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Heating up at Fenway, Sox clobber Yanks again

Boston moves into 2nd AL Wild Card spot, 8 games back of NY in East
@IanMBrowne
July 27, 2019

BOSTON -- For months, the Red Sox tried to get to the point where they felt at home in their own home. Perplexingly, they had a hard time taking care of business in their cozy little ballpark on Lansdowne Street. Suddenly, it is all coming together for the defending World

BOSTON -- For months, the Red Sox tried to get to the point where they felt at home in their own home. Perplexingly, they had a hard time taking care of business in their cozy little ballpark on Lansdowne Street.

Suddenly, it is all coming together for the defending World Series champions at a place that now feels like friendly Fenway again.

By taking it to the Yankees for the third straight day and scoring a 9-5 victory on Saturday, the Sox moved to eight games behind their rivals in the American League East and are now in possession of the second AL Wild Card spot, vaulting a half-game ahead of the Rays. On Sunday night, the Red Sox will go for the four-game sweep behind ace Chris Sale that could make the division race interesting again.

Box score

“We know we’re chasing them,” said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. “Obviously the lead was big, but I think it’s getting down there and the mindset is the series is tied and try to win the series tomorrow. That’s the good mindset to have. [Act like] they won one, we won one and whoever wins tomorrow wins the series.”

In truth, the Red Sox have already won the series, and the Yankees have lost one for the first time since June 7-9 at Cleveland.

"We're hitting the ball well. We're playing well right now,” said slugger J.D. Martinez, who aided Saturday’s effort by mauling a go-ahead two-run homer to left in the fourth inning. “It's been a good last two series. But I don't like to look too far into things. Just gotta keep chugging away. There's still a lot of ground to make up and a lot of baseball to be played."

After a loss to the Dodgers on July 14, Boston was 21-24 at home, which included two defeats to the Yankees in London.

Since that point, they have ripped off six wins in their last seven at Fenway Park, and the surge has come at the perfect time.

“Always feels good to be playing better here,” said Martinez. “I mean, we struggled here so it's good."

Home or road, the Red Sox have turned it around.

The talk that Boston could become sellers by Wednesday’s Trade Deadline has all but vanished, as the team has played its most inspiring baseball of the season this week. It started by taking two out of three at Tropicana Field against the Rays and has continued in a big way during this extended rivalry weekend.

What have these last three days told the Red Sox about themselves?

“That we’re good just like them,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We have a good offense. I think like I said yesterday, the last two days, the difference between us now and earlier in the season is hitting with men in scoring position, putting good at-bats.”

And when they do that, their home park starts to look small in a hurry.

Andrew Benintendi took advantage of Fenway in the best way possible when he lofted a harmless-looking pop fly to right for a solo homer just inside of Pesky’s Pole to tie it at 1 in the bottom of the second. At a projected distance of 310 feet, it was the shortest homer in MLB this season. The drive, if you want to call it that, had an exit velocity of 87.7 mph and an expected batting average of .010, per Statcast. That is called using the home field to your advantage.

Bogaerts did the same thing when he lofted an 88.9 mph RBI double off veteran lefty CC Sabathia that clanged off the Green Monster after traveling a modest 334 feet. That one carried an expected batting average of .060.

There were also some authoritative knocks, particularly the rocket by Martinez that soared over the Monster with impressive Statcast metrics (109.5 mph, 432 feet).

The hits are coming in bunches, as the Sox are pounding the baseball to every corner of Fenway.

“It's always a good time when you're hitting the ball and it's flying everywhere," said Martinez.

While the hitting has been getting all the headlines and the highlight reels, Boston’s starting pitching is in the midst of its best stretch of the season. Eduardo Rodriguez earned the win on Saturday, allowing three runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. He came an out away from giving the Sox their seventh straight game with a starting pitcher going six innings or more.

After an exhausting three-game series of slugfests in Minneapolis in which they won two out of three, the Yankees have taken a nosedive this weekend in Boston.

The Red Sox have enjoyed the opportunity to take it to them, considering that New York had won six of the first seven games between the teams this season before this weekend -- with none of those games being played in Boston.

If you think Boston is carrying itself with a different swagger at the moment, you’d be right.

“It’s fun,” said Bogaerts. “I think everyone has noticed that. Lots of guys contributing up and down the lineup. Pitching is doing good. Defense is doing good. Pinch-hits, clutch at-bats all over -- it’s been really fun these last couple days, especially against these guys.”

Though Yankees manager Aaron Boone would have preferred a better outcome this weekend, he isn’t surprised that the Red Sox are performing up to expectations again.

“They didn't have to do anything the last three days,” Boone said. “We know they're a great club and certainly capable of this kind of weekend when you're not playing at your best. It didn't take a few games for me to realize that.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.