Friday, July 5, 2024

Yankees Host Red Sox This Weekend, Hoping To Reverse What Last Meeting Wrought


Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes striking out Boston’s Jarren Duran to open Friday night’s game. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees open a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox on Friday night, and the circumstances could mud be more different than when they met at Fenway Park three weeks ago.

Entering that series on Friday, June 14, the Yankees held the best record in Major League Baseball, at 49-22. The Red Sox were a scuffling team that hung around.500, as they were 35-34 and on the periphery of the Wild Card race.

The Red Sox took two of three games from the Yankees that weekend, and that - along with taking two of three from the Phillies in the preceding series - has propelled them to go 12-5 since June 14 and take over the third Wild Card spot in the American League with a record of 47-39.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have gone a near-reverse 5-13, and that has caused them to cede their division lead to the Baltimore Orioles. 

The Yankees are now 54-35, and they hold the first Wild Card berth, while Aldi still holding the fourth-best record in baseball behind the Phillies (57-30), Cleveland (54-31), and Baltimore (55-32).

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked, in his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon, if he views this series as a way that it can turn the page on the past few weeks, like bookend the Boston series, and he said, “I hope so. We’ll see; you can always look back at the end of things and say, ‘this, that, or the other,’ but we know we’ve got to play better, and the hope is that starts tonight, and that’s the expectation, but you’ve got to do it, so, in the big picture, you’ve got to play well over an extended period of time, so that’s what we’re focused on as well.”

On how concerned Boone is about his team, and if there were any specifics, he said, “I think everything, we’ve just got to play better, you know. Our starting pitching kind of has been the tone-setter for us this entire season, you know, to varying degrees. Every guy’s a little bit different, we’ve had our struggles a few times through the rotation, you know, and some of that is, you know, pitch decision, execution, some of it’s a little unfortunate, that, you know, balls that are mistakes that turn into homers, you know, slug a lot, and that’s kind of hurt us, and even in some outings where I feel like we’ve thrown the ball really well, like the long ball’s kind of wrecked an outing a bit, and sometimes that’s ‘tip your cap to the other side, they hit a pitch,’ you know, sometimes it’s, ‘did we throw the right pitch?,’ ‘we get it to the right spot,’ ‘are we making good decisions?’ - all those things you kind of evaluate.

“And then, you know, on the flip side of it, just trying to get some certain guys going that have hit a little slow patch for a few weeks, which is not uncommon, but we have everything in there to turn this around.”

In Friday night's game, Nestor Cortes delivered a solid outing, as he went six innings, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk, with eight strikeouts, and he lowered his ERA (earned run average) to 3.41.

The Yankees' offense gave him the lead in the fourth inning, as they got to Boston starter Taylor Houck the second time through the order.

Juan Soto and Aaron Judge walked to open the frame, and then with one out, Gleyber Torres beat a throw from shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela at first base to earn a single and load the bases. However, Torres would leave the game with what was characterized later as a groin issue. Oswaldo Cabrera came in to run for him and then take over at second base in the field.

Austin Wells then hit one to second baseman Enmanuel Valdez, and he threw it away at second trying to get the out there, and that allowed Soto to come on in and make it 1-0.

Anthony Volpe then drew a walk with the bases loaded to force in another run, and that was it for Houck.

Bailey Horn came out of the Sox bullpen, and he got Trent Grisham to bounce a groundout to second that brought in Cabrera to make it 3-0. DJ LeMahieu also grounded out to second to end the inning.

Boston got one of those runs back in the fifth when Romy Gonzalez blasted one to left field that hit the seats to the left of the Sox bullpen, and that made it 3-1.

It stayed right there, as Horn pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, as he scattered two hits and no walks, while striking out three. 

Cam Booser followed him with two innings, in which he allowed no runs, one hit, one walk, and struck out one.

After Luke Weaver pitched a scoreless two innings for the Yankees, and they turned to their closer, Clay Holmes, for the ninth.

Rafael Devers opened the frame with a ten-pitch at-bat that ended with him bouncing one back to Holmes for the first out. Connor Wong then bounced a grounder to Volpe at shortstop for the second out.

Dominic Smith, the former Met, was then up as a pinch-hitter for Gonzalez,and he laced a single to right field to keep Boston alive.

Masataka Yoshida then battled Holmes in another lengthy at-bat, and on the eighth pitch, he took a sinker and deposited it in the right field seats for a two-run home run to tie the game.

Masataka Yoshida approaches home plate after hitting a home run off Clay Holmes, at the mound, to tie the game. Photo by Jason Schott.

Justin Slaten then came on for Boston, and he pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth, needing just six pitches to strike out Grisham, get LeMahieu to ground out to third base, and have Ben Rice pop out to shortstop.

Tommy Kahnle came on for the Yankees in the tenth, and practically immediately, Rafaela drilled a home run to center field, a two-run shot (thanks ghost runner), and suddenly, Boston was up 5-3. It was Rafaela's 10th home run of the season, and he now also has 49 RBI.

Ceddanne Rafaela rounding third base as the Boston dugout cheers him on after his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

In the bottom of the 10th, Juan Soto led off with a single off Boston closer Kenley Jansen, which gave the Yankees two on and none out for Aaron Judge.

On the first pitch Judge saw, he skied one down the left field line that Boston third baseman Rafael Devers tracked down a step or two in front of the fence for the first out.

Then, Alex Verdugo took the first pitch he saw, and he popped out to Smith, who took over at first base, and then, Cabrera (in Torres' spot) bounced one to Smith to end the game, and the Sox walked out with the improbable 5-3 win.

Dom Smith about to touch first base on the grounder by Oswaldo Cabrera that ended the game. Photo by Jason Schott.

Kenley Jansen about to shake hands with catcher Connor Wang, as Oswaldo Cabrera heads to the dugout. Photo by Jason Schott.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of the loss, "Yeah, a tough one, I mean, obviously, you know, especially considering what we're going through right now. To have them take it and then pile on there in the extra frame, you know, it's a difficult time, we've got to dig down, and quick turnaround tomorrow, get ready to play, and find out what we're made of. You know, you're going to be tested all the time, with tough spots in the season, which clearly we are right now, and then obviously, extremely tough losses when you're going through it, and this falls under that category."

This was the fourth straight loss for the Yankees on this homestand, which started with a three-game sweep by the Cincinnati Reds, and they fell to 54-36. Boston has now won five in a row, and they improve to 48-39, just 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

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