining an exclusive club made up of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle. To put it simply, without Stanton, the Yankees don’t complete the sweep, and instead drop two of three.
Ottavino then lost the zone completely, drilling Gallo on a 3-1 pitch, prompting Cora to turn to Ryan Brasier. He would get Torres to fly out to right field and Sánchez to ground out to second, but the Yankees had already put up a four-spot in the eighth for the second consecutive night.
Outside that aforementioned bizarre seventh, the Yankees’ bullpen once again got the job done. Holmes did his job of course, and after getting the Yankees out of the seventh, Green worked around a leadoff ground-rule double by Devers and a one-out single by Martinez to secure a clean eighth inning. Aroldis Chapman, as always, made things a little interesting, as he walked Hernández with two outs (he would reach third on a defensive indifference and a stolen base that, in truth, was indistinguishable from a defensive indifference), but he got Schwarber to strike out looking to end the game:
Green (10-7) gets credited with the win, while Garrett Richards (7-8) is saddled with the loss; Chapman records his 30th save of the season. By completing the sweep, the Yankees have secured sole possession of the first Wild Card spot with a 89-67 record, although the real challenge will be to keep it while battling the Blue Jays and Rays this week. (Boston has an easy schedule, facing the bottom-feeding Orioles and Nationals.) This was, however, the first time that the Yankees have swept the Red Sox at Fenway since May 2015.
Unfortunately, that eighth inning came at a price, as three different Yankees required the attention of the training staff during the inning. First, Judge appeared to jam a finger on his left hand while sliding into second base on his double. (Boone said that Judge dislocated his pinky but was able to — gulp — “pop it back,” so they’re hopeful that he’ll be OK.) Two batters later, Gallo took a 3-1 fastball directly to his shin, which made a noise that you could hear on the broadcast. Umpire Joe West then summoned the trainers to look at Torres in the middle of his plate appearance.
Should any of these end up being anything, we will keep you posted, but for now, let’s be thankful they have tomorrow off to recuperate. The Yankees next play in Toronto on Tuesday; Jameson Taillon will return from the IL to face Hyun Jin Ryu at 7:07pm.