After securing a spot in the ALDS by winning the Wild Card Game against the Twins, the Yankees quickly dropped the first two games of their series against the Indians which left them fighting for their playoff lives when the series shifted back to New York on Sunday.
Through the first 5 2/3 innings of the contest, the Yankees were unable to solve the puzzle that was Carlos Carrasco, who shut the Yankees out on just three hits during his time on the hill. Fortunately for the Bombers’, Masahiro Tanaka was even better on the other side of the diamond.
The 28-year-old right-hander scattered three hits and three walks over seven scoreless innings, striking out seven in the process. By continuing to put up zeroes against the Tribe’s dangerous offense, he afforded the Yankees the opportunity to break through and come away with a victory, and that’s just what they did in the seventh inning.
With star left-hander Andrew Miller on the hill, Greg Bird strode to the dish to lead off the seventh inning in a scoreless game. During the regular season, left-handed batters had hit just .164/.268/.213 with one home run in 71 plate appearances against Miller. Remarkably, those numbers are actually better than what right-handers did against him (.136/.222/.201 with two homers in 173 plate appearances.)
With the numbers on his side, Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi stuck with his young first baseman who had been limited to just 147 at-bats and hit a mere .190/.288/.422 with nine homers and 28 RBI in 170 plate appearances during the regular season. That move paid off, as Bird tattooed a 1-1 offering into the upper deck in right field, putting the Yankees ahead 1-0 with what would wind up being the only run scored in the contest.
From there, Tanaka turned the ball over to David Robertson who got one out in the eighth and then to Aroldis Chapman who recorded the final five outs to protect the one-run advantage and allow the Yankees to fight another day.
It was the first shutout that the Yankees have recorded in the postseason since Game 3 of the ALDS against the Athletics in 2001.
Bird admitted after the game that he was just trying to make contact and put a good swing on a ball against Miller. He continued with a rallying cry, "Plain and simple I'm not ready to be done playing and I don't think the team is either."
If the Yankees want to survive and advance for another day, they’ll need to get past Trevor Bauer on Monday. Bauer shut the Yankees out on just two hits while fanning eight over 6 ⅔ innings in the first game of the series. Luis Severino will oppose him for the Yankees, fresh off of his miserable outing in the Wild Card Game against the Twins.
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The Price is Right
The Yankees weren’t the only team in the American League that was able to stave off elimination on Sunday. The Red Sox hung 10 runs on Brad Peacock and the Astros’ bullpen en route to a 10-3 victory in Game 3 of their ALDS series at Fenway Park.
Things didn’t start off well for the home team in this one. Already tasked with overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the series, the Astros jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, propelled by a two-run homer from Carlos Correa.
Red Sox’ starter Doug Fister then put a pair of runners on in the second inning and manager John Farrell had seen enough, pulling the veteran right-hander after recording just four outs in the contest. Joe Kelly came on and was able to navigate out of trouble in the second inning and the Red Sox offense came to life by scoring a run off of Peacock in the home half of the frame.
Farrell then turned to new relief ace David Price to begin the third inning. He had hoped to get two strong innings out of the left-hander before pieceworking the rest of the middle innings with the rest of his bullpen. What he got instead, was a masterful performance from Price.
Price wound up throwing 57 pitches on the night over four innings of shutout baseball. He allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out four. With Price shutting the Astros’ offense down, the Red Sox’ bats were able to mount a comeback. Hanley Ramirez came through with an RBI single in the third inning to trim the deficit to 3-2 and rookie third baseman Rafael Devers clubbed a go-ahead two-run homer off of Francisco Liriano. They would never look back.
The score remained 4-3 until the seventh inning where the home club broke it open. After loading the bases with no outs, Hanley Ramirez slashed a two-run double into the gap in left-center, increasing the lead to 6-3. Devers followed with a run-scoring single to make it 7-3 and he rode home on a three-run blast by Jackie Bradley Jr. that hit off of the glove of Astros’ right fielder Josh Reddick near the Pesky Pole.
Price was followed by Addison Reed and Carson Smith, each of whom worked a scoreless inning of relief. In total, the Red Sox bullpen pitched the final 7 ⅔ innings of the ballgame, surrendering just nine hits and a walk while striking out five.
Rather than deciding to pitch star southpaw Chris Sale on short rest in Game 4 on Monday, the Red Sox will now pin their hopes on reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello. The right-hander posted a disappointing 4.65 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 203 ⅓ innings during the regular season while allowing a league-worst 38 home runs. For his career, he’s 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 21 ⅔ innings in the postseason.
You have to believe that if he struggles early on, the hook will be as quick as it was with Fister on Sunday.
Opposing him on the hill as the Astros attempt once again to dispatch of the Red Sox and advance to the ALCS will be Charlie Morton. The right-hander was 14-7 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.19 WHIP during the regular season. Morton has only made one postseason start in his career, pitching well in a losing effort against the Cardinals as a member of the Pirates during the 2013 NLDS.
Quick Hits: The Phillies have expressed interest in talking to Rockies’ bench coach Mike Redmond about their managerial opening. Redmond is already set to interview for the Tigers’ vacancy this week and is gaining traction as one of the most sought after commodities on the market… Edwin Encarnacion (ankle) was able to hit in the indoor batting cages on Sunday but wasn’t able to give it a go in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees. He remains day-to-day and could potentially return on Monday… Max Scherzer made it through Sunday’s throwing session without any difficulty and doesn’t think he’ll have any restrictions heading into Monday’s start against the Cubs. Scherzer told reporters Sunday that he expects to be able to throw 100 pitches in the pivotal Game 3… Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker has tabbed Tanner Roark as his starter for Game 4 of the series, provided that he isn’t needed out of the bullpen on Monday… When Aaron Judge stole a would-be home run ball from Francisco Lindor on Sunday, he also stole a potential souvenir from notorious home run collector Zack Hample… All four playoff series continue on Monday, setting up a phenomenal quadruple-header of baseball action beginning with the Red Sox hosting the Astros at 1:08 PM EST