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.
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.
The Yankees needed a win in the worst way possible to have any realistic chance of catching the Blue Jays. After losing the opener of a three-game series 4-2 to David Price, what they got was another clutch performance from 22-year old first baseman Greg Bird. Bird was indeed the word in a big 6-4 Yankee 10 inning win over the Jays at a loud Rogers Centre. His three-run home run off Toronto reliever Mark Lowe made a winner of closer Andrew Miller after he blew just his second save.
With the game knotted at two, Carlos Beltran stayed red hot going yard off Liam Hendricks to put the Yankees in front in the eighth inning. But the Jays wouldn’t go quietly. They loaded the bases against set up man Dellin Betances before he got Edwin Encarnacion to chase a low breaking ball out of the strike zone. Betances recovered from a bout of wildness walking two straight Jays to load the bases. It’s been a bit tougher for him this month with his command not as sharp. But he battled through relying on two 98 MPH heaters to set up the big strikeout of Encarnacion.
In the ninth, the Yanks had a great opportunity to pad their lead. After Chris Young walked, a Didi Gregorius ground rule double put runners in at second and third with nobody out. But a medium fly out by Jacoby Ellsbury wasn’t enough to score Young, who was nailed at the plate thanks to a great throw by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista for a 9-9-2 double play. Following a Brett Gardner walk to put runners on the corners, Alex Rodriguez flied out to end the threat. That would nearly prove fatal.
One thing about these Jays. They go down swinging. With virtually an entire lineup possessing enough power to go deep, you can’t blind for a second. After Miller got Justin Smoak swinging, he served up a meatball to Dioner Navarro, who belted his fifth dinger into the left field seats. The Jays nearly ended it loading the bases. That included a puzzling move by Yankee skipper Joe Girardi who elected to intentionally walk Matt Hague. Thinking Miller would face lefty hitting Ben Revere, Girardi didn’t anticipate that Jays manager John Gibbons would send up Russell Martin to pinch hit. Miller pitched him carefully missing high and away which allowed AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson to come up with the bases packed and two outs. With the crowd going nuts, Miller bounced back getting Donaldson chasing sending the game to extra innings.
In the 10th, Brian McCann bunted against the shift reaching base on an errant throw. Amazingly, it was scored a hit. In a better move Girardi sent in Rico Noel to pinch run for McCann. He can fly. With the threat of a steal, the Yankees hit and run with Slade Heathcott, whose swing was interrupted by Navarro’s glove resulting in catchers interference. That put two runners on with no out setting the stage for Bird. After working the count back to 2-2, he drove Lowe’s low fastball out to right for a game-winning three-run home run. It was his 10th of the season. He’s hit homers in three straight and has five in the last seven with 11 RBI’s.
With no one else to go to, Girardi sent Miller back out to get the final three outs. It wasn’t without a loud thud with Encarnacion clocking his 35th long ball slicing the deficit to 6-4 with one away. But Miller got the next two batters to finally give the Yanks a well earned victory which pulled them within two and a half games. The rubber match is tomorrow with Ivan Nova facing Marcus Stroman. We’ll see if Nova can get himself righted subbing for Masahiro Tanaka.
Aside from Bird continuing to impress, Luis Severino gave the Yanks six solid frames of two-run ball with three walks and three K’s. A better outing than last time when the Jays lit him up for six earned and two homers in two-plus. He did allow a solo shot to Kevin Pillar and a game-tying Smoak RBI single. But the results were positive for the 21-year old righty.
One question for Girardi is whether Miller will be available. He threw 42 pitches and 26 for strikes. Maybe if it’s a save situation, Betances gets the chance instead. He threw 20 pitches (10 strikes), That’s assuming Nova can actually match Stroman and the Yankee offense can score enough runs. We’ll see.
On the first autumn Monday, we take a look back at a busy sports weekend.
-For five innings, Matt Harveyshut down the Yankee offense holding them to a single infield hit while walking one and fanning seven on 77 pitches. Then Mets skipper Terry Collins pulled the plug due to the “innings limit” imposed by evil agent Scott Boras. Then Collins watched helplessly as the Yanks erupted for five runs in a ugly sixth off rookie reliever Hansel Robles that included two errors- one from Daniel Murphy on a Jacoby Ellsbury infield hit and a David Wright miscue on a 95 MPH strike from Robles on a bad Brett Gardner bunt that should’ve nailed Ellsbury at third. If Wright makes the tag, who knows how the inning plays out. Instead, a two-run Carlos Beltran go-ahead double followed along with a two out Dustin Ackley three-run bomb.
