Yankees Look to Continue Torrid Run, Face Red Sox at Home

On April 20th, the New York Yankees sat at 9-9 which put them third in the AL East behind the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. The Sox had been off to a historic start with a 17-2 record and the Jays off to a surprising start at 13-6. But about two and a half weeks later, the Yankees have awoken and won 15 of their last 16 games.

During this stretch, the Red Sox have gone 8-7 and the Blue Jays 6-10, helping propel the Yankees to second in the division and one game back of Boston. 6-0 in May, the Yankees look to continue their hot streak as they face the Red Sox in the Bronx for a three-game series with the potential to claim first place in the East. We look back at the Yankees run so far and if it can be sustained moving forward.

Finishing the Blue Jays

With expectations so much higher for the 2018 season, sitting at 9-9 was not exactly where the Yankees expected to be towards the end of April. Yes, it was supposed to be a dogfight with the Red Sox for the AL East title all season, but nobody expected them to be seven games back of first this early on. Nonetheless, the Yankees turned to Jordan Montgomery to pull above .500 against Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays. The Yankees shelled Stroman for eight runs (six earned) on five hits, struck out five times, and walked four times. Meanwhile Montgomery impressed in six innings of work giving up one earned run on four hits, striking out five, and walking three. The Yankee bullpen kept the Jays off the scoreboard and just like that the Yankees won 9-1, improving to 10-9 on the season.

With a chance at the series win, ace Luis Severino took the mound to face former Yankee Jaime Garacia in a Sunday afternoon showdown. Severino has been reliable all season for the Yanks and had another quality outing on this day. He went seven strong innings giving up just one earned run on three hits, striking out six, and walking two. His lone mistake came on a 3-2 pitch in the sixth to Teoscar Hernandez that left the ballpark. Yet again, the Yankee offense supplied their pitching with run support and the bullpen did its job again en route to a 5-1 victory to take the series.

Trounce the Twins

In short, the Minnesota Twins are a team the Yankees have dominated for years whether in the regular season or playoffs. So with the Twins coming to town following a series in which the Yankees took three out of four from the Blue Jays, this was the Yankees chance to get hot. However, Minnesota was not to be taken lightly seeing they were expected to be a contender in the AL Central following last year's surprising Wild Card appearance against New York. Quality starts by Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia gave the Yankees the first two games of the series by final scores of 14-1 and 8-3, pushing their win streak to four games. While Sonny Gray struggled a bit in game three of the series and failed to go five innings, the Yankee offense had his back and so did the bullpen as New York clinched the series victory with a 7-4 win to move to 14-9.

Then came the first of many heroics in this stretch as the Yankees trailed 3-1 headed into the ninth inning, facing closer Fernando Rodney as the Twins looked to salvage one game in the series. Didi Gregorius led off the innign and reached on a throwing error by third baseman Miguel Sano. Giancarlo Stanton followed it up with a single on a slow chopper to Sano which brought up Gary Sanchez. Sanchez represented the winning run, but down two in the ninth all that mattered was getting back in the game. Instead, Sanchez took an 0-1 pitch from Rodney down the left field line for a three-run home run and a 4-3 Yankees victory to sweep the Twins. Heading into a seven-game road trip, the Yankees were winners of six in a row with a 15-9 record and just four games back of the Sox.

Road Trip to Remember

After dismantling the Twins and Jays, the Yankees were faced with a 13-game stretch against some of the best teams in the American League. I remember reading the alert and turning to my roommate saying, "The Yankees will take 8 of the 13 games I think, so 8-5 on the stretch." However, the Yankees got off to such a great start to the stretch that eight wins seemed to low for them to achieve. The first series was against the Los Angeles Angels, a team who had been a surprise to start the 2018 season with rookie Shohei Ohtani signing from Japan in the offseason. The Yankees have had their fair share of stuggles in Anahiem, going 15-15 since 2010 against the Angels on the road. But this trip was different for the Bronx Bombers and required some more clutch hitting.

In the very first game of the series, the Yankees trailed by one headed into the ninth. But with one out and the bases loaded, pinch hitter Brett Gardner came to the plate to face Keynan Middleton and tied it up on a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Gary Sanchez from third. In the tenth inning it was Didi Gregorius's time to deliver the magic off of Blake Parker. Gregorius hit a home run to deep right-center field to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead and the eventual victory as Aroldis Chapman came in to seal the deal. After trouncing Los Angeles by a final of 11-1 the next night, a two-run home run by Gary Sanchez would be all the offense the Yankees needed as C.C. Sabathia and the bullpen pitched well in a 2-1 series sweeping victory on Sunday Night Baseball. Up next, the ALCS rematch everyone was waiting for against the defending-champion Houston Astros in Houston.

