Sox fans always worry about a big fold in September. I’m beginning to breathe a little easier after yesterday afternoon when they had a huge lead, started to give it up, stopped the bleeding and added a run. The Sox last loss was six games ago and they will, before September is done, lose again. But probably not often. Not more than a game here or there. The losers from last year are now the team to beat. The only possible rain cloud is the injury to Jacoby Ellsbury which may mean he has already played his last game for the Sox. As another fan tweeted, “Let the Bradley [Jackie Jr.} era begin.” But I think the air has gone out of the Sox-Yankees games that remain. The Sox have a replacement for Ells, but the Yankees can’t really replace Derek Jeter who appears to have re-injured himself after missing most of the season.
The different coverage from the Boston Globe and the New York Times this morning tells the story. First Tyler Kepner from the Times.
Before this weekend, the Yankees had never lost three games in a row while scoring at least eight runs every time. Now it has happened, against the surging Boston Red Sox in the Bronx, and if that were not sobering enough, Derek Jeter aggravated his fragile left ankle Saturday and departed Yankee Stadium for a hospital.
His CT scan was negative, according to the Yankees, who sent the test results to Jeter’s ankle surgeon in Charlotte, N.C., anyway. There is a reason only one player in Jeter’s lifetime (Omar Vizquel) has played 100 games at shortstop at age 39 or older.
Alex Rodriguez missed Saturday’s game altogether. Rodriguez has helped the lineup during his appeal of his drug suspension, and he had no injury on Saturday, Manager Joe Girardi said. He is simply 38 years old and has played a lot lately. A day game after a night game was too much for Girardi to ask.
So it goes for the Yankees, who have fewer quality starts than the Mets this season and a bullpen ravaged by injuries. Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan are out, and the indispensable David Robertson will miss at least a few more days with shoulder soreness.
The Yankees are old and have no pitching, but they can still insult the Sox.
The Red Sox, quite clearly, made the most of their bailout by the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. They gave short-term contracts to professional, if poorly groomed, hitters in their primes. The newcomers Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and especially Mike Napoli have taken turns drilling big hits all series, and Xander Bogaerts, the 20-year-old shortstop, clubbed his first career homer on Saturday, a rocket over the bullpen in left.
Bogaerts connected off Jim Miller, who made his Yankees debut in relief of David Huff. Huff had been impressive in relief, but his first Yankees start was a fiasco. It was the first time since 1941 that a Yankee starter allowed at least nine earned runs to the Red Sox in fewer than four innings.
Poorly groomed? I guess Kepner means they have beards. And Drew, by the way, is clean-cut enough to be a Yankee.
Third base coach Brian Butterfield (left) congratulated Xander Bogaerts after the 20-year-old’s first major league home run.
What is Nick Cafardo saying in the Globe?
If I were Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi, what would bug me the most about Saturday’s 13-9 loss to the Red Sox was seeing Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley Jr., Ryan Lavarnway, and Xander Bogaerts occupying the 6-9 spots in the Boston order and having them go 6 for 17 with four RBIs, a home run, and six runs.
Here we are in the middle of a September pennant race and the Red Sox have four of their guys from the farm system providing that type of production. The Yankees have nothing resembling that, and are in fact a very old team, albeit a team that has lost three straight to Boston and still managed to score 25 runs. Which is why, folks, the Yankees still have a chance to make the playoffs.
I think Xander speaks five languages and thinks he would be teaching school if he couldn’t play baseball.
Bogaerts, who is the youngest player (20 years, 341 days) to homer for the Red Sox since Dwight Evans (who was 20 years, 322 days old on Sept. 20, 1972), claimed, “I wasn’t sharp at all. I was bad in batting practice so I went back to my leg kick. I’ve always had a leg kick so I went back to that. I got some new bats, so I tried them out and it worked good. Give credit to the bat.”
On the barehanded play on Cano, the shortstop said, “I saw Cano hustle down the line so I didn’t know if I had a chance. So that was real good that I got him.”
Plus the kid got his first homer on his mother’s birthday. I bet he gives her the ball. [The Yankees got it back for him.]
Will the Yankees even make the playoffs? Kepner thinks they aren’t ready for the fork just yet.
The Yankees are far from finished. The Rays’ slump — they have lost 11 of 14 after Saturday’s loss in Seattle — has kept the race close. But a deep Boston lineup has exposed a thin and weary Yankees pitching staff.
“Our guys are battling,” Cashman said. “They’ve been battling all year. We’re obviously up against a really good team. You can’t afford to make mistakes, or you can’t afford to not be at full strength, or you can’t afford to not be firing on all cylinders, or they’ll take advantage. And they’ve been taking advantage of every extra inch you give.”
To be fair, the Red Sox are not at full strength, either. Their center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, is in Colorado for a second opinion on his injured right foot. If further tests reveal a broken bone, the Red Sox would lose a major catalyst at the top of their lineup.
Of course, they have not needed Ellsbury to thump the Yankees the last few days. The Yankees have been too old, too young or too overmatched to hang with the Red Sox, no matter which players they use.
And Cafardo pointed out that Yankees still scored 25 runs in the last three losses which makes them ever dangerous, especially with the Tampa Bay Rays beginning their own collapse.
These are two teams that seem to be headed in opposite directions. The Sox have their veterans and youngsters, while the Yankees have mostly old guys – and are likely to lose Alex Rodriguez during his suspension next year.
The Yankees are going to try to rebuild their team this offseason similar to the way the Red Sox did with strategically placed veteran players. What they can’t do is come up with a Bogaerts, Bradley, or a Middlebrooks, because they don’t have any of those types in their system.
Their young catchers haven’t come around as they had hoped and their young relievers such as Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne have hit walls. Brett Marshall pitched well in 4⅓ innings Saturday after starter David Huff allowed nine earned runs in 3⅓ innings. But Boston’s answer to Marshall, Brandon Workman, has been successful in high-leverage situations.
It was doubly good for the Red Sox — they beat up the Yankees for a third straight day and showed them a glimpse of the future, which right now, the Yankees have no answer for.
According to Kepner, the Yankees have used 54 different players this year, most of whom I’ve never heard of and likely won’t again.
Give credit to Girardi for extracting a winning season from these 54, whether or not they reach the playoffs. It has been a noble run, but on days like Saturday, it seems destined to collapse before October.
So my question is this: Who is the manager of the year? John Farrell or Joe Girardi?
Photograph: Bill Kostroun/Associated Press