Yankees Rally in Ninth to Tie, Tenth to Win and Move Within Brink of Clinching Playoff Berth


September 26, 2010

Yankees Rally in Ninth to Tie, Tenth to Win and Move Within Brink of Clinching Playoff Berth Postgame, Yankees 4-3: Two things to take away from the Red Sox clubhouse. One, several players talked about the pride they had in at least putting up a good fight.

That may not mean much to fans back home but they did just about all they could to push this thing a bit further and were a pitch or two away from a sweep that would've had the Yankees a bit nervous heading to Toronto.

The second item of note was Jonathan Papelbon's commentary on the umpiring. Do read, indeed.

Other than that there is the simple reality that the playoffs, a word that suddenly resurfaced over the past couple of days, are now a done deal (OK, so there is still a mathematical chance, but…). So it is with pride that the Sox head to Chicago for four games starting Monday night.

We will follow all the action in that one for you right here. First pitch is 8:10 p.m.

Final, Yankees 4-3: A classic game in the Bronx ends on a bases-loaded walk to Juan Miranda, effectively killing the Red Sox' season. Just doesn't seem right, does it?

There is so much to digest here. Two great starts, two blown saves, one huge home run by Alex Rodriguez, one big error by Victor Martinez and one painful loss for your boys from Boston.

We'll go check on the clubhouse, which figures to be somewhat silent as the Sox prepare for a flight to Chicago.

11:54 p.m.: In case any of you have turned off the TV and are just following here, we have the bases filled with Yankees, one out and Juan Miranda up against Hideki Okajima. Alex Rodriguez is on deck.

Mid 10th, 3-3: Hideki Okajima will be your new pitcher. He had a long scoreless streak snapped Saturday when he gave up a home run to Alex Rodriguez.

Due up for the Yankees is Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter.

11:38 p.m.: It took over 200 minutes for it to happen but we finally have a Boone Logan sighting. He is on in relief of Joba Chamberlain with two outs in the top of the 10th.

End 9th, 3-3: Bonus baseball in the Bronx! Jonathan Papelbon returns the favor and we play on into the night.

Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Robinson Cano, who lined a base hit into right to plate one. Ramiro Pena was held at third and although Papelbon is being paired with several four-letter words in New England right now, he did a good job of stopping the bleeding right there.

Papelbon struck out Jorge Posada and got Lance Berkman on a fly to right.

Joba Chamberlain is on for the Yankees. Daniel Bard was up and warming earlier on for Boston. We'll see if they turn to him in the bottom half.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 3-2: A season-saving rally includes four stolen bases against Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, two by Ryan Kalish and two by Bill Hall. Mike Lowell drives in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.

The Yankees have a major issue in Posada, who is having his worst season throwing out runners. He didn't even attempt a throw on two of those, which says just as much about Rivera as it does him.

Either way, the Sox thievery has given them an unlikely rally. Now it's up to Jonathan Papelbon.

Alex Rodriguez is due up fourth.

11:00 p.m.: The Sox have tied it on an RBI single by Bill Hall with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Ryan Kalish reached, stole second and third and then Hall's smash went right past Alex Rodriguez at third base.

End 8th, Yankees 2-1: Three outs and the Yankees' magic number to clinch a playoff spot would be down to one. Even running the table from here on out could prove fruitless if New York wins just one more time.

To avoid that impossible fate the Red Sox will have to rally against Mariano Rivera, who gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings over his previous four outings.

Daisuke Matsuzaka walked the speedy Brett Gardner with two outs in the eighth but Boston guessed right and nailed him running with a pitchout.

Mid 8th, Yankees 2-1: If Adrian Beltre had any speed we might be looking at bases loaded or even a tie game. But he is unable to beat out a slow chopper to second and the Yanks will get this one to the ninth with the lead.

Daisuke Matsuzaka remains on the mound. His pitch count is at 91 to start the eighth. Hideki Okajima and Scott Atchison are warming.

10:34 p.m.: Joe Girardi sent one signal that he is trying to put an end to the Red Sox' season, for all intents and purposes, by starting Phil Hughes. He provides another by bringing in Mariano Rivera with two on and two outs in the eighth.

Adrian Beltre is the batter. He is 1-for-5 off Rivera. That one hit is a home run.

End 7th, Yankees 2-1: The Yankees finally hit a home run that truly counts and it is a crushing blow to the Sox. Alex Rodriguez, who now has four homers in his last eight at-bats lines a two-run shot to right.

It was an 0-2 cutter that got too much of the plate and Rodriguez hit it some 380 feet the other way, a pretty impressive blast.

