THE BRONX – Neil Walker crushed his 10th homer of the year off Ryan Brasier to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning Tuesday, en route to the first Yankee win over Boston since July 1.
The bridge to dominant closer Craig Kimbrel has been sketchy all year for Alex Cora‘s Red Sox, though their 103 wins would say otherwise. Nathan Eovaldi was masterful for six innings, allowing two hits in six shutout innings before being pulled with just 83 pitches. Brandon Workman entered to start the seventh and walked both Aaron Hicks and Gary Sánchez (with Miguel Andújar popping up on a likely ball 4 in between).
Cora went to Brasier, and Aaron Boone elected to stick with Walker at the plate and Sánchez on first. This time, Boone won. Walker smoked a 3-2 slider into the second deck at Yankee Stadium, and he knew it. As he left the batter’s box, he pointed to the Yankees dugout. The Yankee offense finally got a jolt.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth inning, which included some uncharacteristically lackadaisical defense from Aaron Hicks. J.D. Martinez doubled into the gap, and the ball got past Hicks. The center-fielder jogged after the ball, and simply tossed it to the cut-off man while Martinez motored into third. Robertson induced two fly balls to render the issue moot.
But, bad defense was the theme of the ninth inning as Zach Britton was brought in to close. Brandon Phillips was thrown out 2-3 on a strikeout to start the frame, and then things got frustrating. Adeiny Hechavarría, who replaced Andújar for defense, threw a 5-4-3 double-play ball away by throwing it to the arm side of Gleyber Torres (which was unfairly ruled an E4). Sam Travis then hit a tapper back to Britton, and he threw a sinker on a potential 1-4-3 double-play ball into center field. That allowed Brock Holt, who walked, to score. But, two pitches later, they finally got it right. Ian Kinsler hit a ground ball back to Britton, and they finally got the 1-4-3 needed to push a Red Sox clinch celebration back at least another 24 hours.
Britton understood the magnitude of the situation, as he was given an opportunity to atone for the mistake he committed. One play after throwing the ball into center field, he was able to throw a strike to Torres that allowed him to record his sixth save on the season. The difference? A return to the fundamentals of throwing a baseball:
“The balls were wet,” Britton said. “So after the error that I made, I just thought, if I find the other one, I’ve really got to find the four seams and make a good throw to second and make sure we got one out.”
Not to be lost in Tuesday’s big win was the performance of J.A. Happ. The veteran delivered another quality start, allowing an unearned run (because of a Sánchez passed ball) on four hits and three walks. He recorded six strikeouts, and 65% of his 102 pitches were strikes. In the third inning, Kinsler singled, moved to second on a phantom balk call (seriously, it’s hard to see), and scored on a Martinez sacrifice fly after moving to third on the passed ball.
Aaron Judge got through his first full game since July 26 without a setback. He went 0-for-4, hitting the ball hard three times before getting rung up on a questionable check-swing call in his final at-bat.
Judge, of course, was not originally supposed to start Tuesday. But, the six-hour delay in start time allowed him to hit in another simulated game, and convince the Yankees decision-makers that he was ready to go.
“I just voiced my opinion. A lot,” Judge said after the game. “I think they got tired of me telling them I wanted to be playing. So they finally said let’s put him in there and see what happens.”