NEW YORK -- The Yankees are constructed to thrive upon the home run, and on a day when they welcomed back one of the league's most celebrated power hitters, it was Neil Walker who delivered the most important drive of the night.Walker upstaged Aaron Judge's return to the lineup with
NEW YORK -- The Yankees are constructed to thrive upon the home run, and on a day when they welcomed back one of the league's most celebrated power hitters, it was Neil Walker who delivered the most important drive of the night.
Walker upstaged Aaron Judge's return to the lineup with a three-run homer in the seventh inning and Zach Britton started a game-ending double play in an eventful ninth, ensuring that there would be no beer or bubbly spilled in the visiting clubhouse for at least one more day as the Yankees celebrated a 3-2 victory over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.
"More than anything, we're looking forward to getting back to playing the brand of baseball that we know we're capable of," Walker said. "When you get a guy like Aaron Judge back in the lineup and he's sitting in that two-hole, it really stretches out the rest of the lineup. We feel like our best baseball is right around the corner."
The go-ahead blast off Ryan Brasier was Walker's 10th homer, giving the Yankees 11 players with double-digit homer totals to equal a Major League record that was last set by the 2017 Astros. As the Yankees turn their attention to securing home-field advantage for the American League Wild Card Game, Boston's magic number to clinch the AL East remained at two. With 12 regular-season games left, New York holds a 2 1/2-game lead over Oakland for the top AL Wild Card, after the A's lost to the Angels on Tuesday night.
Two errors on potential double plays in the ninth -- a missed catch by second baseman Gleyber Torres and a wild throw by Britton -- gave the Red Sox hope, but Britton induced Ian Kinsler to hit into a game-ending twin killing.
"I've been there before," Britton said. "I get a lot of ground balls. Sometimes they find holes or things happen. You've just got to make a good pitch. I knew that if I kept the ball on the ground we could get a double play. That's really what it comes down to."
New York rallied against Boston's bullpen after being silenced through six innings by former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, who has fired 14 scoreless innings against the Bombers since being acquired by Boston in late July. The Yanks managed three hits in all, two of which came off Eovaldi.
"He threw the ball really well and moved the ball around the zone," Walker said. "He was at the top of the zone with 96-99 [mph] and a little cutter and split. He did a nice job of keeping us off-balance and putting us away when he needed to. We felt like we had an opportunity when he got out of there."
Facing Brandon Workman, Aaron Hicks worked a leadoff walk and stole second before Gary Sanchez also received a free pass. Walker greeted Brasier with a drive to the second deck in right field. Chad Green picked up the win and Player Page for David Robertson held the lead with a scoreless eighth, pitching around a J.D. Martinez triple, before Britton worked the ninth.
J.A. Happ turned in another terrific outing as the veteran left-hander continued to live up to the Yankees' expectations, permitting an unearned run and four hits over six innings. Happ is undefeated in 10 starts, going 6-0 with a 2.34 ERA over that span.
Boston's only run against Happ came in the third inning, as Kinsler singled, advanced on a balk and a Sanchez passed ball, then scored on Martinez's sacrifice fly. Happ walked three and struck out six, keeping the game close by bearing down in the sixth to strand two. He's 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA in his last 11 starts vs. Boston, dating to May 2015.
"I try not to get caught up in opponents, but it feels good just in general," Happ said. "I know obviously we've got a couple of big series with them before the season is over. Every game is important for us, probably more so than them at this point. It was good to get that one tonight."
Judge went hitless in his return to the lineup, logging his first at-bats since he sustained a fractured right wrist on July 26 vs. Kansas City. Judge lined out to right field on a 112.1-mph rocket in his first at-bat, grounded into an inning-ending double play in the third, flew out to the right-field corner in the sixth and struck out in the eighth.
"I saw the Judge that I'm used to seeing," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "Great at-bats there; [he] didn't get any hits, but tomorrow I'm pretty sure he's going to come out and have great results."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Yankees gave Boston extra outs in the ninth. Third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria threw off-line to second base on a Christian Vazquez grounder, with the ball ticking off Torres' glove for an error. Sam Travis followed with a pinch-hit tapper back to the mound, and Britton threw wildly to second as Brock Holt scored, with pinch-runner Tzu-Wei Lin appearing to spike Torres' left forearm.
"I think if I hit him on the chest on the first attempt, I don't know if we'd turn two, but I think it'd be pretty close," Britton said. "The balls were wet, so after the error I made, I thought to myself, 'If I get another one, I've got to really find the four seams and make a good throw to second, and make sure we get one out.'"
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Britton threw a strike to Torres on the game-ending play, snapping New York's four-game losing streak against Boston.
The 2018 Yankees have joined the 2004 Tigers, '15 Astros, '16 Twins and '17 Astros as the only Major League clubs to boast 11 players with double-digit home run totals. Their best chance to stand alone rides upon Luke Voit, who has hit seven. New York leads the Majors with 242 homers and are on pace for 261, just shy of the all-time record of 264 held by the 1997 Mariners.
The Yankees and Red Sox will continue their rivalry series on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, as New York sends right-hander Luis Severino (17-8, 3.46 ERA) to the mound. Severino is coming off a pair of losses, having taken one in his last start at Minnesota despite allowing a run over 5 2/3 innings. Left-hander David Price (15-6, 3.42 ERA) will make the start for Boston.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.