On paper it didn’t seem fair. On the field the New York Yankees made sure to take advantage busting out the whipping sticks in last night’s 10-2 thumping of the Boston Red Sox, who looked more like their Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket.
The Yankees took charge early scoring nine runs in the second inning, eight off Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, using four home runs in the process. It was the most runs the Yankees scored in an inning this season and the third time in team history they homered four times in the same frame. The victory gave the Yankees (93-67) sole possession of first place by a game over the Baltimore Orioles.
Robinson Cano hit a solo homer to start the inning and ended Buchholz’s day with a two-run double later in the frame. Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Mark Teixeira hit the other three home runs which took away any pressure the Yankees may have felt going into the game.
CC Sabathia proved to be too strong against a watered down Red Sox lineup. He went eight innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. He surpassed 200 innings for the sixth consecutive year. With the early lead it was interesting to see Sabathia stay out for most of the game considering the Yankees could still end up in a one-game playoff with the Orioles on Thursday. But, Yankees manager Joe Girardi felt last night was more important than worrying about the road ahead. We’ll see if the one game at a time mentality works or comes back to haunt the Yankees.
For now, the Bombers hold a one-game lead with two to play over the Orioles, who lost 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays were eliminated from postseason contention last night as the Oakland A’s beat the Texas Rangers to claim the final spot in the American League playoffs. The Detroit Tigers won the AL Central earlier in the night.
Once again the Yankees control their own destiny. It is a good position to be in no doubt, but they need to continue to push hard and not let down against a blatantly inferior team. The Yankees can no longer rely on the Rays to help; though Joe Maddon’s team could still be inspired to play spoilers against the O’s. However, now that the Rays been eliminated the need to win is gone which firmly gives an advantage to the Orioles over the Rays. The Orioles would host a one-game playoff for the AL East title should the Yanks fall back into a tie with the Birds at season’s end. Girardi explained the importance of today’s game.
“That’s what you want,” said Girardi. “That’s what you hope to have all the time when you’re playing this game, that you have control of your own destiny. Now we have to go out and win a ballgame tomorrow.”
With the win the Yankees also tied the Rangers for best record in the American League. The Yankees hold the tie-breaker between them if both teams finish tied atop the league standings based on the New York’s 4-3 record versus Texas this season. The scenarios are dizzying as to who the Yankees could play and where. It doesn’t seem like any of it will be settled until the final day of the season. The only thing for certain in the AL picture this morning is the Tigers will be the #3 seed and host the first two games of the division series.
Tonight at Yankee Stadium, Girardi opted to go with rookie David Phelps (4-4, 3.44 ERA) over Ivan Nova who was in line to start. Nova has been a disaster for much of the second half of the season and wisely Girardi will give the ball to the pitcher with the best chance to win. Phelps’ start, also explains why Girardi allowed Sabathia to stay in the game as long as he did with such a large lead. It allows the Yankee skipper to shorten the game should Phelps tire or gives him all hands on deck should the young right-hander falter. The Red Sox will continue to run out the season with Jon Lester (9-14, 4.94 ERA) making his final start of 2012.