Baseball is finally back after the all-star break, and I’m not going to lie, four nights out of the routine of tuning into a game at 7:00 was pretty weird. The Red Sox get back from the break with the Yankees coming to town for the first series of the second half. Entering the game with a 3.5 game lead over the Yanks in the AL East standings, both teams know the importance of getting into a good rhythm to begin the second half. The Sox can continue growing their lead in the division and the Yankees are trying to get some of those games back.
The Sox sent Drew Pomeranz on the mound for the first game of the series. Pom had very impressive first half numbers with a 9-4 record and an ERA of 3.60, and looked to keep his recent success going. The Yankees handed the ball to Jordan Montgomery in this one. He too has pitched well thus far, entering the second half at 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA.
The scoring in this game began in the top of the 3rd inning, when a single by Yankee catcher, Gary Sanchez had a ball go off the glove of Xander Bogaerts, who ranged and laid out towards 3B and just missed making an impressive play. The Sanchez single scored Chase Headley.
It did not take the Sox long to answer back, however. Montgomery, who had been throwing many change-ups at Fenway tonight, in all counts too, decided to throw a fastball to Hanley Ramirez, who made him pay as he blasted it over the monster for a 2-run shot scoring himself and Bogaerts. Ramirez had a full extension swing on the low fastball, powering it over the wall. Watch out opposing pitchers, Hanley is heating up and when the streaky hitter gets hot, he stays that way. The home run was Hanley’s 14th of the season.
In the 4th inning the Sox extended the lead to 3-1 after a bases loaded single to LF by Dustin Pedroia, scoring Sam Travis. After the Pedroia single, the Sox failed to put more runs on the board, as they stranded the bases loaded.
The 5th inning was a big one for the Yanks. Brett Gardner singled to right center, scoring Headley and making the game 3-2. Following Gardner, up came Sanchez. The last thing this guy needed was extra motivation from the hate he received for “not deserving” to be in the home run derby. He put on a show at the derby too by the way. He might’ve only had 13 home runs at the break, but that was due to injuries, and when this guy hits home runs, they aren’t wall scrapers, they’re total moon shots. So what does he do to Pomeranz in the 5th with Gardner on base? Hits a total moon shot that cleared the monster and went straight for Lansdowne Street. Everyone knows how good of a fastball hitter Sanchez is, so with Pomeranz pitching, we’re looking for a plethora of the curve that Pomeranz loves to throw. Instead, he leaves a fastball right over the heart of the plate and Sanchez was all over it. We saw his teammate, Aaron Judge hit the top of Marlins Park during the derby, and this shot by Sanchez probably could’ve done the same. The Sanchez bomb put the Yanks ahead 4-3. Pomeranz stayed in the game following the HR and made it through 6 innings.
Pomeranz’s final pitching line: 6 IP, 6 hits, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks with 101 pitches.
Montgomery only lasted 4 innings in his outing. Going to the bullpen for the 5th, the Yanks turned to Chad Green, who gave them 2 innings with 5 Ks. Adam Warren and Dellin Betances earned holds for the Yankees, as their bullpen went 4 innings of shutout ball, keeping the lead for the Yanks heading into the 9th inning. Then in came Aroldis Chapman, the flame-throwing closer for the NYY.
Mookie Betts led off the bottom of the 9th inning, being down 4-3 with an infield single. Pedey followed by hitting a grounder to the SS, Didi Gregorius, who ranged to his right to field the ball and his sidearm throw was a bit high for Ronald Torreyes at 2B, bringing his foot off the base as Mookie slid in safe. With runners on 1st and 2nd, John Farrell showed some serious balls and called for a double steal. Chapman isn’t the fastest pitcher to the plate with his delivery, but his velocity makes up for it. With the speedy Betts at 2nd and a very good baserunner in Pedroia at 1st, I loved this call, and it paid off as both runners were easily safe with no throw from Sanchez behind the plate. The X-Man, then came to the plate and hit a grounder to Ronald Torreyes at 2nd, who booted the ball, allowing Betts to score and Bogaerts to be safe at 1st. It was the second error of the game for Torreyes. Tie game now. With still no outs in the inning and Hanley coming up, Girardi decided to give Ramirez the free pass to 1st base with an intentional walk to load the bases. Chris Young, who started in the game in LF was due up, but Farrell made the move to pinch hit Andrew Benintendi against Chapman. Chapman was really struggling to find the strike zone in the 9th, and inevitably gave up a walk-off to Benintendi. Alright, Chapman walked Benintendi with the bases loaded to give the Sox the victory, not as fun as a walk-off HR, but still does the same job. Added bonus: getting to see the Benintendi hair flip after getting doused in gatorade again.
Coming out of the all-star break being 3.5 games ahead of the Yanks atop the AL East, this is an important series for the Red Sox, who got it done to increase their lead in the East, bumping the Yankees down to 3rd place, as the Rays now move into 2nd. The Sox now sit at 51-39, 4 games up of the Rays. Nothing would be sweeter than a 4-game weekend sweep of the Yankees to begin the second half, while raising the divisional lead at the same time.
Follow Drew on Twitter: @dtang10