The Yankees finally got back in the win column. It was an emotional night at Yankee Stadium. In their final home game of the regular season, the Yankees clinched the playoffs with a 4-1 win over the Red Sox. It’ll be the first postseason for the Yanks in three years. They’ll do it as a wild card against either the Astros or Angels in a one-game elimination on Tuesday.
The Bronx Bombers also reached a franchise milestone with their 10,000th win. That it came against Boston feels appropriate. So much of their history has to do with the Red Sox dating back to Babe Ruth being sold to the Yankees for $100,000 a day after Christmas in 1919. Since then, they’ve won a sports record 27 World Championships and 40 Pennants. It took the Red Sox a bit longer to end The Curse winning three World Championships (’04, ’07, ’13).
They did it by doing what they do best via the long ball. Carlos Beltran, Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder all hit home runs. C.C. Sabathia delivered a solid five innings of one run ball walking three and fanning three to pick up his sixth win. Adam Warren worked three scoreless in middle relief and Dellin Betances worked a perfect ninth for his ninth save. A night after giving up a tying home run to Mookie Betts, Betances struck out two including coming back from 3-0 to get Josh Rutledge swinging to wrap up a postseason berth.
”It’s kind of fitting that the 10,000th win clinches a postseason berth,” Brett Gardner said after finishing 1-for-4 in the leadoff role with Jacoby Ellsbury getting the night off.
They did it by scoring twice of Red Sox lefty Rich Hill. The 35-year old southpaw came in red hot having recorded 10 strikeouts in all three starts since being recalled. An afterthought, Hill made the long journey back to the majors from Long Island to Pawtucket to Boston. He entered off a one-hit shutout. The Yanks were able to scratch out two runs in six innings against him.
In the home half of the second, Beltran went to the opposite field from the right side with his 19th homer clearing the short porch a few rows back. The 38-year old veteran right fielder has been the Yanks’ second half MVP connecting for 12 dingers with 36 RBI’s. Without that production, they’re not here.
The same can be echoed for Alex Rodriguez, whose team-leading 33 homers along with 86 RBI’s are more than anyone envisioned. Coming off hip replacement surgery and a year long ban due Biogenesis, he proved that there’s still plenty of life left in his bat at 40. A-Rod’s production is remarkable. Even though his batting average has dipped down to .252, he’s continued to drive in runs with seven homers and 15 RBI’s in September. Hopefully, he has one more big game left in him to carry the team to the AL Division Series.
Also in the second, Brendan Ryan had a run scoring base hit that plated John Ryan Murphy. But following a Didi Gregorius walk, Gardner stranded two runners by striking out. Hill went six allowing two earned with three walks and six K’s with the final three coming in his last inning. He’s a remarkable story. Hopefully, Hill will have a job next Spring.
A Betts RBI single plated the only Boston run in the fifth cutting it to 2-1. Sabathia escaped further trouble. After Yankee manager Joe Girardi decided to intentionally walk dangerous Red Sox shortstop Xander Boegarts to load the bases with two outs, Sabathia got Travis Shaw to fly out to center. That his 96th and final pitch.
Warren took over and was terrific going three scoreless allowing only a hit and a walk while striking out three. As he kept the Boston bats off the scoreboard, Bird provided some insurance with his 11th dinger in the seventh. An inning later, it was Refsnyder’s turn drilling a 430-foot bomb to deep left center.
”These guys to me did it a lot on just heart and hard work,” Girardi said in the winner’s locker room during a celebration. ”We had a lot of injuries. We have age on this team. We dealt with a lot of stuff. But they always kept fighting and they always seemed to be bounce back.”
After two straight years away from the postseason with back-to-back retirements of Yankee legends Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, the Yankees return to the playoffs.
”We’ll never forget what Derek did for this organization,” Girardi noted of Jeter, ”but you have to move on. Yogi retired. Mickey Mantle retired and Joe D retired – all these guys, they were great players, but the Yankees continued to win.”
Masahiro Tanaka will take the ball on Tuesday. We know that much. We’ll find out who it’s against. For now, they should enjoy it.