Winning against the Red Sox is always good. Winning at Fenway is even better. Sweeping the Red Sox at Fenway is basically the best regular season thing for the rivalry. And like I’ve said far too many times this weekend, these games are always far from boring (at least the on-field action), and both teams did their best to make tonight’s game rather interesting.
The Yankees offense jumped on a big early lead right in the 1st inning. Jacoby Ellsbury led-off with a single (again), but was forced out on Gardner’s ground out. A fly out later, it’s Mark Teixeira to hit his 9th home run of the season — a 2-run shot into the last row of the Green Monster.
In the 3rd, Ellsbury on base with a single (his 6th consecutive multi-hit game, more later), Rodriguez singled, and then they both scored on Brian McCann’s deep double. McCann would then score on Carlos Beltran’s double. And in the 6th, with the second reliever of the game on the mound, Gregorius and Ellsbury each single and then score on Brett Gardner’s 3-run home run just over the Red Sox bullpen fence in right field. Another reliever was called on to shut down the Yankees that now had a 8-0 lead, and from then on, the Red Sox did just that.
It was this massive lead that allowed the Yankees to give starter Adam Warren some room to work. And up until that 6th inning, Warren was rather flawless. Prior to the 6th inning, Warren only gave up 1 hit, 2 walks, and no runs. But after a quick 2 outs, the Red Sox took advantage of his tiring as he approached 100 pitches — a single, an RBI double, a hit-by-pitch (more later), and an RBI double to put the score at 8-2. But he was responsible for those 2 runners on base when he left for the dugout.
Esmil Rogers, in for relief and to get that elusive last out of the 6th inning and hopefully got a little longer like he has in the past, immediately struggled, giving up a 3-run home run to put the Red Sox much closer. A walk and a single kept the Red Sox threatening, but big swinging strikeout ended that inning with 10 Red Sox batters. Rogers would get the first 2 outs in the 7th before turning the ball over to Wilson. Wilson closed the 7th and opened the 8th with a single and a strikeout, before passing off to Carpenter who with a single pitch got the batter to ground into a double play to get out of the 8th inning.
And then it was Andrew Miller’s turn for his 10th save. But his 9th inning was anything but typical for the Miller we’ve become used to this season. A lead-off walk, 2 strikeouts, and things looked promising, but no, this game is bound to be anything but typical. Another walk and a fielding error loaded the bases and invited the Red Sox big power hitter to the plate. And somehow, on Miller’s 32nd pitch of the inning, he got the batter to line out to former Red Sox Ellsbury to end the inning, the game, and the sweep in the Yankees’ favor. Finally.
Final score from Fenway (after midnight, in a nearly 4 hour game): 8-5 Yankees. Yankees sweep the series 3-0.
Okay, a couple of things to talk about and they both involved Ellsbury. Ellsbury is on a hitting streak in a ridiculous fashion. He had a total of 6 at-bats tonight and got 4 hits, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch and scored 2 of the 8 total runs. This gives him a .351 batting average, easily the highest on the Yankees.
And in the spirit of some of the most iconic and infamous moments in the rivalry, there was the start of something tonight from some less-than-cooler heads that weren’t in away grays tonight. In that bloated 6th inning, Warren’s tired pitching gave way and hit one of the Red Sox batters, who seemed a little overheated in response, angrily snapping at both McCann and Warren (who were only concerned and apologetic, by the way), and escorted down to 1st by the umpires in hopes of keeping players in the game and excess energies funneled into the competition of the game rather than in the fists and faces of their opponents.
Things seemed okay and normalizing, until the 8th inning. Almost too obviously, the Red Sox pitcher plunked Ellsbury on the “upper thigh”. Ellsbury glared at the pitcher on his way to 1st as the home plate umpire warned the pitcher and the benches. A little tension heightened with the bullpen standing at attention (just a few yards away from the Red Sox batter that started the tension), and a couple of Yankee players out of the dugout in protective mode. Girardi ushered his guys back, not needing to deal with the issues that come with an on-field “intense discussion” by his players. When Headley got hit in the 9th, it was obviously accidental and was largely ignored. Had it not been, it would’ve taken this dramatic game to a whole new level.
I like the rivalry and some of the dramatics that come with it — mostly the competitive tension and friendly back-and-forth chiding. But the diva theatrics I can live without. Grandstanding, intentionally harming batters, clearing the benches, anything that reeks of anger or cruelty or arrogant bravado — that’s the diva theatrics. And it’s not always been one-sided either. The Yankees are just as guilty of such acts in the past as the Red Sox. Fortunately, the newer rules curb most of these theatrics due to the consequences of such behavior.
There are changes I’m not fond of. But these are definitely some I can get behind. Just play the game.