I try to do this once a year, so here goes…
This is probably a meaningless game. The Red Sox have shown us that they are hungry for wins and want to make it to the playoffs. But they are going to have to do it as the AL Wild Card team. For the second straight year the AL East appears to be in the hands of the Yankees. The Yankees got here thanks in large part to the offensive performances of Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher, and some unlikely starting pitching heroes. The Sox got this far in spite of devastating injuries that have sidelined star players since May.
This is the fourth game of the penultimate series between the Red Sox and Yankees. The game is being played less than four miles from my apartment. It’s a hot sunny day in the Bronx. It is currently 93 degrees Fahrenheit. I pick this game up in the top of the second inning.
Top of the Second. Red Sox 0, Yankees 0
Mike Lowell hits one high and deep to right, but Nick Swisher makes a Tom Brunansky-like catch at the warning track in front of the right foul pole. Impressive. Nick is having a great year, contrary to my prediction that he would not be an offensive spark plug for the Yanks. He has been. He’s hitting .360 this season. You couldn’t ask for more from Swisher.
Michael Kay points out that the next batter, Ryan Kalish grew up in Red Bank, New Jersey as a Yankee fan. “Must be very difficult for him,” Kay quirps. On a 3-2 count, Kalish lines one to right for a solid single.
Bill Hall up next. Kalish steals second base and a poor throw by Jorge Posada is ruled an error (E2) allowing Kalish to trot to third. Suddenly the Sox have a runner in prime scoring position.
Hall hits an infield single. It ounces to A-Rod, but he can’t make a throw to home. Sox score the first run.
Jacoby Ellsbury up next. He hits a single to center, just inches above the open glove of Derek Jeter. Hall to third. The Sox have a great opportunity here. Jacoby snaps his 0-22 hitless streak.
Marco Scutaro is in the batter’s box. I can’t be upset at Marco. He was asked to be a backup infielder and because of the injury to Dustin Pedroia, he has had to be a starter all season. The Sox are still without a home-grown young shortstop. He will come soon enough, I think.
Scutaro walks. Did I mention that this is a great opportunity for the Sox?
But J.D. Drew is the next guy into the box. He has a .600 average against Yankee starter Phil Hughes. Please, Drew. Please.
Hughes has thrown over 30 pitches this inning. The Yankee bullpen is becoming active. Michael Kay remarks that Hughes has done just enough to keep the Yankee bullpen rested. Hughes has gone five innings in nearly all of his starts. Well yes, five innings is the minimum expected of a starter. But pitchers with a win in hand usually go seven. Hughes has benefitted from strong run support, however, so he has been able to leave a game in the fifth and get the win.
Drew grounds to Cano. The Sox send Hall home. Two out. It feels like forever since the Swisher catch early in the inning. Victor Martinez quickly grounds out to end the inning.
Bottom of the Second. Red Sox 2, Yankees 0
A-Rod at the plate. Finally, I get to see Jon Lester’s stuff, as I missed the first inning. He’s throwing high, but his velocity looks very good. But too many high pitches walk Rodriguez.
Robinson Cano grounds to Lester. He turns and throws to Scutaro. A nice force out.
Posada grounds to third. The Sox try a double play but can only get Cano at second. Two out.
Marcus Thames grounds out to Adrian Beltre at third. Lester needs to improve his location. We’ll see how he settles.
Top of the Third
A quick 1-2-3 inning for Huges. Ortiz pos out to A-Rod. Adrian Beltre grounds out to A-Rod. And Mike Lowell flies out to center.
Bottom of the Third
After issuing a walk to Austin Kearns, Lester gets the next three outs. He’s settling.
Top of the Fourth
Another 1-2-3 inning for Hughes. I’m not digging this.
Bottom of the Fourth
Lester gets three outs and issues another walk. No harm done.
Top of the Fifth
With the exception of a Victor Martinez double, the Red Sox have nothing against Hughes. He’s looking solid and the longer this game goes on, the more probable a Yankee comeback becomes. Hughes is up to 96 pitches, but he can go another inning, I’m sure.
Bottom of the Fifth
Austin Kearns gets the first hit for the Yankees. I was so upset by Hughes’ stellar performance, I didn’t realize that Lester hadn’t given up a hit.
Jeter hits a single, tying Mel Ott (2,876) for most hits by a Yankee. Now we have a game. Two on, two out. Show me you can get out of a jam, Jon.
Lester strikes out Nick Swisher in three pitches! Yes!! The third pitch was a high strike and Swisher couldn’t help but swing.
Top of the Sixth
Another 1-2-3 inning for Hughes. He can take a bow. He could have been hit out of the game in the second, but then dominated the Red Sox for the next 90 minutes. He threw 114 pitches today. The Yankees will need that kind of performance in the postseason. I can’t see Pettitte throwing 114 pitches in October.
Bottom of the Sixth
Jon Lester now has the chance to put his foot down and own this game. He has the lead, and it looks like the Red Sox won’t get any more runs. Lester will have to dig deep and get six more outs. It would be great if he can make it through seven innings.
Scutaro fields three straight ground balls and throws them all to Mike Lowell for the outs. Maybe Lester can go one more inning? That was his strongest inning yet today.
Top of the Seventh
Kerry Wood replaces Phil Hughes. Despite giving up a walk, hitting a batter, and allowing a steal, Wood and the Yankee defense are able to get out of trouble.
Bottom of the Seventh
This is the game right here. Jon Lester is pitching his last inning. He has the win in hand. The Red Sox have to hang on.
A quick single by Posada. Time to get nervous. Daniel Bard is warming up in the Sox bullpen.