Riding the momentum of a nine-game win streak, the Yankees went into Houston to face the Astros. Last year in the ALCS, New York struggled against Houston, going 0-4 during the series when on the road. Charlie Morton dazzled in the first game just like he did in Game 7 of the ALCS and outdueled Sonny Gray in a 2-1 Astros win, snapping the nine-game win streak. The next day seemed concerning for the Yankees as Jordan Montgomery exited after just seven pitches, we now know he will be out up to two months with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow. However, Domino German and the rest of the Yankee bullpen combined for eight shutout innings giving up six hits, striking out 13 batters, and walking just one. Justin Verlander matched that with another strong performance against New York as he went eight innings giving up three hits, striking out 14, and walking none. The game was still 0-0 headed into the ninth as Ken Giles headed into his second night of relief. A single by Gregorius, a double by Aaron Judge, and strike out by Giancarlo Stanton paved way for Gary Sanchez to come to the dish with runners on second and third. Sanchez delivered again with a three-run home run to center field to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the ninth. One batter later, Ken Giles was walking off the mound punching himself in the face and the Yankees were victorious by a final score of 4-0.

The next day was more of the same for the Yankees and their pitching. It was Luis Severino's time to shine in the Lone Star State and he did not disappoint. Severino threw a complete game shutout, giving up five hits, striking out 10, and walking just one batter. Dallas Keuchel on the other hand allowed three earned runs on six hits, struck out five, and walked none. But Severino's dominant performance would be all the Yankees needed as they went on to win 4-0 and have a chance to get the series win. Getting that series win was no easy task as New York saw an early 3-0 lead slip out the window and trailed 5-3 heading into the ninth. But this young team never quit and they loaded up the bases with nobody out in the ninth. Brad Peacock entered the game for WIll Harris after this happened and the 21-year old Gleyber Torres delivered a single to left which tied the game up at five with runners at the corners still. A Brett Gardner flyball was not deep enough to score the run, but an Aaron Judge groundout would as the double play was broken up by Torres and Aaron Hicks scored from third. Aroldis Chapman did his thing in the bottom half of the inning and the Yankees finished the road trip 6-1 with a flight home to face the Cleveland Indians.

Walk-Off Wonders vs. Cleveland

At this point, the Yankees were going home at 21-10, two games back of Boston for first place in the East. But the road was not going to get any easier with the Indians coming to town. New York faced Cleveland last October in the ALDS, a series in which the Yanks found themselves down 2-0 before storming back to take the series and advance to the ALDS. After taking a 5-0 lead headed into the eighth inning, the Indians came back thanks to home runs by Bradley Zimmer and Jose Ramirez off David Robertson to tie the score at five. The Yankees would retake the lead on a wild pitch by Alexi Ogando, Chapman would cough up a wild pitch with two outs in the ninth to tie it up again, this time at six a piece. Then came the ninth inning magic again set up by Stanton double and Hicks groundout sending him to third. Up to the plate came another young Yankee in Miguel Andujar to face Cody Allen with two on and two outs. Just like other players during this stretch, he came through with a walk-off single to give the Yankees a 7-6 victory. The next day Sonny Gray followed up his strong start in Houston with a six inning performance in which he gave up two earned runs on six hits, striking out seven, and walking two. This would be good enough to help the Yankees win 5-2 and take another series.

But New York had a chance for the series sweep and the final game of the set did not disappoint. Domingo German got his first Major League start and threw six innings of no-hit ball which was matched by starter Mike Clevinger who pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-hit ball for the Indians. The Yankees took the no-hitter into the eighth inning before Delin Betances gave up a hit to Yonder Alonso into the shift. Things continued to go downhill from there and by the end of the half inning the Yankees trailed 4-0. But after knocking Clevinger out thanks to a couple of walks in the bottom half of the eighth, New York got back three runs on a Gardner single and Judge double to bring the score to 4-3 headed into the ninth. Yet again, this story has a similar ending as back-to-back doubles by Hicks and Walker tied the game up at four and sent Cody Allen packing. Dan Otero got Andujar to ground out and intentionally walked Stanton to get to the rookie Gleyber Torres. With runners on first and second with a chance to win the game, Torres did what the Yankees had been doing during this entire stretch, win the game. Torres took a 3-2 pitch to deep center field for a three-run home run and a Yankees sweep by a final of 7-4. This gave New York their 15th win in 16 games to move to 24-10, their 9th win on the 13-game stretch against potential playoff opponents, a six-game win streak, and they now trail the Red Sox by just one game in the East.

Here Come the Sox

Now in come the Boston Red Sox to face the Yankees in the Bronx for three games. After losing two out of three in April in Boston, the Yankees will look to take over first place in the AL East and continue to ride this hot streak into the month of May. Here are the probable pitching matchups for the next three days:

May 8th: LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-1, 6.14) vs. RHP Luis Severino (5-1, 2.11), 7:05 p.m

May 9th: LHP David Price (2-4, 5.11) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39), 7:05 p.m

May 10th: RHP Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.39), 7:05 p.m.

This Yankees team is different from the one the Sox saw in April. Winners of nine straight at home, the Yankees will be a tough matchup for the Sox this time around. Especially with a pitching staff that is beginning to power over their opponents and get the bats going. While New York has already taken nine games on this stretch and I predicted eight, there is no reason to see them slowing down in the near future. They are proving themselves agaisnt contenders and will look to do the same over the course of the next three days. I believe New York will take two out of three from the Sox, finishing this 13-game stretch at 11-2.

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