Bronx cheer: Velazquez helps streaking Yanks sweep Red Sox
Growing up in the Bronx, Andrew Velazquez remembers attending plenty of Yankees games - though not any specific ones against Boston.
"Those tickets were probably too expensive," he said.
Velazquez had much more than a good view Wednesday night.
Playing in the big leagues for his neighborhood team, the substitute shortstop delivered a pair of RBI singles and combined with first baseman Anthony Rizzo on a terrific defensive play for the dramatic final out as New York beat the Red Sox 5-2 for its sixth straight victory.
"'I've dreamt of doing what we just did,'" Velazquez said he told teammates during his postgame speech in the clubhouse. "So, in real life it was way better."
Andrew Heaney pitched seven smooth innings, Rizzo hit a two-run single in his return from COVID-19, and the Yankees matched their longest winning streak of the season.
"You come here, you want to be a part of something," said Velazquez, the championship belt for the night slung over one shoulder. "Apparently I gave a pretty good speech, which is shocking."
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, just activated from the injured list, was pulled by manager Aaron Boone with two outs and two on in the ninth. Lucas Luetge retired Kevin Plawecki on a grounder for his third major league save and first since his 2012 rookie season with Seattle.
Luetge became the sixth different New York reliever to earn a save in the past eight days as the Yankees finished a three-game sweep of their longtime rivals that vaulted them into playoff position ahead of struggling Boston.
"We got beat in every aspect of the game," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "It's that simple."
New York, which has won 18 of 23, now holds the first of two AL wild cards in a tight three-way race that includes the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics.
"I think it's just belief," Rizzo said. "Every day is a different story."
Xander Bogaerts and Hunter Renfroe homered for Boston, which has dropped 14 of 20. Nick Pivetta (9-6) was chased in a four-run second, and the Yankees improved to 6-10 in the season series after losing the first seven matchups.
The teams meet one more time, Sept. 24-26 in Boston.
"It's very quiet in the clubhouse, and understandably so," Cora said. "It's not a good feeling."
Perhaps in jeopardy of losing his spot in the rotation, Heaney (8-8) permitted just two hits - including Bogaerts' opposite-field solo homer on an 0-2 pitch in the first. The left-hander, acquired from the Angels at the July 30 trade deadline, rebounded nicely in his fourth start for the Yankees after getting roughed up by the White Sox in the Field of Dreams game last week.
"Got some very timely groundballs," Heaney said. "Just avoided trouble."
Zack Britton pitched a perfect eighth and Chapman gave up a long home run to Renfroe before exiting with runners at the corners.
Plawecki grounded a full-count pitch into the hole between shortstop and third base. Velazquez, filling in for injured Gleyber Torres, made a sliding stop, popped up and fired a one-hop throw to Rizzo that barely nipped Plawecki.
"I'm gonna throw it as hard and as low as I can so Rizzo can pick it," said the 27-year-old Velazquez, who added that he's staying with his parents during this homestand partly because it's cheaper than Manhattan.
"If not, I would have thrown it in the family section in the second deck."
The out call was upheld following a replay review that lasted 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
"Probably too close to overturn," Cora said.
New York loaded the bases with nobody out in the second before Brett Gardner hit a sacrifice fly and Velazquez, batting ninth, grounded an RBI single up the middle.
Velazquez was a seventh-round draft pick by Arizona in 2012 out of Fordham Prep and previously played in the majors for Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Baltimore.
"He's been fun to watch," Rizzo said. "It's special stuff."
Rizzo, sidelined since Aug. 8 after testing positive for the coronavirus, drove in two runs with a grounder that deflected off the glove of Bobby Dalbec as he attempted to make a sliding play behind first base.
"If you ask Bobby, probably he'll tell you he needs to make that play," Cora said.
Red Sox: DH Kyle Schwarber, who returned from a strained right hamstring last Friday, was rested against the left-hander but was available off the bench. The goal is for Schwarber to play the outfield this weekend, Cora said. ... INF Christian Arroyo (left hamstring strain) was scheduled for a day off in the minors after going 0 for 2 with a hit by pitch as the DH in his first rehab game Tuesday night for Triple-A Worcester. He'll play second base Thursday at Worcester. ... RHP Ryan Brasier is close to joining the Red Sox, Cora said. Brasier, hit in the head by a line drive while rehabbing from a left calf strain, was set to pitch in back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday for Worcester. ... Bench coach Will Venable, who tested positive for the coronavirus while the team was in Toronto and was forced to quarantine in Canada, will rejoin the Red Sox at home Friday.
Yankees: Chapman had been sidelined since Aug. 6 with left elbow inflammation. ... RHP Corey Kluber (right shoulder strain) threw 56 pitches over three innings Tuesday in a rehab outing with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after struggling in his first one last week, at Double-A Somerset. The next step for Kluber will be another rehab game as he keeps building up. ... RHP Domingo Germán (shoulder inflammation) threw a bullpen. ... Boone said he hoped to have an update Thursday on RHP Luis Severino, who received a second opinion on his tight right shoulder.
Red Sox: After an off day, LHP Chris Sale (1-0, 3.60 ERA) makes his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery when Boston opens a three-game series at home Friday night against Texas. RHP Dane Dunning (5-7, 4.06 ERA) pitches for the Rangers.
Yankees: RHP Jameson Taillon (7-4, 3.89 ERA) takes the ball Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series against Minnesota. Taillon is 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 11 starts since June 18.