-The Mets pen turned in a comedy allowing 11 runs (7 ER) in three consecutive innings highlighted by a opposite field Greg Bird three-run blast that made it 11-1. It was predictable once Harvey exited. Whose fault is it? It’s hard to blame Collins when he’s been put in an uncomfortable position. Blame Boras and his client who have put future interests ahead of this special season at Citi Field. Harvey is at 176.2 innings with potentially two starts left before the postseason. How will he be used? If they’re saving him, the Dark Knight better deliver in October.
-The loss sent Amazin’ fans into panic mode. Despite their team still comfortably up on the Nationals by six games with 13 games left, they still are concerned about another collapse. Unlike ’07 and ’08, it remains highly unlikely. The Nats would have to go 11-2 while the Mets would have to finish 5-8 to force a one-game playoff. Given that their next opponent is the lowly Braves starting tonight, reducing a magic number of eight shouldn’t be a problem. After playing three against Atlanta at home, they travel to Cincinnati for a four-game series and visit Philadelphia for three. The final three come against Washington at home Oct. 2-4. The Nats probably can only lose once to have any realistic shot. They host close rival Baltimore for three and then the Phillies for three. They then play a make up game at home versus the Reds before visiting the Braves for three. Then comes the final series at the Mets.
-For the Mets, even with the Harvey distraction they have six starters with Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and rookies Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all part of the rotation. In other words, Collins has plenty of options.
-On the flip side, it was a successful weekend for the Yankees who took the final two games and actually gained two games on the first place Blue Jays cutting the AL East deficit to two and a half entering a pivotal three-game series at Toronto later tonight. They can thank the ageless Beltran who drove in five in the two wins including a three-run bomb off Syndergaard into the upper deck in Saturday’s 5-0 shutout. In the second half, Beltran has hit .302 with nine dingers and 28 RBI’s. Not bad for the former All-Star outfielder who most thought was done at 38. He can still get it done.
-The Yanks also had to be pleased with Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia. Both delivered well pitched games. Pineda pitched shutout ball into the sixth before manager Joe Girardi went to Justin Wilson, who fanned the final two batters to get out of a jam. After lumbering in a long first using 32 pitches but only permitting one run on a Wright RBI double, Sabathia settled down going six allowing one earned on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to finally win for the first time in 11 starts. It was his second straight good outing. He got a no-decision against the Rays on Sept. 14 after permitting no runs in six and two thirds while having six K’s. Sabathia attributes the recent success to wearing a knee brace. It’s nice to see the 35-year old southpaw able to contribute.
-Every time I watch Bird at bat, I come away very impressed. The 22-year old former 2011 fifth round pick has shown good patience at the plate working counts while making solid contact. With his eighth home run and two walks, he reached base three times Sunday night. In fact, the future starting first baseman has reached base in eight consecutive games hitting in all but one. He’s 8-for-29 with three homers, seven RBI’s, four runs scored with five walks. There’s a lot to like about him. It’s early but he’s done a solid job replacing Mark Teixeira.
-The Yanks need to take two of three from the Jays in this series. The pitching match-ups don’t favor them. Adam Warren opposes David Price tonight. Rookie Luis Severino gets a chance at redemption tomorrow. Ivan Nova replaces Masahiro Tanaka, who will skip a start after suffering a Grade 1 sprain in his right hamstring while running to first after a bunt. Girardi didn’t think it was too serious. Hopefully, it isn’t because we all remember what happened Chien-Ming Wang’s career while running the base paths.
-You knew it was coming. Once Eli Manning lost the football on that crucial third-and-goal with the Giants going for the kill up 20-10 on the Falcons, another Giants collapse was coming. Should it come as any surprise? The team GM Jerry Reese put together is a mediocre one that finds ways to lose games. That’s two consecutive weeks they’ve blown 10-point leads in the fourth quarter. After the Cowboy debacle, here they were allowing Matt Ryan to drive his team down twice for touchdowns against a invisible defense that doesn’t scare anyone. But this isn’t as much about them as it is about Manning, who made costly mistakes. He didn’t protect the football when at worst, Big Blue should’ve come away with a field goal that would’ve made it 13. A week after he screwed up royally mismanaging the clock, Manning was a goat again. There also was a mind boggling delay of game penalty out of a timeout that put the Giants in a 3rd-and-12 which of course they didn’t convert. Then there were errant throws on the final drive which can’t happen after your best player Odell Beckham Jr. draws pass interference at midfield that gives you a chance.
