Yankees: CC comes up big, Bullpen bounces back, Sox go down

CC Sabathia (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
CC Sabathia (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Yankees jumped on the back of their 37-year old starter for six innings before turning the game over to the bullpen, which rebounded from the night before, defeating the best pitcher in the AL and the Red Sox 4-3.

The Yankees climbed a mountain last night. Not only did they bounce back to defeat Red Sox in the middle game of their three-game set, but they also put a lickin’ on the likely AL Cy Young winner, Chris Sale, when they needed to, and just to prove they can (beat him).

In a game that had “Playoffs” written all over it, CC Sabathia chalked up six near perfect innings against a Red Sox lineup which featured two players, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi, who were five and seven years old when Sabathia threw his first pitch as a major leaguer in 2001.

With the win, Sabathia joins Luis Severino as the Yankees only ten game-winners this season. Both have won two-thirds of their decisions and, without argument, have been the most reliable and productive pitchers in the Yankees rotation.

Role players come up big again

The big guys in the lineup, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, were quiet last night, going a combined 0-8 with four strikeouts between them. But as the Yankees have done all season, it was the role players who stepped up to get the job done.

Joe Girardi quietly inserted recently promoted, Tyler Austin, into the lineup as the DH. Promptly, as if on cue, Austin delivered a three-run blast in the second inning off Sale that disappeared well over the Green Monster, setting the tone for the game for the Yankees.

Todd Frazier added a home run in the sixth inning, a solo shot that proved to be the winning run. Didi Gregorius had three hits, raising his batting average to a solid .312. Gary Sanchez came up big defensively, throwing Brock Holt out in the ninth trying to steal second, representing what would have been the tying run.

Sabathia paints the corners and a masterpiece

Economizing his pitches, Sabathia was removed from the game after throwing only 80 pitches, turning the game over to a bullpen that had been soundly beaten by the Red Sox the night before.

Adam Warren made it look like Deja Vous all over again, surrendering a home run to Devers that put the Sox within one run of the Yankees. But David Robertson and Dellin Betances, the unofficial new closer replacing Aroldis Chapman, slammed the door as the Bombers moved again to within four games of the Sox.

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But it was the fire still burning in Sabathia, as he contemplates his future at the end of this season, along with the defense of Sanchez that is the compelling story behind this game. I watched most the game and did not see Sabathia shake off Sanchez one time, which tells us Sanchez is getting better and better at calling a game.

Mixing in his newly developed cutter with a less than impressive, but well-placed fastball, the duo kept the Red Sox hitters off-balance all night. Sabathia summarized the game to Scott Lauber of ESPN saying:

"“It’s a big win for us and it’s kind of a big loss for them because they need to win the games (Chris Sale) is out there.”"

Meanwhile, Sale was left to lick his wounds, owning up to his failed effort and telling Lauber:

"“Any time I give up two homers in a game it’s not going to work out. I’ve got to be better than that.” On the pitches that were hit by Tyler Austin and Todd Frazier: “One was a fastball, one was a slider, and I’ve never seen a good pitch go over the fence.”"

The All-Important Rubber Game

This afternoon’s game (1:30 PM EST) represents another two-game swing in the standing for both teams. For the Yankees, the flight to Detroit following today’s game will be more pleasant and “up” with a win that means inching ever closer to Boston, who would only hold a three-game lead, as opposed to a loss which would set the Yankees back to five behind.

The two teams meet only one more time during the regular season in early September, so time is running short on the Yankees having the opportunity to go head to head with the Sox. The final series will be played at Yankee Stadium.

The Pinstripes send Sonny Gray, who has not let his team down in three previous starts, to the mound against Rick Porcello (7-14), the reigning CY Young in the AL who has wanted for run support all season.

Gray comes into this game  7-7 on the season but 5-4 with a 1.88 ERA over his last nine starts — the major league’s second-lowest ERA since June 25.

The game will also give Gray his first taste of the intensity of baseball’s best rivalry. Gray had a minor dose when he faced the Mets during the Subway Series, but his attitude on the mound is to stay within himself as he explained to ESPN:

"“It was nice. The crowd was great. I was just trying to go out there and pitch my game, and not let anything from the outside affect my mindset and what I really wanted to do out there. It was a fun game overall. Any time you come away with the win, it makes it that much better.”"

Once again, both teams will be in playoff mode, as will the capacity crowd at Fenway Park. For the Yankees, there’s no time like the present to make a statement by taking two games in the Red Sox home ballpark, while sending a message to Boston reminding of the fact that the Sox haven’t won anything yet.

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Gray and the Yankees are in a position to deliver that sharp jab to the chin today.