'Good first punch': Yanks within 1 of WC tie

Stanton, Torres go yard; Cole turns in quality start vs. rivals

September 25th, 2021

BOSTON -- This is the most meaningful stretch of games for the 2021 Yankees, a nine-game sprint that will determine their playoff qualification. There is comfort in having it rest in their hands, as manager Aaron Boone believes. If they win most of their games, their season almost certainly will continue.

After what called "a good first punch to the series," Boone's squad is one victory closer to that goal. Stanton mashed a three-run homer as part of a four-RBI performance, homered to continue his hot streak and hurled six solid innings in an 8-3 win over the Red Sox on Friday evening at Fenway Park.

"The feeling in the clubhouse is good, of course, but we're right back at it tomorrow with more work to do," Stanton said. "We're in a great opportunity to erase that whole roller coaster we've been on and start a new one. That's what we've got to do."

Winning their fourth consecutive contest, New York opened its pivotal weekend by gaining on Boston, now trailing by one game for the top American League Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays lost to the Twins, dropping Toronto two games behind the Bombers.

"They're all important," Boone said. "It's one [win], though. We've got to shower this one off. We've got another big one tomorrow. We know it'll be a challenge, but we look forward to it."

The Yanks have not enjoyed much success at Fenway over two previous visits this year, winning just once in six tries. It was a different story early, as their big bats pounced on starter Nathan Eovaldi, hammering the right-hander for seven runs and seven hits over 2 2/3 innings -- and likely spelling mothballs for Boston's yellow City Connect uniforms.

New York scored three runs in the first inning; Aaron Judge collected an RBI double, Stanton knocked in a run with a groundout and Torres delivered a two-out RBI single that extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Torres' run has directly coincided with his shift from shortstop to second base, though he said it is more related to reviewing video of his 2018-19 at-bats.

"I reminded myself what I did in those years, when I had success at the plate," Torres said. "I'm trying to do the same thing and be more consistent. I just think about how I feel each pitch, each at-bat. Right now, everything is going well."

The Bombers added four runs in the third inning, sending 10 men to the plate. Stanton broke the game open with his 32nd long ball of the season. The slugger has helped to shoulder the Bombers' offense of late, collecting six homers and 14 RBIs over his last dozen games.

"It didn't seem like [Eovaldi] had the best feel for all his pitches tonight, which allowed us to capitalize a little bit in big spots," Stanton said. "You make their bullpen work and get guys out there pitching when they didn't expect it. That sets the tone for the rest of the series."

A Kyle Higashioka popup eluded first baseman Kyle Schwarber for what was scored an RBI single, putting New York up big and permitting Boone to ponder how far to push Cole, who may still be hindered slightly after leaving a start earlier this month with left hamstring tightness.

Any lasting effects were not evident in the box score. Cole bounced back from one of the roughest starts of his Yankees career to pitch scorelessly into the sixth inning, earning his American League-leading 16th victory.

"It was really good for us to strike and get into the game quick," said Cole, who notched his first career win at Fenway. "It allowed us to be able to challenge some guys, knowing that a solo home run would still hold the lead early. That was really big for us."

Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer off Cole, a drive that followed a Schwarber single that rocketed past first baseman Anthony Rizzo, but Torres swiftly answered with a solo home run in the seventh. Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta and Chad Green each had scoreless outings.

"This is a great game, and we should sleep well tonight," Cole said. "We played tremendous on both sides of the baseball. When the alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning, we'd better prepare the same way and not take any pitch for granted. Tomorrow's going to be a tough one too."