-Speaking of Beckham, Jr. how special is he. That catch and run for a 67-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty. He caught seven for 146. Most of it came in the first half. Why? The Giants at least did a good job using ex-Patriot back Shane Vereen, who had eight receptions for 76 yards. But outside of him and ODB Jr. they got virtually nothing. Consistently inconsistent tight end Larry Donnell did manage a TD catch that put them ahead 20-10 four minutes into the second half. That was it. On a day Manning’s numbers said otherwise finishing 27-for-40 with 292 yards and two touchdowns, he wasn’t good enough. Now comes a must win against the Redskins at Met Life Stadium on Thursday night. And the Skins won beating the Rams after they stunned the Seahawks, who also are 0-2 after falling to the Packers.
-The problem for Big Blue is they don’t make the big plays on either side of the football. In what should be proud coach Tom Coughlin’s swan song, they are a losing team that doesn’t know how to win. If they did, we’d be talking about a totally different story with a 2-0 mark. Instead, they’ve lost in epic fashion twice by a combined five points.
–Julio Jones is also pretty special using a combination of size and athleticism to beat secondaries. Prince Amukamara did a good job limiting him until that huge 37-yard reception he got burned on that set up Devonta Freeman’s go-ahead score from two yards out with 1:14 left. Jones finished with 13 catches for 135 yards.
-It’s sad that on a day they honored the 25-year anniversary of the Super Bowl XXV team, the Giants couldn’t get a win. For a successful franchise that’s won four Lombardi Trophies, they sure have had a lot of bad losses. Add Weeks 1 and 2 to the regrettable list that includes the 49ers playoff choke, the Vikings one in ’97, the Eagles countless times and the Boys.
-How unpredictable is the NFL? The Seahawks are 0-2 as are the Ravens and Saints, who lost at home to the Bucs. New Orleans has now dropped six straight at the Super Dome. The Seahawks should bounce back and I’d also expect Baltimore to be better even without Terrell Suggs. The Saints are a franchise in decline. Even with Drew Brees throwing for record numbers, they’re one dimensional.
-The Jets have a good one later at the Colts on Monday Night Football. It’ll be interesting to see if they can beat Andrew Luck coming off a ugly loss at Buffalo. They have a shot ifRyan Fitzpatrick doesn’t make mistakes and the defense gets to Luck. The Jets will need success on the ground from Chris Ivory.
-If it was six years ago, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson would be a scary combo added to T.Y. Hilton.
-Even with losing Tony Romo for at least eight weeks and star receiver Dez Bryant for roughly the same, the Cowboys remain the team to beat in the NFC East. A strong offensive line and improved defense should keep them around. They had no trouble blanketing ex-Cowboy DeMarco Murray, who’s finding out it’s a lot harder without a good line after being held to two yards on 13 carries. In two weeks, he’s rushed for a grand total of 11 yards on 21 carries.
-What exactly does Chip Kelly see in Sam Bradford?
-Great college football Saturday with Ole Miss upsetting Alabama 43-37 in a wild one that even featured a hilarious blooper with Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly throwing one up for grabs after feeling pressure and having his prayers answered by receiver Quincy Adeboyejo for a 66-yard TD. After trailing by 20 in their own barn, the Tide never gave up with QB Jake Coker rallying them with two straight scores to cut the deficit to 30-24. But a great play by Kelly which saw him sucker the Bama secondary before threading the needle to Cody Core for a 73-yard TD proved pivotal. Kelly also hooked up with LaQuon Treadwell for a 24-yard score that made it 43-24. To Bama’s credit, they made it interesting with another Coker led drive setting up a Derrick Henry score. They then recovered the onside kick and scored again to cut it 43-37 with over four minutes to go. But after a Ole Miss drive stalled, Coker threw a interception for the Tide’s fifth turnover. They made too many mistakes to win.
-Stanford also sent USC to its first defeat with an impressive 41-31 win at The Coliseum in another great rivalry game. They were led by QB Kevin Hogan, who chewed up the Trojans’ secondary going 18-of-23 for 279 yards and two TDs. Sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey also impressed with a career best 115 rushing yards on 26 carries and Remound Wright ran for three scores. Even when USC’s Cody Kessler going 25-of-32 for 272 yards and three scores, it wasn’t enough. The Trojans never could stop the Cardinals.
-Ohio State remained undefeated in ugly fashion defeating Northern Illinois 20-13. It was the second straight week Cardale Jones was replaced. The BCS hero only completed four passes in nine attempts throwing two picks. J.T. Barrett relieved him finishing 11-of-19 for 97 yards with a TD and int. They should get some competition from Michigan State.
-Notre Dame also stayed unbeaten taking care of Georgia Tech 30-22. CJ Promise ran for 198 yards and three scores and Will Fuller caught six passes for 131 yards and a TD.
-Heisman front runner Leonard Fournette torched Auburn for 228 yards on the ground with three scores in the Tigers’ 45-21 blowout win. That included a 71-yard run plus a 40-yard TD run that made it 24-0 LSU.