Yanks lead WC race on head-spinning sweep

Judge, Stanton power late rally for 6th straight win

September 27th, 2021

BOSTON -- Watching the largest Yankees carry the offensive load this weekend at Fenway Park, one is reminded that the extra-base hit barrage is precisely what was envisioned three winters ago, when proudly showcased a new pinstriped jersey and proclaimed that he would soon “feel sorry for the baseballs.”

Stanton was a reigning MVP then, and the Yankees saw him alongside in the heart of the batting order, making life miserable for opponents. After myriad injury-related delays, the massive duo is finally living that dream, delivering in an eighth-inning rally on Sunday that powered the Bombers’ 6-3 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Judge doubled home two runs and Stanton obliterated a two-run homer onto Lansdowne Street as the Yankees wrested control of the American League Wild Card chase, providing knockout blows against former teammate Adam Ottavino. It was a wild epic that featured several dropped popups, a chess match of relievers and pinch-hitters, and a dropped third strike that could have changed it all.

“We aren’t afraid to make it interesting, that’s for sure,” Stanton said. “But what I will say is, we definitely kept the confidence. That’s what’s most important. We could have let it slip away and let them steal one there, but we kept pushing and knew there was a chance until the last out.”

By completing a three-game sweep and winning their sixth consecutive game, the Yankees (89-67) now lead the Red Sox (88-68) by one game for the top AL Wild Card spot with six games remaining. The Blue Jays (87-69) sit two games back of New York after posting a 5-2 victory over the Twins.

In what manager Aaron Boone described as a “raucous” postgame clubhouse, the Bombers toasted their wild weekend, then stated that there is still more to accomplish.

“I love the frame of mind,” Boone said. “I think everyone in that room understands we haven’t done anything yet, but it’s fun to be in the fight with them and to be competing the way that they are.”

Begin the discussion of this Sunday rivalry tilt in the sixth inning, when right-hander Clay Holmes struck out the side on 11 pitches. The Red Sox sent up the left-handed Travis Shaw as a pinch-hitter to open the next frame, tempting Boone to replace Holmes with left-hander Joely Rodríguez.

Boston countered by sending up the right-handed Jose Iglesias, who singled. Christian Vázquez’s sacrifice fly tied the game, and after third baseman DJ LeMahieu dropped a foul popup to extend Kyle Schwarber’s at-bat, left fielder Joey Gallo saw Schwarber’s routine fly clang off his glove to bring around Boston’s third run.

“Just one of those plays that you’re like, ‘What the heck just happened?’” LeMahieu said. “I’m glad we were able to come back and win the game.”

The Red Sox inched five outs from victory when pinch-runner Tyler Wade was thrown out attempting a steal of second base for the first out of the eighth inning, but LeMahieu walked and Anthony Rizzo smoked the hardest-hit ball of his career (115.2 mph, per Statcast) for a double, setting up runners at second and third base with one out.

Facing Ottavino, Judge popped a foul near the first-base camera well that Bobby Dalbec couldn’t snare. Judge then swung and foul tipped a 1-2 fastball that popped out of the catcher Vazquez’s glove, extending the at-bat.

“I felt like a cat,” Judge said. “I felt like I had nine lives up there.”

Judge didn’t miss the next one, lacing it to the gap in left-center field for a go-ahead knock. Judge pumped his right fist and roared, momentarily unaware that his left pinky hung at an odd 90 degree angle. Recalling previous experiences on the basketball court, Judge popped the dislocated digit back into its joint.

“The biggest mistake was not going feet-first,” Judge said. “I’m not too concerned with it. I don’t really need it to hit, so I think we’re going to be in good shape.”

When play resumed, the sizzling Stanton extended the Yanks’ lead by punishing an Ottavino slider for a 448-foot drive that cleared the Green Monster.

“Wow,” LeMahieu said. “Big homers. He’s really had a great year, but when it matters most, he puts on his best swings.”

Stanton joined Babe Ruth (1927), Lou Gehrig (‘31) and Mickey Mantle (‘54) as the only Yankees to collect at least three homers and 10 RBIs in a three-game series against the Red Sox, and the only Yankee to ever drive in 10 RBIs in a three-game series at Fenway Park.

No better time for Stanton to admit that he does not, in fact, feel sorry for the baseballs. Never has.

“Not really,” Stanton said. “They don’t feel sorry for me when I’m not going good.”