BOSTON -- When the Yankees rolled their bags out of Fenway Park for the final time last October, Frank Sinatra's trademark anthem blasting out of Aaron Judge's stereo, they oozed confidence in an ability to achieve postseason greatness. Nearly a year later, the story is largely the same, but with
BOSTON -- When the Yankees rolled their bags out of Fenway Park for the final time last October, Frank Sinatra's trademark anthem blasting out of Aaron Judge's stereo, they oozed confidence in an ability to achieve postseason greatness. Nearly a year later, the story is largely the same, but with one major edit: the Red Sox are not going to be in their way.
James Paxton extended his winning streak to a career-best eight consecutive starts, supported by homers from Austin Romine and Gio Urshela in the Yankees' 5-0 victory on Monday evening. With the result, the Yanks reduced their magic number to clinch the American League East to nine, while eliminating the Red Sox from contention in the division race.
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"We want to be the best team in the AL East, the best team in the AL," Judge said. "That was our goal out of Spring Training, win our division first. We saw how it helped out Boston going down the stretch, getting to set up their lineup for the postseason and give their big boys some rest to get them ready for the real season. That's our goal. We're not there yet, but we're getting close."
Once again, Sinatra's dulcet tones filled the air at Fenway on Monday, as the visiting clubhouse sound system was commandeered to play "Theme from New York, New York." That delicious moment was earned, taking 14 of 19 meetings from the defending World Series champions -- the Yankees' most victories in a season over Boston since 1960, when the Bombers took 15 of 22 from their rivals.
"The Red Sox are obviously defending World [Series] champions; we know how great they were a season ago," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We know what they are capable of, even though it's been a little up and down for them. To play well against that team is satisfying, but as far as who you eliminate and knock out, we want to win some more and shore up the division as a whole."
While Judge claimed that ending Boston's three-year streak of division titles "wasn't even on our radar, to be honest," Paxton said that Monday's victory seemed sweeter because of what it represented in the grand picture.
"Absolutely; it's awesome," Paxton said. "We feel really confident as a team right now, and it feels great to knock those guys out of the division. We're just going to keep on going forward, focusing on one game at a time and get ready for the postseason."
Paxton's resurgence has coincided with the left-hander's plan to use his curveball more frequently, believing that it plays well against high fastballs to confuse hitters. Boston's bats provided no solid argument, as Paxton scattered four hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven.
"I'm feeling good," Paxton said. "I feel like I have a good process going. I'm in a good spot and Romine did a great job mixing it up. Guys are making great plays behind me. It was just a good overall team win tonight."
Notching his career-high 13th victory, Paxton is the first Yankees hurler to win eight straight starts since Ivan Nova in 2011. Paxton has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last four starts, tying Masahiro Tanaka for the longest streak by a Yankee this year.
"He's got a purpose when he's pitching. He's fun to catch," Romine said. "He stays aggressive. When he mixes in his curveballs and sliders, he kind of keeps guys off-balance. He's known predominantly as a fastball guy, so guys are selling out. That splits the plate up a little bit and guys can't guess as easily."
Romine opened scoring in the fifth inning, connecting off Eduardo Rodriguez for an opposite-field solo homer, his seventh of the season. It was the only run allowed through six innings by Rodriguez, who permitted five hits, striking out nine.
The Bombers' backstop also stroked a double as part of New York's three-run seventh inning. Fenway has been a friendly place to hit for Romine, whose father Kevin was a Red Sox outfielder from 1985-91. Romine was 6-for-10 with two homers and five RBIs in three starts on those grounds this year.
"My dad played for the Red Sox, so I always wanted to play here," Romine said. "I really enjoy coming here, and I love the park. I like being a Yankee and coming here and playing here."
In 26 games since the beginning of July, Romine is batting .345 (30-for-87) with 14 runs, six doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs.
"We've been seeing that with Ro a lot in the second half, where offensively I think he found some things and started to click," Boone said. "I think he's in a good routine as far as how to prepare and doing work on the days he's not playing. He's giving us a lot of good at-bats on the days he is playing."
Having been activated from the injured list prior to Sunday's game, Urshela's newfound bat speed did not seem to be affected by the brief layoff.
Urshela greeted Darwinzon Hernandez with a drive that cleared the Green Monster in the seventh, a frame that also featured a DJ LeMahieu RBI single and a Gleyber Torres sacrifice fly. Urshela has hit 19 homers this year after hitting a combined eight homers in 167 games over his previous three seasons.
"[I feel] really good, really healthy," Urshela said. "I'm ready to finish strong this month. I'm feeling good. Thank God I am healthy right now."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.