Yanks manufacture a walk-off sweep of Reds
NEW YORK -- A walk-off win and series sweep of the Reds wasn't exactly the way the Yankees would have drawn up the conclusion of Sunday's 3-2 victory considering the one-run lead they took into the top of eighth. Yet even after Dellin Betances surrendered a game-tying home run to Todd Frazier, a flurry of hope still swirled around the Stadium.
One inning later that optimism was rewarded, and the Yankees responded with their own dramatics and good fortune. Locked in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the ninth, Brian McCann hit a game-winning bloop single off Aroldis Chapman that should have been an easy popout to first base. Instead the ball dropped between Todd Frazier, Skip Schumaker and Jay Bruce as Jacoby Ellsbury scampered home with the winning run.
"I'll take it, for sure," McCann said. "I just saw them, everybody was looking at each other. There was a chance, and luckily for us it fell."
"By the time the ball was coming down, it was already too late," said Frazier. "I made a mistake. I turned my body the wrong way. I should have caught it."
Ellsbury, who reached base all five times he stepped to the plate, was the catalyst for the inning, leading off with a single into left field. Two pitches later he stole his second base of the game and then moved to third on a wild pitch, setting the table for McCann's game-winner.
"In that situation [I'm] just trying to sweep one run across," said Ellsbury. "I'm trying to get into scoring position as fast as possible. Good thing I did."
"With the way the sun was today, it was very difficult," said manager Joe Girardi. "If you never played here, it can be a difficult thing to deal with. Great job by [Ellsbury] getting on and stealing second, taking third on the wild pitch and putting himself in position."
The heroics made Hiroki Kuroda's 6 2/3-innings outing count for something after it looked as though his strong effort might go to waste.
"As a pitcher you always want to get a win," said Kuroda through an interpreter. "But again, the biggest thing is for the team to get a win, obviously."
As he was on Friday night, Betances was called upon to record the next four outs following Kuroda's exit. After Betances recorded the first two, which included picking off Schumaker at first base, Frazier sent a 98-mph fastball into the left-field seats, tying the score at 2. Before the homer, righties had gone hitless against Betances in 24 straight at-bats.
"That was up. He just hit it," said Betances. "I mean, honestly, it was 3-2. I think he just guessed right, he put a good swing [on it], he's a strong guy."
Before Betances surrendered that rare hit, consistency seemed to be the weekend's theme. Girardi used the same lineup for the third straight game and Kuroda, the last healthy starter from the Opening Day rotation, provided another reliable outing, allowing just one unearned run on three hits and two walks. It was also the third consecutive time a Yankees starter went at least six innings.
"I'm pleased with what they're giving us," said Girardi of his new-look rotation, which has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of the last eight games. "For us to make some noise, we were going to have to get some distance out of them, and the starters have done that so far in this homestand."
Though the Yankees didn't muster anything offensively until the fifth, they made the most of their at-bats against Reds starter Johnny Cueto, consistently working deep counts. Thus they forced Cueto to throw 65 pitches through three innings, loading the bases in the third. Two innings later their labors bore fruit.
After a pair of one-out walks to Kelly Johnson and Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter tied the score with a single to right and Ellsbury followed suit six pitches later, putting the Yankees ahead, 2-1. Cueto struck out the next two hitters, but not before tallying 112 pitches to end his shortened afternoon.
The bats were mostly unproductive -- Mark Teixeira left eight men on base and Carlos Beltran went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts -- but the Yankees were persistent against one of the National League's best pitching staffs, beating three All-Star pitchers in the process. In total, they had 11 hits and drew five walks despite striking out 11 times.
"It's great for us, for the team," said Betances. "It helps us with our confidence knowing that we can win in many different ways. We feel like we've had timely hitting and great pitching as well."
The three hits against Kuroda were all doubles, and the Reds made him pay for one in the fifth. Brian Roberts let a Zack Cozart grounder scoot under him, and Ramon Santiago sacrificed Cozart to second. With two outs, Schumaker, back in the lineup after dealing with a concussion, broke the scoreless tie with a line drive ground-rule double down the right-field line.
Betances' "shocking" home run -- as Girardi described it -- aside, the Yankees continue this homestand against the last-place Rangers on Monday feeling good about their standing, just a few games behind the first-place Orioles. After putting up a first-half home record of 18-23, they now have a chance to win four in a row in the Bronx.
"If we're going to get to the playoffs, we're going to have to win at home," said Robertson. "To be able to start off this way against a team that's been playing well, that's fighting for their division as well, I think was really important."