When you're playing the Yankees it is not often that 1-0 leads hold up.

Boston still had a highlight in the inning when Ryan Kalish made another sensational diving grab to rob Robinson Cano of a hit.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 1-0: Lars Anderson steps to the plate in the biggest moment of his young career and strikes out, stranding runners at second and third.

This place actually has some juice to it. Finally feels like a Sox-Yanks game after two somewhat quieter nights. Much of that had to do with the fact that Boston was winning, but you can just sense that the stakes are higher in this one.

9:58 p.m.: Phil Hughes walks the first two men he faces in the seventh and that is more than enough for Joe Girardi. He brings the hook for Hughes, who is replaced by David Robertson.

Ryan Kalish is up in a big moment. Two on, no outs in a one-run game with the season hanging by a thread. Bunt.

End 6th, Red Sox 1-0: It's time for the YMCA routine here at Yankee Stadium, but even if that was Daisuke Matsuzaka's favorite from the disco era he likely wouldn't even notice. Dice is locked in.

The righty has set down seven straight since Mark Teixeira's single in the fourth. He has yet to walk a batter after issuing 13 free passes in his previous three starts.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 1-0: The Yankees have not held a lead in 27 innings going back to the fifth inning of their loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. They have been outscored 27-11 in that span.

Yes, you can take it out on me if New York rallies here in the sixth.

End 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka has faced only one over the minimum through five. He has thrown just 57 pitches.

Dice has had several starts recently that went sour very late. That sounds like a lot of pitchers, simply due to fatigue, but with Matsuzaka the wall has been hit hard and fast.

That said, he looks as sharp as he has all year.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 1-0: Daisuke Matsuzaka gets out of the bottom of the fourth with help from a double play, and Phil Hughes does the same in the top of the fifth.

Hughes's DP comes in slightly unconventional fashion. Bill Hall was on first when Lars Anderson hit a grounder to first. Hall was caught in a rundown and retired 3-6-2.

End 4th, Red Sox 1-0: The Yankees get their second hit off Daisuke Matsuzaka on a bloop single by Mark Teixeira. He is quickly erased when Alex Rodriguez hits into a double play to end it.

Even with Hughes in there this wasn't the game we though would be a pitchers duel. So far they've been pretty sharp, with the exception of Hughes in the third.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Phil Hughes ends the top of the fourth by catching a soft pop in between home plate and the mound. And the "4" train just won the daily subway race on the big screen with a late rally.

End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Derek Jeter has struck out twice and Daisuke Matsuzaka has five overall in three excellent innings.

Matsuzaka's ERA in the first inning is bad, but it plummets to 1.79 in the second. Then, things go sour. His ERA in innings 3-7 are as follows:

3.13, 3.91, 6.23, 6.32, 9.82.

So let's wait just a bit before we anoint this one a gem.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: The Red Sox are the first on the board for the third straight time after a two-out RBI single by Victor Martinez.

The hit scored Bill Hall from third. He led off with a double and moved to third on Lars Anderson's fly to center.

Phil Hughes had to throw 26 pitches in the inning.

They are periodically showing videos of Yankees players thanking the fans, this being the final home game of the regular season. Most are adding in something about getting support in October during the playoffs. The Sox are hoping to make them eat those words.

End 2nd, 0-0: This has the potential to be a tough sports day in New York. The Giants looked horrendous in a loss to Tennessee earlier Sunday and the Jets face a tough challenge in Miami as we speak, although they are winning early on.

If the Yankees fall in this one there would be more cause for concern entering the final week. 

Daisuke Matsuzaka is doing his part, striking out four through the first two innings.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: Phil Hughes needs just 10 pitches to get through the second and appears to have no ill effects from learning just 24 hours ago that he would be starting.

Ryan Kalish gave the final out a pretty good ride to center before Curtis Granderson tracked it down before the track.

End 1st, 0-0: As far as first innings go, that was about as smooth as it has gone all year for Daisuke Matsuzaka. He strikes out a pair and gets Nick Swisher on a weak fly to left.

Matsuzaka threw fastballs early in each count and then mixed in his secondary stuff to fan both Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

Mid 1st, 0-0: A two-out single by Victor Martinez is all the Red Sox can muster in the first. Yankees pitchers have looked sharp early in this series before getting into trouble not too far down the road.

7:55 p.m.: All the talk about the starting pitchers has focused on the Yankees, due entirely to their switching starters hours before the game.

We should not neglect taking a quick look at Daisuke Matsuzaka. He has a 6.31 ERA lifetime against New York and after his last start in Yankee Stadium was almost apoplectic.

