JD Martinez’s Clutch Home Run Helps Red Sox Salvage Series in the Bronx.
Picture Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Going into the series finale on Thursday night, a win for the Red Sox was almost vital. The difference between leaving New York tied for first place in the AL East and trailing by two games is huge. The good thing is, they locked down the get away day win, but it was a rocky road getting there.
Eduardo Rodriguez got the start in this one, and he was coming off a performance in Texas where he gave up three home runs. Fortunately, he put together a much better outing in the Bronx last night. In five rain-interrupted innings, the lefty surrendered zero runs on just one hit and three walks while fanning eight. Other than the fourth inning, there was really no point in the game where it looked like Rodriguez was struggling. From the first to the third, he faced 10 batters and struck out half of them. After that, things got a little shaky for the native of Venezuela in the bottom half of the fourth. A leadoff walk to Aaron Judge, a single to Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees first hit of the night, and another walk to Gary Sanchez loaded the bases with only one out in the inning. With a three run lead to protect, it was looking like the Yankees were about to stage another comeback. That still happened, but not with Rodriguez on the mound, as the 25-year-old retired the next two batters he faced to get out of the fourth unscathed.
In between the conclusion of the fourth inning and the middle of the fifth, there was a 55 minute rain delay, which ultimately ended Yankees starter CC Sabathia’s day, but not Rodriguez’s. He came back out for the fifth inning and wrapped his stellar night up by collecting two more K’s and getting Brett Gardner to ground out to short to conclude things in the fifth. It’s a shame he couldn’t go any further, but with a pitch count of 95 (53 strikes) and that previously mentioned weather delay, I can understand why Alex Cora went with a fresh arm for the sixth.
That fresh arm just so happened to be Matt Barnes, coming off one of his worst outings of the season on Wednesday night. Those struggles would not continue though, as the righty tossed a scoreless frame despite walking the first batter he saw. Next up out of the ‘pen was Heath Hembree for the seventh inning, and that’s where things started to momentarily fall apart for the Red Sox once again.
After getting Tyler Austin to fly out to right to begin the inning, Hembree surrendered two hits and a walk to the next three batters he faced. That loaded the bases up with just one out, and that was all the action Hembree saw. In the month of May, the righty out of South Carolina owns an ERA north of 11 in four innings of work. Not great.
Having already dealt with a bases loaded jam in this series, Joe Kelly was next out of the bullpen. Things did not get off the best of starts for the Red Sox flamethrower, as he walked in a run on four pitches and gave up a one-run single in two consecutive at bats. After that, the Yankees tacked on another two runs before Kelly retired the side, thus tying the game at four runs a piece.
With the Red Sox taking the lead back on a JD Martinez home run in the top of the eighth, Alex Cora decided to stick with Kelly for another inning of work. Again, he was not at his sharpest, as he allowed the tying run to reach second base at one point, but came through in the end. Facing off against Neil Walker with runners on first and second and two outs, Kelly needed six pitches to record his second and final strikeout of the night, while stranding the tying and go-ahead runs in the process. The California native was credited with a blown save and his second win of the season thanks to his efforts.
Since Kelly protected the one run lead in the eighth inning, that paved the way for Craig Kimbrel coming in for a clean ninth. There has been plenty of talk about when it is most ideal to use the Red Sox closer, but I think it’s safe to say that he prefers working in the ninth. Compared to Wednesday night, Kimbrel looked like a different guy on the mound. He tossed a perfect frame while also recording his 24th strikeout this season. With save number 10 on the year, Kimbrel locked down the get away day win for the Red Sox, ensuring that they leave New York with a share of the division lead in the AL East.
Offensively, the Red Sox lineup was not at a disadvantage with 18-year veteran CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees. In fact, they reached base nine times off of him in only four innings. Mookie Betts set the tone right away with a leadoff double to right field to start the game. Two batters later, Hanley Ramirez got his impressive day at the plate started with an RBI ground out to short. That allowed Betts, who had moved up to third, to score easily and give the Red Sox their first run of the game.
Fast forward to the third, and Hanley Ramirez is in the thick of things once again. After two straight hits from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi to lead off the inning put runners on second and third, Ramirez notched his second of three RBIs on the night on a single to shallow right field that Gleyber Torres could do nothing with. That allowed Betts to score from third and allowed Benintendi to advance to third himself. JD Martinez wrapped up the scoring in the top of the third, as he drove in Benintendi from third on a hard hit RBI force out that could easily have been a double play if Gleyber Torres held on to the ball.
Later on in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez led things off by putting the fourth run of the game for the Red Sox on the board with his fifth big fly of the season.
That 412 foot shot to left field came just in the nick of time for the Red Sox, as the game was delayed due to rain one pitch into the next at bat.
After a 55 minute delay and a Yankees rally in the bottom of the seventh, it seemed as if the Red Sox were destined to blow another late lead. Fortunately for them, JD Martinez did not allow that to happen. With Dellin Betances on the mound for his second frame of work, the Red Sox outfielder took a 97 MPH fastball on the inside edge of the plate and launched it 350 feet into the opposite field.
A vintage JD Martinez home run, his ninth of the season, put the Red Sox on top 5-4 and they would not have to look back. His only hit of the game turned out to be the most important one. What a guy.
Some notes from this one:
After a three-hit performance last night, Mookie Betts leads all of baseball in several offensive categories. Those being Batting Average (.361), Slugging Percentage (.803), OPS (1.244), Total Bases (98), Home Runs (13), and Extra Base Hits (27). All of this and he’s batting leadoff. Incredible.
With his ninth home run of the season last night, JD Martinez has now recorded a hit in 11 straight games. Over that stretch, the Miami native is slashing an outlandish .444/.490/.778 in 49 Plate Appearances.
For the first time this season, Hanley Ramirez has homered in back-to-back games. That happening after going 19 games in between his second and third long balls of the season. So maybe he’s about to heat up.
Next up for the Red Sox is the last leg of this road trip in Toronto. Last time they were up north, the Red Sox came away with the series win. Chris Sale gets the ball in the series opener, he’ll be matched up against righty Aaron Sanchez for Toronto. David Price is also scheduled to pitch on Saturday in this three-game set. First pitch tonight is set for 7:07 PM ET. Happy Sale Day.