It feels like that could gone much worse. Despite the lineup being dominated by Rick Porcello for eight innings, New York came up victorious at 3-1 on Tuesday. Michael Pineda pitched his best game in almost two months, Stephen Drew came up clutch to drive in the go-ahead run, and Brett Gardner extended the lead. And, of course, a little luck didn’t hurt either (talking about the instant replay situation in the bottom eighth). This was a type of the game that probably infuriated Red Sox fans more than it pleased Yankee fans.
For first awhile, the Yankee lineup made Rick Porcello look like a Cy Young candidate. Porcello struck out five out of the six first Yankee batters to begin the game and ended up punching out 13 overall in eight frames. That was … not good. Porcello came into tonight’s game with a whopping 5.47 ERA in 121.2 IP, which is terrible. He also came in with inflated home run rate (1.48 HR/9 this season), which can happen to a pitcher moving from Comerica Park to Fenway Park, but the bottom line is I would not have expected such dominance from Porcello tonight.
If there was any sign that he was going to pitch brilliantly tonight, it’s that he changed his approach after being shelved for almost a month, then had a solid outing in his first start back against the White Sox. But, well, okay, it’s really hard to say a pitcher improved totally based on one start. Porcello did, however, looked really good and was able to locate some spillover fastballs and sinkers on both sides of the plate tonight. Maybe he figured things out or maybe it was his lucky game. We’ll see.
Pineda brings the pain
Pineda had been in a bit of a funk. His last quality start prior to tonight was the July 10 game against the Red Sox (6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 6 K). He had only made three starts (and a DL stint) since, allowing 14 earned runs in 16 innings pitched. No bueno.
With the calendar turned to September and the Yankees finding themselves 1.5 games behind Toronto for the AL East title, it was been crucial for Big Mike to show that he could pitch like his ace self from earlier in the season. And, boy he did.
The Red Sox drew the first blood in the third though. With one out, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a double off the Green Monster and Pablo Sandoval drove him in with a two-out RBI single. Timing-wise, it seemed like Gardner might have had a chance for a play at home but he misplayed the ball and JBJ scored easily. 1-0 Red Sox. That was just about all the damage Pineda allowed.
Besides that? Big Mike was just simply dominant. Pineda pitched six full innings, allowed four hits, one earned run and struck out seven while not walking anyone. His fastball seemed to ooze nasty cut for swing-and-misses while his command of the slider was present on both sides of plates. New York could use several more starts like that for the rest of the season and beyond.
Just like how they Drew it up
Yankees had their first real threat going on in the fifth inning. A-Rod hit a (massive) single to lead off. Both McCann and Greg Bird struck out to leave him there but Didi Gregorius hit a tricky grounder that hopped past Travis Shaw’s glove to put two runners in the scoring position. With two outs, runners second and third, former Red Sox Stephen Drew came up and delivered a two-RBI double. 2-1 Yankees.
In the eighth, holding onto a 2-1 lead, Yankees got another run with a Brett Gardner solo home run off Porcello. Gardner had been in a .180/.275/.246 rut in 16 games since August 15 so any sign of life with bat is pretty encouraging. Having Jacoby Ellsbury and Gardner both clicking at the same time would be a massive plus for the offense, especially with Mark Teixeira being down for at least two weeks (sigh).
The Instant Replay
If you’ve been a Yankee fan for years, you are quite familiar with Yankee-Red Sox late inning dramas. As I stated earlier, things could have gone much worse for New York tonight.
With Dellin Betances pitching, Mookie Betts lined a single to start off the bottom of eighth. Sandoval flew out but Xander Bogaerts hit another single to put two runners on base with one out for Boston. Coming up? David Ortiz – that’s a pretty high-stress situation for any pitcher.
On the 1-2 count, both Betts and Bogaerts attempted to move up a base. McCann didn’t miss a beat and threw to third to get Betts out. It seemed like Betts slid in ahead of the throw but to the third base ump’s eyes, he slid off the bag and was ruled out. Betts started to protest, stating that Chase Headley pushed his feet off the bag during the tag. According to instant replay shown on TV, it was really hard to tell what really happened – it did certainly seem like Betts had his foot on the bag at least for most of it and, if it came off, Headley certainly may well have pushed it off. With many expecting the call to be overturned, the umpires stood by the call and Betts was declared out, again.
That changed the situation from potentially being one out with two runners in scoring position to two outs with a runner on second. That’s a steep gap, if you ask me. Betances ended up punching out Ortiz easily and Andrew Miller closed out the ninth to preserve a 3-1 Yankee victory.
Box score, standings, highlights and WPA
The Yankees will play in Fenway again tomorrow at 4:05 PM EST. Masahiro Tanaka will face the rookie lefty Henry Owens to go for the series win.