The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have been banging heads for well over a century, going back to the days before the infamous trade of Babe Ruth that forever changed the fate of both franchises as well as the game of baseball itself.
Over the years, the teams have taken turns breaking each other’s hearts and bones and the rivalry has ebbed and flowed as each team has taken their turn at the top of the AL East. This season is no different. In a series that pitted the first-place Yankees agains the second-place Red Sox, the Bronx Bombers, it was the young Yankees that made headlines.
Boston took the opener on Tuesday night at the Stadium, 5-4, belting three HRs off Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka and pulling within one game of the division lead. But the Yankees stuck back the next night, winning 8-0 behind a vintage pitching performance from starter CC Sabathia and a pair of homers from free-agent first baseman Chris Carter.
The Bombers returned their lead back to the original two games they came into the series with. With the entire roster pitching in these days, seemingly taking turns in the spotlight almost nightly, one wondered who would step up in the rubber game.
On Thursday night, it was catcher Gary Sanchez’ turn to shine, blasting a long three-run HR to left field off Red Sox starter David Price in the third inning and then sending a two run shot into the right field seats two innings later in the Yankees’ signature 9-1 victory.
It was the fifth multi-HR performance for Sanchez in only his 87th career game. The only player in MLB history to reach that milestone sooner was Mark McGwire, who did it in 84 games. Sanchez is now 4-for-7 lifetime against Price. All four hits have been home runs.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has gotten above-market performances from many of his players so far this season, but Sanchez, who blasted 20 HRs in just 53 games last season, is not one of them. He missed the first 21 games of this season with a strained bicep. Those biceps appear to be just fine these days.
“Just a big night from Gary,” Girardi said after the game. “Three run homer, two run homer. I thought our guys did a really good job making David (Price) work today. I think the first two outs were on three pitches and the next seven out were in about 72 pitches. Gary got a couple of pitches that he drove. Just a big night from him.”
The Yankees had been beating baseball’s brains in before Sanchez returned and got back into his groove. He has eight HRs in just 32 games this season. And he’s beginning to heat up again.
“Well, he’s a huge bat,” Girardi said. “We saw it last year. He’s had a couple of multi-homer games in the last week, which is good to see. He’s hit different pitches. He’s hit a couple of change ups. I think he hot a cutter tonight and fastball, so it’s good to see that. Then he went to right field, which is good to see, too.”
Almost lost behind the power surge from Sanchez and OF Brett Gardner, who hit his 13th HR in the game, was another stellar start from Michael Pineda (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 2 BB), who raised his record to 7-3 on the season.
The Bombers (34-23) have now beaten the Sox four out of five games this season and lead them by three games as the third place Orioles come to town.
They are taking the AL East by the horns at the moment with an offense that just keeps brining it and enough pitching to make it stand. How long it will last is anyone’s guess. But in a season where the Red Sox beefed up their starting pitching and were poised to take the division back from the likes of the Blue Jays and Orioles, it’s the Yankees who are their main rivals once again.