He had given up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings and was mired in a good start, bad start routine that left him a but at a loss for what was going on.

One possibility was an issue with communication with Victor Martinez. Matsuzaka shook off Martinez countless times that night and the two appeared to have a disconnect that required a sit-down with Terry Francona once the team got back to Boston.

The two are on OK terms now but Matsuzaka remains without a quality start since Aug. 5.

6:30 p.m.: Tampa Bay has already lost Sunday so the Yankees are exactly one game out entering this one and the Rays' magic number to clinch a playoff berth remains two.

That setback snapped Tampa Bay four-game winning streak, which has coincided with New York's four-game slide and transformed the A.L. East race.

There is some sentiment here that the Yankees went into cruise control a bit too early. The Phil Hughes shift earlier Sunday suggests some degree of urgency on the part of the Yanks, but their play of late has not.

Consider the severity of their recent slump, relatively speaking:

– NY is 10-13 in September. It has not had a losing record over the final month of the regular season since 2000.

– The four-game losing streak is the second this month. The Yanks never lost more than three in row from April through August.

– The Bombers have not suffered a three-game sweep at home since April 29 through May 1, 2008. They have not been swept in a three-game series at home to Boston since 2004.

There is still plenty to play for, despite the fact that the A.L. does not have the staggered first round as it has in the past. Both division series will be played on the same exact schedule.

However, if everything stayed the way it is right now the Yanks would have to travel to Minnesota to start the playoffs. New York has owned the Twinkies in the postseason but Target Field has proven to be a pretty decisive home-field advantage. Entering Sunday, Minnesota owned 52 home wins, tied for the lead in the majors.

And if NY advances and has to face Tampa Bay, we know how tough The Trop can play in October. The Rays would have games 1, 2, 6 and 7 there.

In addition to moving Hughes back into Sunday's start the Yanks have put out their best possible lineup for Sunday's finale. Perhaps they are eager to turn this thing around.

5:49 p.m.: Joe Girardi met with reporters a short time ago and was a bit short with some of his responses on the Phil Hughes situation. A colleague speculated that Girardi was pushed into the decision a bit, perhaps from up above.

Terry Francona, who received word on the Hughes move from Girardi himself ("A personal touch is always nice," Francona said of the Girardi phone call), said he did not tweak his lineup at all.

Also, since Hughes was originally scheduled to make this start anyway all of the advanced scouting was in place and there really was not much that the Sox needed to do to adjust.

"It wasn't anything crazy," Francona said of the announcement.

Later, Francona was asked about Mike Lowell, out of the lineup for the second straight game since taking that grounder off his head Friday night. Lowell is doing fine and will be available to pinch hit but head trainer Mike Reimold told Francona it might help to give the first baseman another day.

"We've got some lefties in Chicago [we will face]," Francona said. "He'll play."

While the four large flat screens in the Red Sox' clubhouse showed the various NFL games taking place, Clay Buchholz quietly packed his bags and left. He is scheduled to start Monday and took the club up on the offer to fly ahead of the team to Chicago.

Francona said they always offer that to their starters in such cases. Some, like John Lackey, don't like to. Buchholz did so less when he was younger and green, but has begun to do so more. That pleases his manager.

"We encourage it," Francona said. "We're hoping for him to throw seven, eight innings. Rather have him go to bed at midnight rather than 5:30 [a.m.]."

Here is the Yankees lineup vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka:

Derek Jeter, SS
Nick Swisher, RF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Jorge Posada, C
Lance Berkman, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Brett Gardner, LF

4:30 p.m.: Greetings from Yankee Stadium, where we have word that the Yankees are moving Phil Hughes back into this start after bumping him from it before the series began.

Manager Joe Girardi planned to start Dustin Moseley and bump Hughes to Wednesday. Perhaps a bit of panic has set in and the Yanks are turning to their young All-Star instead of Moseley, according to reports.

We will hear from Girardi soon. The lineups should also be forthcoming. Stay tuned.

8 a.m.: The Red Sox will turn to the struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka in an effort to finish a sweep in New York on Sunday.

After taking the opener 10-8 and the second game 7-3 the Sox maintained a little bit of life in the chase for a playoff spot. They are five games behind the Yankees in the loss column with eight games to play, four of which will be between the rivals.

Boston has gained 3 1/2 games on New York since Tuesday.

Matsuzaka has gone since Aug. 5 without a quality start and owns a 6.31 ERA in his career vs. New York. The Yankees will start Dustin Moseley, a replacement for Phil Hughes, whose start was pushed from Sunday to Wednesday.

First pitch is 8:05 p.m.

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