Look, you never want to go overboard for a single baseball game, or in this case, two games in one day, but after watching the New York Yankees sweep the Boston Red Sox on a doubleheader on Tuesday and beat Boston By percentage points in the leaderboard, the obvious conclusion remains: The Yankees are on the up, while the Red Sox are in serious trouble.
Ten takeaways from the doubleheader, which leaves the Yankees at 68-52 (.567 winning percentage) and the Red Sox at 69-53 (.566), and both teams tied with the Oakland Athletics (68-52) by the two jokers.
1. It’s always fun to watch local broadcasters react to games like this. The Red Sox announcers became progressively depressed as the night wore on and the Red Sox continued to leave runners on base in a 2-0 loss in the night game, while the Yankees announcers were predictably giddy from the win.
Paul O’Neill: “In mid-July, when you’re 10 games behind, who could have believed you would beat the Boston Red Sox? What a great day for the Yankees here.”
The Yankees and Red Sox are even in the standings after NYY was 10.5 GB of BOS on July 6
It’s the 3rd-largest deficit either team has erased in the entire rivalry
1978: Yankees erased 14-gm deficit (year of Bucky Dent HR)
1949: Red Sox erased 12-gm deficit
– ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 18, 2021
David Cone: “The worm has flipped. The Yankees just sent a notification. They’re back.”
Hey, they are not wrong. On July 25, after losing the final game of the series at Fenway Park, the Yankees were nine games behind the first-place Red Sox. Since July 26, the Yankees are 17-5, the best record in the majors, while the Red Sox are 8-14.
Coming back nine games in a table in just over three weeks is incredible. Books have been written about the famous 1978 pennant race when the Yankees were 14 games behind in mid-July and rallied to win the division, but it took them two months to make up for that deficit, not 22 games. Yes, the Red Sox are still in a good position, but it’s a daunting mental blow to lose all that ground to the Yankees (much less behind leading Tampa Bay Rays now by five games).
2. New York’s rookie starter Luis Gil was the story of the second game, pitching 4⅔ scoreless innings to become the first pitcher to start his major league career with three consecutive scoreless starts. For years, we’ve heard about all these pitchers in the Yankees farm system with big arms, and now we finally have one who contributes to the Major League team. Gil, as the veterans used to say, has an electric repertoire, with a fastball that Major League Baseball players have had trouble deciphering, and he has only had 3 hits in 22 at-bats so far, all singles.
In modern vernacular, that means a straight moving upward in the zone with a high turning speed. “His fastball plays well,” said the Yankees first baseman. Luke voit After Game. “He seems to have a little extra life in the area. What I love about him is his arrogance. He’s confident. He never stops, which is great.”
In reality, the Yankees only turned to Gil out of desperation. Gerrit cole and Jordan montgomery landed on the COVID-19 injured list and Domingo German on the regular injured list. The Yankees bypassed Deivi Garcia, who started in the postseason in 2020 but has struggled at Scranton with a 7.08 ERA, and went with Gil, who was only slightly better with a 5.64 ERA in eight Triple starts. -TO. Control had been his biggest problem with 23 walks in 30⅓ innings, but he has done a better job in the majors with seven in 15⅔ innings.
Regardless, as Voit said, Gil has provided a great and surprising boost. And if he continues to throw enough strikes, Gil will be a force down the stretch.
3. The biggest out and the biggest play in the second game came in the top of the sixth inning when the Red Sox had runners on first and third with two outs. Brett gardner had made a good play by sliding to catch the hit of Hunter renfroe to left-center field to prevent the running back in front from scoring. Bobby dalbec was next at bat and he landed a smooth line to Wandy Peralta, who managed to deflect her, ran after her as she bounced toward the third base line, spun around and made a perfect shot to Voit at first base.
“When he found out, I was like, ‘Oh shit,'” Voit said. “And then I thought, I don’t know where this pitch is going to go, and he did the pitch of his life.”
Or maybe the biggest out was in the fifth, when Peralta came in to face Rafael Devers with the bases loaded and two outs. He got Devers to ground out to second base to preserve the 2-0 lead. The point here: Wandy Peralta is getting big outs for the Yankees.
Four. It will be interesting to see how Aaron Boone manages his lineup when Anthony Rizzo come back from the COVID-19 injured list. Rizzo has been out since Aug. 7, taking batting practice between games, the first time he has done so since landing at IL. Rizzo said he felt the effects of the coronavirus while in quarantine. “It sucked,” he told reporters. “With pain and fatigue. I would get up and try to move and I would get tired and everything would hurt.”
