Before he joined the Yankees on Friday, Alfonso Soriano was last teammates with Derek Jeter in September 2003, nearly ten years ago. Jeter once again made his triumphant return this afternoon, having recovered from a quad injury suffered in his 2013 debut on July 11. In that first game back, Jeter singled in his first at-bat, swinging at the first pitch he saw. He did that once again today, swinging at the first offering from Rays starter Matt Moore, sending it beyond the fence in right-center field for a solo home run.
Both Moore and Yankees starter Phil Hughes allowed five runs. Wil Myers was the source of the Rays’ offense, as the rookie hit two home runs and drove in four. For the Yankees, Soriano homered in the third while Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-4.
Closer Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, holding the score at five apiece. For the Rays, lefty Jake McGee took the hill for his second inning of work in the bottom half of the inning. He walked Brett Gardner to start the frame, then allowed the Yankees’ speedster to advance to second on a wild pitch. In what was a controversial decision, manager Joe Maddon ordered his pitcher to intentionally walk Jeter to put runners on first and second with no outs, bringing Robinson Cano to the plate. To the dismay of Yankees’ fans, Cano struck out looking, not even able to advance one or both runners.
Soriano happily played the role of hero, grounding a single up the middle, allowing Gardner to sprint the 180 feet to home plate for the walk-off victory. To recap: Jeter and Soriano both homer, Soriano keys the walk-off, and Rivera goes home with the win. Just like old times.
With the win, the Yankees are only 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the American League and sit in fourth place in the AL East, 7.5 games behind the first place Red Sox. The Rays fall to second place, a half-game behind the Red Sox. The AL East is shaping up to be an exciting division to watch in the final two months.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.