Yanks overtake Red Sox for wild card with doubleheader sweep
It took the New York Yankees just over six weeks to erase a 10 1/2-game gap between them and the Boston Red Sox.
With roughly six more weeks left in the regular season, the longtime rivals are practically in a dead heat - although it sure feels like the Yankees are getting a running start going into the home stretch.
Luis Gil posted his third straight scoreless start to begin his career, Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton homered, and New York beat Boston 2-0 Tuesday night to sweep a doubleheader and move percentage points ahead of the Red Sox for an AL wild-card spot.
In the opener, Jonathan Loaisiga stranded the bases loaded in Boston's final at-bat for a gutsy two-inning save after New York capitalized on a wild outing by Red Sox relievers for a 5-3 victory.
The Yankees have won five straight and 12 of 15 to narrowly overtake Boston for second in the AL East - New York is 68-52 and the Red Sox 69-53, a difference of .001 percentage points. The Yankees were 10 1/2 games behind first-place Boston on July 5 but have gone 26-11 since.
"It's going to be a tough road ahead still, but the group is a confident group, and I think they know what they're capable of," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
New York is in a playoff position for the first time since May 30.
"That's a different team than early in the season," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "They're more agile, more versatile, more athletic and one thing they've done throughout the season is they can pitch."
The Red Sox had seemingly snapped out of a 3-11 slump when they swept last-place Baltimore for three games over the weekend. Now, Boston is suddenly out of postseason position after leading the division for much of the season.
"It's not deflating," Cora said. "I mean, it's two games, we lost, whatever."
Gil allowed three hits and four walks and struck out four over 4 2/3 innings. He has yet to allow a run in 15 2/3 big league innings, the longest stretch to start a career by a Yankees pitcher since at least 1961, according to Elias. The previous best was Joba Chamberlain at 15 1/3 innings in 2007.
"That's a big game out there," Boone said. "Red Sox-Yankees in August, playing for a lot, and I thought he was unflappable."
Gil is the only major league pitcher since at least 1901 with no runs allowed and 15 or more strikeouts through his first three games, according to YES Network.
"A lot of adrenaline tonight," he said via translator.
The 23-year-old Gil - pronounced like "heel" - cruised into the fifth before allowing two singles and a walk. Wandy Peralta (4-2) relieved and retired Rafael Devers on an inning-ending fielder's choice, preserving the 2-0 lead.
Boston had runners at first and third in the sixth with two outs when pinch-hitter Bobby Dalbec ripped a comebacker that appeared to hit Peralta in the shoulder. Peralta scrambled for the ball near the third-base line and fired to first just in time to retire Dalbec.
Chad Green closed out the ninth for his fifth save and second in two days.
Voit poked a 98 mph fastball from Nathan Eovaldi (10-8) over the wall in right for a solo homer in the second. It was Voit's sixth homer of the season and second in three days.
The 2020 big league home run leader seemingly lost his job at first base when the Yankees acquired Anthony Rizzo from the Cubs on July 29, but he's taken advantage of steady playing time with Rizzo on the COVID-19 injured list. Rizzo is expected back in the next couple of days.
"I was Top 10 MVP (voting) last year and I've been a great player for this organization for last three years," Voit said. "I'm not going down. I want to play. Obviously, I know it's going to be tougher with Rizzo, but I deserve to play just as much as he does."
Asked about divvying up their playing time, Boone said, "We're day by day, man."
Stanton led off the fourth with his 19th home run.
Eovaldi worked five innings and was charged with two runs, seven hits and a walk with six strikeouts.
Loaisiga pitched a perfect sixth in the first game before Boston loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh on three singles - two of them soft, well-placed grounders. Pinch-hitter Travis Shaw lined out to left in his first at-bat since being claimed off waivers Sunday, but the ball wasn't deep enough for a sacrifice fly.
The 26-year-old Loaisiga then struck out Kiké Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe, and let out a vicious yell following his fifth save.
The Yankees have played a majors-most 68 games decided by two runs or fewer. Their .661 winning percentage (45-23) in those games is best in the big leagues.
Red Sox relievers Garrett Whitlock (4-2) and Josh Taylor combined to walk the bases loaded with one out in the fifth inning before Voit floated a two-run single to shallow center for a 4-3 lead. Boston issued six walks over the final two innings.
"It was a tough day overall," Cora said. "Obviously to come here and lose both games, yeah we were in it, but we didn't do much offensively today."
Albert Abreu (2-0) got the final out of the fifth and the win.
Bronx-born Yankee Andrew Velazquez got his first RBIs in pinstripes with a two-run single off starter Tanner Houck in the second inning for the first game that put New York ahead 2-0.
"Just another day, better seats," the Fordham Prep grad joked. "No, it was a culmination of a lot of things. ... That hit alone made everything worth it."
Red Sox: INF Christian Arroyo (left hamstring strain) was set to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester. ... OF Danny Santana (left groin strain) could start a rehab assignment this week.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino will be shut down from throwing this week while he awaits a second opinion for his tight right shoulder. Severino had an MRI on Monday, but Boone declined to share details on the diagnosis until the second opinion came back, likely on Wednesday or Thursday. ... INF/OF Miguel Andújar (left wrist strain) was scheduled to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The rivals conclude the three-game series with Boston RHP Nick Pivetta (9-5, 4.20 ERA) facing Yankees LHP Andrew Heaney (7-8, 5.78).