When he returns, Rizzo will see Voit back in the lineup. Voit returned from the disabled list Aug. 8 and has hit .243 / .317 / .486 with three homers and nine RBIs in 10 games.
Voit defended his playing time after the game.
“I was one of the top 10 in the MVP vote last year and I have been a great player for this organization for the past three years,” he said. “I’m not going to fall. I want to play. Obviously, I know it will be difficult with Rizzo, but I deserve to play as much as he does. I led the league in home runs last year. I feel great again.”
Boone has said that he will work with it on a day-to-day basis, but one solution is to put Giancarlo stanton outfield and using Voit as a designated hitter. Stanton played right field with Aaron Judge as a designated hitter, the eighth time he has started in the outfield since July 30, after not playing there before then. With Joey gallo able to handle center field, we could see more Stanton-Gallo-Judge lineups when Rizzo returns.
5. Speaking of Stanton, yes, Yankees fans are frustrated with strikeouts and a lack of home run production. He hit his 19th in the second game, a massive 441-foot drive off Nathan Eovaldi, against a 0-2 count curve. It wasn’t a terrible pitch, at the bottom of the zone, but Stanton came down and took it out with a golf swing. With a .263 / .361 / .458 offensive line in 2021, Stanton has been more good than great, but he’s certainly capable of being great for 40 games down the stretch. It’s a big component, literally, if the Yankees want to maintain a wild-card spot and even chase the Rays.
441 ft from Big G 😲 pic.twitter.com/B0z1dyMj2v
– New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 18, 2021
6. I don’t want to skip the first game on Tuesday, but the Red Sox had their chances in that one, too. Down 5-3 in the seventh, they loaded the bases against Jonathan Loaisiga with three singles with no outs. It looked like the Yankees’ bullpen might be on the way to a late-game collapse, but Boone left Loaisiga in the game. The pinch hitter Travis shaw hit a hard line, at 100 mph, right into the left fielder’s hands, and Loaisiga then fanned Enrique Hernandez and Renfroe to achieve the two-inning save. Chad green closed the second game. But Loaisiga has been the team’s best reliever, and Boone will continue to use him late in games, whether it’s the eighth inning or the ninth inning. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the combination of Loaisiga and Green stays ahead of Aroldis chapman on the closer chart when Chapman returns from the disabled list.
7. The Red Sox have made some intriguing defensive decisions with the return of Kyle schwarber. Dalbec started the first game at first base, despite his continued struggles at the plate. (And Shaw, who had just been claimed on waivers, started the second.) Renfroe played center field in the first game, while Jarren duran started there in the second game. Alex Verdugo played for the left and JD Martinez at right-hander in both games, with Schwarber as the designated hitter. Meanwhile, Hernández, who had played excellent defense in center field for the first three months until Duran was called up, is now the second baseman.
Of course, the Red Sox have run this through all of their computers and devised this lineup to be what they think is most optimal; but they’ve gotten worse in right field and center field (at least if Renfroe is playing there) without solving the offensive problem at first base. They clearly feel, for now at least, more comfortable with Martinez in the outfield than with Schwarber at first base, and there’s a reason Martinez has been primarily a designated hitter in recent years.
8. The Red Sox offense hasn’t really been that bad during this 8-14 streak, hitting .276 / .347 / .445 with an average of 4.54 runs per game. Not good; It’s not horrible. They need Executioner to add some depth to the lineup. He has only two home runs in his last 50 games.
9. The noob Garrett whitlock, claimed from the Yankees in the offseason in the Rule 5 draft, has been a bullpen weapon all season for the Red Sox, but has now struggled in two of his last three appearances. He had a botched save last week against the Rays and then lost in Game 1 Tuesday when he walked a pair of batters and they both turned to score. It might be nothing, but let’s see if he’s banging himself against the wall a bit as he crawls to the 60-inning mark.
10. So yeah, it was a good day for the Yankees, but there’s still a lot of baseball to play. As Boone put it, “Bottom line: it’s good that we’re in a position where we’re in control of what we do, we’re in control of our season, but we haven’t done anything yet.”
The other conclusion: never, never consider the Yankees dead, even though they looked ready to be buried on July 4.
Information from ESPN Data was used in this story.