With this win tonight, the Yankees have clinched home-field advantage for the AL Wild Card Game (if that becomes their destination). Also, with the Red Sox loss, the division deficit has reduced to three games. Slim hope but it’s still there. The recipe for tonight’s win was simple: Jordan Montgomery pitched well, the offense scored enough runs and the bullpen tossed three no-hit innings to make it as least stressful as possible. 88th win of the season – that’s the Yankees’ most since 2012, when they made it to the ALCS. Let’s recap this thing.
Montgomery started the game dicey very early on. He allowed soft singles to Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza just past the infielders and walked Evan Longoria to immediately load the bases in the first. He got a breather by striking out Logan Morrison for the first out. However, Wilson Ramos drove a deep drive to right center that looked to be just going over the fence… until Aaron Hicks denied it. Hicks made a well-timed jump to rob Ramos of a grand slam. That would have been a devastating start for the Yankees but they held the Rays to merely a run. Huge. Not bad for a guy who just came off a DL suffering an oblique injury.
After the shaky start, Montgomery settled in and followed with five scoreless innings. In those frames, he allowed only five baserunners (one of them on a strike out wild pitch in which Adeiny Hechavarria reached first) and struck out three. He may not have the flashiest stuff, but boy he can mix up pitches. Per Brooks Baseball, Montgomery threw 34 fastballs (both two-seam and four-seamers combined), 8 changeups, 9 sliders and 29 curveballs. Of those 29, six of them generated whiffs. He’s had a nice season for a guy who’s a pitchability lefty in the AL East – 9-7, 3.96 ERA/4.11 FIP in 150 IP. Even though Montgomery’s had his ups and downs this season, if you told me he’d end up with these numbers back in March, I would have taken it ten out of ten times.
Thinking about it again… that Aaron Hicks catch was big. There’s a huge difference between getting out of the first inning with no outs, bases-loaded jam with only one run allowed and allowing a grand slam and suffering a meltdown for a start. Credit to Montgomery for bouncing back nicely for the rest of the night though.
You know how the Yankees have been making opposing starting pitchers throw tons of pitches in early parts of the game? That happened tonight as well. This time, they knocked Blake Snell out of the game with no out in the second inning.
The Yankees started the inning with a bang. Starlin Castro, who donned high socks tonight, led the inning off with a long, 445-feet home run into the left field bleachers to tie the game at one a piece. After that, the Fraziers and Ronald Torreyes all singled to load the bases in a flash for the Yankees. Hicks, fresh off the disabled list (and that amazing catch an inning earlier) walked to score the Yankees’ go-ahead run. At this point, Snell seemed to have completely lost his command. Even after the mound visit, Snell could not throw a strike against Aaron Judge and forced in another run, 3-1 Yankees. After getting only three outs and having throw 49 pitches, the lefty was out of the game and Kevin Cash put in the former Yankee Chaz Roe to face Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez squared one to the right side… but it found Hechavarria’s glove and Hicks was doubled off at the second. Not ideal. However, during Matt Holliday’s at-bat, Roe’s slider got away from Ramos way outside, resulting in a run-scoring wild pitch. Sloppy pitching by the Rays in this frame. But hey, the Yankees will take it.
Score two more
The scoreboard was full of goose eggs after the bottom of the second till the eighth inning. With Austin Pruitt pitching for the Rays, Torreyes worked a rare walk to get on base with one out. During Brett Gardner’s at-bat, Toe advanced to second on a wild pitch and onto third on a groundout. Judge, as Judge does, walked to get on base to make it runners on corners. Sanchez followed it up with an RBI single to center to make it 5-1 Yankees and Holliday tacked on another with a bloop one to the shallow center. 6-1 Yankees and that’s how the score would remain for good.
The Yankee bullpen tossed three perfect innings tonight. Tommy Kahnle got the seventh inning and absolutely dominated Daniel Robertson, Peter Bourjos and Kiermaier – groundout, strikeout, strikeout, respectively – all in just 11 pitches. Kahnle has yet to allow an earned run in the month of September (10 IP) and that’s a really good sign heading into the postseason.
Taking care of the eighth was David Robertson, who struck out one and walked one in a scoreless frame. It seemed like Aroldis Chapman was going to enter the ninth for a save. But as the Yankees scored two in the bottom of the eighth, the save situation became null and Joe Girardi put in struggling Dellin Betances to end the game. Betances retired the side in only seven pitches (four strikes) to end the game rather swimmingly. Sure, he didn’t strike out anyone or anything but I’ll definitely take this from him. This should be considered a positive step for the big guy after a rough month he’s had.
Castro went 3-for-3 tonight. His home run in the 2nd inning was his first at Yankee Stadium since June 11, as unbelievable as that might sound. Torreyes, the little machine that could, maintained his status as a solid utility guy by going 2-for-3, a walk and two runs scored. Judge did not hit a home run today. Bust! However, he did go 1-for-3 with two walks, a strikeout and an opposite-field double. It was almost an on-brand game for him.
The Yankees will continue the three-game series against the Rays tomorrow at the Bronx. Luis Severino will be up against Matt Andriese for a 7:05 pm game start.