Yanks rally to move into AL Wild Card picture

September 23rd, 2021

NEW YORK -- The world went silent for as he strode to Yankee Stadium’s home plate in the eighth inning on Wednesday, flashing back to a previous at-bat in the game that had resulted in a bases-loaded strikeout. He’d steeled himself for the next chance, and now it had arrived.

“I was just talking to myself, saying, ‘This is a big opportunity,’” Torres said.

Torres made the most of it, lashing the first pitch down the right-field line for a tiebreaking double. The big knock keyed a four-run inning as the Yankees rallied for a gritty 7-3 victory, completing a three-game sweep of the Rangers that moved them into playoff position in the American League Wild Card chase.

Joey Gallo sparked the rally with a bloop two-out double, Torres dove home safely after second baseman Yonny Hernandez booted a Gio Urshela grounder and followed with a two-run homer to center field that broke the game open. Sánchez also threw out a runner after entering as a late-game replacement.

“When you have an opportunity to impact the game on both sides of the ball and help your team get a victory, it means a lot,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “You’re going to feel really good about that.”

The Yankees (86-67) have won three straight games to inch a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays (85-67) for the second American League Wild Card spot, while they are two games behind the Red Sox (88-65) for the top spot.

“We’re in control of things. There’s some comfort in that,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s on us. It’s right in front of us.”

The Yankees’ nine remaining regular-season games will be played against postseason contenders, with New York heading to Boston for a three-game showdown that begins on Friday. After that, they visit Toronto for three games before concluding the season with three games against the Rays in The Bronx.

“It’s always a challenge when you play three really good teams in Toronto, Boston and Tampa,” Kyle Higashioka said. “We’re up for it. If we’re not up for it, we’re going to be heading home, so we know what’s at stake.”

Rallying late
Trailing, 3-0, after 4 1/2 innings, New York scored seven unanswered runs, beginning with Higashioka's two-run double in the fifth inning, which featured Urshela running through a stop sign from third-base coach Phil Nevin.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Gio run so fast,” Boone said.

Higashioka bolted from third base on a DJ LeMahieu flyout, but Texas right fielder Adolis García fired a 95.5 mph strike to home plate, nailing Higashioka. It was the 14th assist of the year for García, Texas’ impressive rookie, and the Major League-leading 21st out made at home plate by the Yankees this year.

Three consecutive walks loaded the bases in the sixth. Rangers starter Taylor Hearn was pulled in favor of Dennis Santana, who uncorked a wild pitch with Urshela batting that allowed Aaron Judge to dash home with the tying run.

“I thought the at-bats got really competitive there at the end,” Boone said. “We did some really good things on both sides of the ball in the second half of the game. It was a sluggish start to things, but a really strong finish.”

Texas two step
Once again facing the Rangers, whom he no-hit on May 19 at Texas, right-hander Corey Kluber was peppered for three runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Willie Calhoun notched a run-scoring single in the second inning, Brock Holt flared a soft RBI single in the fourth and Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded a fifth-inning RBI hit through the left side of the infield against Kluber, who walked none and struck out four in an 84-pitch effort.

“I thought I made a lot of quality pitches,” Kluber said. “I would say six of the eight hits I gave up were not hit hard, but that’s part of the game.”

New York’s bullpen held the Rangers hitless for 4 2/3 innings, with Wandy Peralta recording five outs. Clay Holmes, winning pitcher Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman all hurled a perfect frame.

“We grinded away for this victory,” Boone said, “and that was good to see.”