Well, rivalry week continues in Boston as the Yankees hoped to narrow the broadening gap between the AL East leaders (the Red Sox) and the leaders of the wild card race (the Yankees). And neither team was about to make it easy on the other. But then, this is the ultimate rivalry in sports, so I don’t think anyone was expecting an easy game.
Jordan Montgomery got the start tonight in the opening game of the weekend series at Fenway. He threw 77 pitches through his 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 3 Boston batters. In the 2nd, with 2 outs, a batter doubled and then scored as part of a 2-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board first. A lead-off homer in the 5th added an extra cushion for the home team.
Now, the Yankees were held off by the Red Sox’s starter, who was only in the game into the 4th inning before leaving due to a back injury. His replacement carried on that momentum, fending off the Yankee offense through the 5th inning. Handing the ball over to a new reliever (the 3rd of 8 pitchers the Red Sox would use tonight), the Yankees saw their opportunity in the 6th inning.
With a new reliever and 1 out, Headley singled and then scored as part of Todd Frazier’s 2-run home run into the Green Monster seats to get the Yankees on the board and within 1 run of the Red Sox’s lead. After another out and 2 more singles, the Red Sox went again to their bullpen, and the new reliever promptly hit Aaron Hicks to load the bases. That opportunity ended up being wasted as a ground out ended that hope.
In the 7th, Gary Sanchez led-off with a game-tying solo home run also into the seats atop the Green Monster, his 23rd of the season (and yes, he does seem to heat up offensively in August once again!). After Gregorius walked and Headley singled, the Red Sox changed relievers again. So Frazier walked to load up the bases. Fortunately, next up was Ronald Torreyes, who hit a solid single off the Green Monster that scored both Gregorius and Headley to give the Yankees the lead for the first time in the game.
Finally, the Red Sox got the first out of the inning, a strikeout before loading the bases again with a walk to Gardner. Aaron Hicks then promptly got plunked again, keeping the bases loaded, but scoring another run. But then a new reliever closed out the inning without allowing another run to score. And that continued through the next 2 innings, with the final 2 relievers racking up 6 total strikeouts.
And that would be all fine and good if the Yankees’ stellar bullpen didn’t get to show off their stellar-ness (it’s a word) tonight. Chad Green came on in the 6th and held things steady after Montgomery left the game, but got into some trouble in the 7th. With 1 out, Green gave up his lone allowed single and a walk. Now responsible for both those runners, he handed the ball over to Tommy Kahnle.
Kahnle also found his own trouble trying to get out of the inning. He gave up a single to load up the bases, a sacrifice fly scored the lead runner, and a single scored the next. After giving up a walk to load up the bases (with 2 outs), he gave up a single to a pinch-hitter that scored both the tying and winning runs. Finally getting out of the 7th inning, the Yankees now trailed the Red Sox once again.
Both teams had blown 3-run leads at this point, but the Red Sox weren’t done yet. Aroldis Chapman’s struggled continued as he came out for the 8th inning. He gave up a single and walk that both pulled off a double steal to put them both in scoring position. And then they did just that on a long single to give the Red Sox a 3-run lead once again. Then Chapman buckled down and got all 3 outs to get out of the inning without further damage.
With no last-minute rally to blow the Red Sox lead again, it was enough damage to widen the Red Sox lead in the AL East again.
Final score: 9-6 Red Sox
With the Red Sox sending up their ace for tomorrow’s game, and the Yankees desperately needing a win against them, the Yankees will activate CC Sabathia after spending time there due to a recurring knee injury flared up and cut short his last start to just 3 innings (in Toronto). Eventually, Sabathia will need surgery to repair his knee, but he was certainly hoping it would be so soon, as plans were to do so this off-season. An MRI showed nothing serious, so treatments of injections were given to see if his body responded to nurse him back to health.
Sabathia, in his final year of his contract, almost a month after turning 37, knows his days as a pitcher are numbered, especially if injuries keep plaguing the veteran starter. The pain in his last start stuck with him and put some things in perspective: “…it hurt. It’s just not worth it…. I’ve pitched for a long time now…. I’m doing this for fun and to try to win a championship. If I can’t have fun and help this team win, then there’s no need for me to be out there.” Spoken like a true veteran. Fingers crossed for a great finish to both his start tomorrow and the season for him (and the team).