On Thursday night, the Yankees began an extremely important four-game series with the Red Sox in Fenway Park. And it looked pretty good for the Yanks who had a lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Unfortunately, for the second day in a row, they lost a game in the ninth inning, but while Wednesday’s game was lost at home, in the top of the ninth, Thursday’s heartbreaker was of the walk-off variety in Boston. Not only that, the Yankees went into the last inning of Thursday’s game with a three-run lead. It was a gut punch for a team trying to claw its way into the playoffs.
Closer Dellin Betances once again factored into the decision, and ended up spoiling a great outing by starter Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka lasted seven innings and did something hadn’t yet accomplished in his major league career: He made it through an entire outing without striking out at least one batter. The last time a Yankee pitcher threw seven innings or more against Boston without recording a strike out was Tommy John way back in 1980. The Red Sox made weak contact most of the night off Tanaka which resulted in 15 ground ball outs.
The Yankees offense chased Boston’s starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, in the third inning. Billy Butler got in on the fun and helped out his new team by collecting two RBI in his first two plate appearances as a Yankee. Rodriguez gave up four runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings. After he left the game, the Yankees were only able to score one more run against Boston’s bullpen.
When a team brings their closer into a game with one out and a three-run lead, they’d expect that closer to hold on and get the save. Instead, Betances was all over the place. He came into the game in relief after Blake Parker had plunked Chris Young and surrendered four runs—three of them coming off one swing of the bat by Hanley Ramirez.
The Yankees were not supposed to be within striking distance of a playoff spot so the fact that they are playing meaningful games in September is pretty special considering they were sellers at the trade deadline. But, because these games do actually mean something, this loss hurt them a bit. It put them three games back in the Wild Card race with four teams ahead of them and with 15 games left on the schedule.
The Play: Hanley Ramirez walks it off (+.752 WPA)
After being gifted with a non-call on a pretty obvious swing which would have made the count 2-2, instead of 3-1, and which also outraged John Sterling in the radio booth, Ramirez belted Betances’ 98 mph offering into dead centerfield for the win.
Yankees – Tanaka 7IP, 4H, 1ER
Red Sox – Ortiz 3-4 with a HR and three RBI
—David Ortiz passed Mickey Mantle on the all-time home run list when he belted career jack number 537 in the eighth inning off reliever Adam Warren.
—Tanaka walked three batters in a start for the first time since May 15 against the White Sox. His season high is four walks way back on April 12 against the Blue Jays.
—Ramirez hit the 100 RBI mark with his walk-off home run. It’s only the second in his career that he’s reached that number. He last did it with the Marlins in 2009.
—Betances pitched for the third day in a row. He threw 16 pitches on Tuesday, 20 on Wednesday, and 21 in Thursday’s loss.
—The Yankees left 12 men on base and were 5-16 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees and Sox square off again for game two of the four-game set. Luis Cessa (4-1, 4.34 ERA) will be up against Clay Buchholz (6-10, 5.31 ERA). The game starts at 7:05 p.m. and while I don’t want to say it’s a must-win game for the Yankees, it’s a must-win game for the Yankees.
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