(Aaron Hicks after his 2 run HR in the 8th inning - NYDailyNews.com)
It sounded like the same song, just a different verse. The New York Yankees had men in scoring position but couldn’t drive them home. Their opponents used a couple of long balls to build a small but seemingly insurmountable lead. Then, leading off the 8th inning, Brett Gardner was innocently hit by a pitch. You figured it wouldn’t amount to anything. The Yankees futility in scoring runs recently conditioned you to feel that way. Then, somehow, Aaron Hicks just snuck in a two run home run down the right field line and it was like a weight had been lifted. Gary Sanchez singled and Aaron Judge walked to follow the home run. The “curse” was officially broken as Didi Gregorius and Todd Frazier followed with RBI singles. Even Jacoby Ellsbury got into the act hitting a single so hard that Didi couldn’t score from second. Ronald Torreyes was up next and capped off the scoring lining a sacrifice fly. Just like that, an offense that spent nearly two games looking at the lights, exploded for five runs and suddenly had a 5-3 lead in their biggest game of the season.
Heading into the ninth inning I hope you weren’t expecting all sunshine and rainbows and a quick victory. No, no, no. Not with Aroldis Chapman coming in to close the game. All he did was pour gasoline on a fire and walk the first three batters to set the Boston Red Sox up for their own comeback and to break the hearts of the Yankees and their fans. Chapman did quickly get ahead of Andrew Benintendi 0-2 and then inexplicably threw a fastball down the middle of the plate which Benintendi hit hard to left field. A run would score to make it 5-4 but then, old pal Eduardo Nunez did more for the New York Yankees on one play against them than he ever did playing for them. He took off for third with the play right in front of him and Hicks nailed him trying to advance. Not to be overshadowed on the play was Todd Frazier’s amazing scoop to reign in the throw. It was a gift out. If Nunez doesn’t try to tag there I’m not sure Chapman gets out of the inning and the Yankees hold on to win the game. The next batter, a lefty Mitch Moreland, hit the ball hard to centerfield but it landed in the glove of Ellsbury and the Yankees survived to win 5-4.
After the game, Joe Girardi protected his expensive closer by saying he felt it was rust that caused the ineffective outing. Chapman hadn’t pitched since Saturday’s win in Cleveland. If it wasn’t for an incredible catch by Brett Gardner in that game, he would’ve likely blown that game too. Chapman has been an enigma all season long. His 102 MPH isn’t what it used to be. Batters are hacking at it like it’s batting practice. That’s certainly not what the Yankees are paying $86 million for. You can call it a “World Series hangover” all you want but if the Yankees want to make it to that destination this season it’s time to put egos aside and let someone else man the ninth inning. When you have former closers David Robertson and Dellin Betances sitting in your bullpen you don’t need to tie the closer role to one man. Especially when that guy makes each 9th inning a roller coaster ride that you’re not sure if you’re going to get off of.
I know everyone will, and has, handed star of the game honors to Aaron Hicks. But last night’s unsung hero was Adam Warren. Warren is extremely consistent and underrated in his role. He held the Red Sox down for 2.1 innings allowing the Yankees offensive outburst in the 8th to happen. Warren came in during the 6th inning in relief of Jaime Garcia who gave up 3 runs over 5.2 innings and looked much better in his second Yankees start. Garcia’s lone mistake was a fat 3-1 fastball to Hanley Ramirez in the first that he demolished for a two run home run.
The Yankees look to make it two in a row over Boston today at 4:05pm as their ace Luis Severino takes the mound. The Red Sox will counter with another lefty starter Drew Pomeranz.
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