September 3, 2017, Bronx, N.Y.; Yankees 9, Boston 2 — The much anticipated showdown of aces pitting Boston’s Chris Sale against young Luis Severino in Yankee Stadium Sunday was pretty much a rout, even before the home team broke it open with a six-run sixth. Into the fifth inning, when Sale was lifted with one down, the Yankees had outhomered Boston 3-0, and outhit them, 7-2. But even more telling was that it took Sale 109 pitches to navigate 13 outs, while Severino used all of 52 tosses to zip through four frames.
And “tosses” is not misused, because the hard-throwing righty followed a similar game plan to that employed by the veteran Masahiro Tanaka Saturday afternoon. Sevy can, and does, throw hard, intimidating hitters with 98 and 99 mph cheese. But his killer change clocks in at a pretty hot 88, and he used it to devastating effect to get ahead, and stay ahead, of Boston hitters all night. He deployed it to get around a leadoff Keith Moreland double — it was one of a very few times, at 2-0, that he was behind in the count — in the second, as he recovered to strike out eight of the next 12 Red Sox batters. At 87 pitches, he could have gone eight, but following the explosive Yankee sixth, he had nothing else to prove.
Sale, on the other hand, who has been winless vs the rival Yankees all year, found himself in trouble early, and often. Chase Headley and Gary Sanchez singles and a Sandy Leon passed ball put him in trouble in the first, 24-pitch trouble. And following a 21-pitch second around a Matt Holliday walk, Headley provided an exclamation point with his second homer from the right side in two days three pitches into the third. Little respite came in the home fourth, in which the Bombers both pounded back-to-back homers (Holliday and third baseman Todd Frazier) and forced another 36 throws, extending Sale’s anquish when Jacoby Ellsbury, who would single three times in a perfect night in center, followed with an eight-pitch walk.
Severino, meanwhile, was helped by the 1-0 lead in the second, and that it was tripled in the fourth. He allowed but two hits and no walks through six while striking out nine. It took two errors (both by Frazier at third) and a passed ball for the Sox to finally score on him in the sixth. Any Yankee fan fears quickly dissipated in the home sixth, as Joe Kelly (who had come in in the fifth), Robby Scott, and titular setup man Addison Reed allowed two walks, four hits, and six runs among them, closed out by a Starlin Castro three-run double, and the long awaited 38th home run off the bat of his honor, Aaron Judge.
So having entered the weekend 5.5 games back of the Sox, the Yanks closed the lead to 3.5, though if you’re not kicking yourself that a failure to hit against journeyman Doug Fister prevented the team from sweeping, you’re a far better Pollyanna than I am. But following a withering three-game sweep at the hands of Cleveland, it felt comfortable watching the Bombers playing the Red Sox in the friendly confines. In second place, yes, but the Yanks took 11 of 19 from Boston this year, and whatever transpires through the next four weeks, I have to believe that neither the Red Sox nor their fans are looking forward to facing this team in the playoffs, should that come to pass.
Aside from being yet another weekend night game (not our way) in the Bronx, Sunday was the 75th birthday of Beach Boy Al Jardine, a key member of a band that thrilled us in the waning days of Mickey Mantle’s career. Some of the lyrics (which I mercilessly play around with, sorry) from the side two, song one hit on their Surfer Girl album, In My Room, have stuck with me for many years, and when my team is playing with grace, and talent, and verve, they often come to mind as I watch from above:
Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and [envision stirring rallies]
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday
That’s how I fell about watching, and rooting for, my Yankees,
In My Bronx