Then Marcus Thames doubles. A foot higher and that would have been a home hun. Time to call the pen. Lester can’t get out of this. It’s a pity, but he got the Sox this far. Bard and Paplebon will have to take it from here.
Michael Kay says the Yankees should “get a run or two here.” Not so fast.
After a long battle, Lester hits Austin Kearns. Bases loaded. I can’t look.
Lester battles back and strikes out Curtis Granderson. Now Francona brings in Bard. Here’s the game, right here. If Bard holds, the Sox should win.
Derek Jeter at the plate. At least it isn’t Cano. But this is a batter Bard must retire. Swisher is next.
A 98MPH fastball retires Jeter. One down, one to go.
Now Nick Swisher carries the hope of a Yankee comeback. Another 98 MPH fastball goes down the middle. Awesome. What can Bard do next?
Swisher fouls off the next fastball. The Sox are so close to a dramatic escape…
A low fastball to the right corner. Swisher swings. What a huge out.
Top of the Eighth
Boone Logan takes over the mound for the Yankees. He gets David Ortiz to fly out to center. And now Joba Chamerlain trots to the mound. Hmmm. Joba Chamberlain being used as a situational righty against Adrian Beltre? This is asking for trouble. I can only hope Beltre takes Joba deep.
But no. Beltre grounds out to end his day 0-4. His 14 game hit streak comes to an end. One pitch, one out. Joba’s next pitch results in a Mike Lowell pop put to Swisher. Open mouth, insert foot. Maybe Joe Girarldi is a genius and Joba has found his role.
Bottom of the Eighth
Daniel Bard now carries the Sox. He’s up against the only batter to get more than one home run against him, Mark Teixeira.
And just as Michael Kay mentions that, Teixeira smacks a solo home run to right. Yankees on the board. It’s Lester’s first home run allowed since June 7th. It was to Austin Kearns. He and Hughes have been the story of this game for the Yankees thus far.
Bard gives up a big single to Alex Rodriguez.
Now Robinson Cano is primed to be the hero. Brett Gardner replaces A-Rod at first. Clearly the run is on.
But Gardner is not running. He’s seeing pitch after pitch by Bard and he’s not going. Cano now has two strikes against him. What’s the hold up?
Throw over, Bard.
He does. Safe.
It dawns on me: This is the most interesting game in this four-game series. We're watching playoff quality hardball.
Another foul by Cano. Bard is not throwing balls. He’s only throwing strikes. Fireballs, actually!
With the count stuck at 1-2, Bard throws over to first again. Safe.
Gardner grounds to Hall. One out! Gardner to second. This is a jam.
Bard is up to 23 pitches. And he’s facing Posada, who always seems to kill the Red Sox in situations like this. Bard starts throwing high, and it is quickly 2-0.
The third pitch goes wide right and it is now 3-0. The Sox need a pop out here.
Posada walks on a low changeup. Four straight balls. Oh no.
Lance Berman pitch hits for Marcus Thames. The first strike goes down the middle. An obvious strike, but it is not called. The Sox have lost this game.
Berkman pops out to Kalish. Two out. But I don’t think it matters. The disappearance of the strike zone tells me that the Sox are doomed. How many times have we seen this movie?
Francona goes to Paplebon to be the final pitcher for the Sox in this game, win or lose.
Austin Kearns is up. This bastard again.
But with just one pitch, Paplebon and the Sox escape! Kearns grounds out to Hall. Son of a bitch. They had to make me watch one more painful inning.
Top of the Ninth. Red Sox 2, Yankees 1
Joba Chamberlain is still on the mound. I always thought it a mistake to stretch a situational change into long relief. But since the Yankees don’t have the lead and have only two pitchers available in the pen, it is probably the best move.
Kalish lines out gently to Jeter.
Joba retires Bill Hall on a 96MPH fastball.
Michael Kay has been well behaved today. However, I am turning off the audio. Only music is going to get me through the next four outs. I’m listening to songs in preparation of a totally awesome abortion themed playlist. Yes, I am crazy.
Joba walks Jacoby. Insert comment about Native American baseball players here.
Jacoby steals second. Another off-line throw by Posada. But Cano gets his glove to it. But with Marco Scutaro up, I’m not expecting an insurance run.
Joba throws a pitch just wide on a 2-2 count. Joba shows his frustration at not getting a strike call. But it was the correct call. It’s a full count now, and Scutaro has a slim chance of keeping this inning alive.
The air temperature has fallen to 86 Fahrenheit. We have another four hour game possible between these two sides.
Scutaro grounds to Ramiro Pena, filling in for A-Rod. Nice play. Now to end this game, Paps.
Bottom of the Ninth
It’s going to be Genderson, Jeter, and Swisher against Jonathan Paplebon. In this game, there has been 1 hit between them in 11 at bats.
Paplebon strikes out Granderson.
With a 2-1 count, Paplebon puts a fastball past Jeter. It had movement and it dropped. But that was the ball Jeter should have taken.
But two pitches later, Jeter walks. The drama.
Jeter then steals second (barely) with Swisher at the plate. This is not going to end well.
But Swisher strikes out!
First base is empty. Terry Francona decides not to walk Mark Teixeira, the Yankees’ hottest hitter. So it has come to this – a battle between Paplebon and Teixeira.
Two foul balls, and it is quickly 0-2.
A low fastball. It’s 1-2.
A fastball well inside. It’s now 2-2.
Dustin looks nervous as he watches. We all are.
A splitter is barely fouled off. That was so close to being the final pitch.
A changeup low to the right attracts a Teixeira swing. Strike three! The Red Sox win!
And barring a ‘Francona Miracle,’ this was a meaningless game.