It may only be the first week of May, but all of a sudden this Red Sox team looks like the real deal. Now winners of seven of their last eight games, the 15-10 Red Sox have moved into first place in the American League East, leapfrogging the Baltimore Orioles.
But none of those seven wins in eight games were as sweet as the last three. With their hated rivals the New York Yankees in town, the Red Sox pulled out the brooms, sweeping the Yankees for the first time since 2013. And we all know what happened in 2013…
Yankees hurler Masahiro Tanaka appeared to be dialed in against the Red Sox in Friday’s series opener, and even just a measly 2-0 lead looked to be more than enough. That is, until the Boston bats finally came to life. Having allowed just three hits in the first 6.1 innings, third baseman Travis Shaw and left fielder Brock Holt came up with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the seventh inning, before right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. brought them both home with a two-out, wall-ball double to tie the game. The unexpected collapse by Tanaka had Yankees manager Joe Girardi call on flame-throwing reliever Dellin Betances to end the seventh, which he did without a problem, but the eighth was a different story.
A one-out single by short stop Xander Bogaerts brought David Ortiz, perhaps the most clutch hitter in baseball history, to the plate, and Ortiz didn’t wait around to do his damage. On the first pitch he saw from Betances, a hanging curveball on the outer half, Ortiz sat back and launched it into the Monster Seats to give Boston a 4-2 lead, which held up as the final score of the game, thanks to a 1-2-3 top of the ninth from closer Craig Kimbrel.
Game two of the series lacked the dramatic flair of the series opener, as the Red Sox received yet another solid pitching performance from Rick Porcello en route to an 8-0 win. Porcello threw seven scoreless innings allowing just five hits and striking out six, and it appeared he would return to the mound for the eighth inning and perhaps beyond until the Sox put together a lengthy four-run bottom of the seventh, forcing John Farrell to make the smart executive decision to go to the bullpen to close it out. The win pushes Porcello to 5-0 on the young season, and if he continues throwing seven innings consistently, the entire pitching staff will benefit from his presence in the rotation.
Bradley Jr. again proved to be one of the best nine-hitters in baseball, going 3-for-3 in the victory with two triples, a double, and three RBIs. Ortiz homered for the second consecutive night, a 423-foot bomb over the Red Sox bullpen in right to kick off the bottom of the seventh inning.
Sunday night’s series finale most closely resembled the trademark Red Sox-Yankees showdowns of old, with Boston prevailed 8-7 in a dramatic, back-and-forth affair to sweep the Yankees. In a game that featured four lead changes, it was ultimately Boston catcher Christian Vazquez who delivered the silencing blow. With the game tied at six in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on first, Vazquez absolutely teed off on a 97-mile per hour, first-pitch Betances fastball, sending it soaring over the Monster Seats to give Boston an 8-6 lead (minus the intricate details, tell me if that sounds at all familiar). Normally known for his elite-level defense, it was just Vazquez’s second Major League home run, his last coming in September 2014. Shaw also homered for the Red Sox in the win, a game-tying, two-run shot around the Pesky Pole in the bottom of the fifth inning for his third home run of the season.
While the sweep keeps the Red Sox rolling entering May, the Yankees are trending in the opposite direction, as they move further into the basement of the AL East. The Yankees are a lowly 8-15 on the season and have lost 13 of their last 17 games overall. They sit near the bottom of the MLB in nearly every major statistical category both at the plate and on the mound, and a pair of blown leads against the Red Sox over the weekend certainly won’t help them get back on track. From a Boston perspective, we would all love to see it continue, but at the same time, everybody recognizes the Yankees will make a run, it is just a matter of when.
The Red Sox now go on the road for a six-game road trip, featuring a pair of three-game sets against the American League-leading Chicago White Sox (18-8) and the now-familiar New York Yankees. The Red Sox will return home on Monday, May 9, when they kick off a three-game set against the Oakland Athletics. Tickets to that game, and all 2016 Red Sox home games at Fenway Park are available HERE.