Yankees' Rodriguez celebrates his solo home run against Red Sox's Dempster in the sixth inning of their MLB American League Baseball game in Boston

Yankees outlast Red Sox to claim series in Fenway


This one had a little bit of everything packed into a crisp four hours and 12 minutes.

– After Boston grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Ryan Dempster drilled Alex Rodriguez with a 3-0 pitch to open the second. It was at least Dempster’s second attempt to hit him, but the plunking didn’t get Dempster ejected. It did result in warnings for both sides and an early exit for a furious Joe Girardi.

– The Yankees rallied to tie the game after the HBP and then took the lead in the third on an RBI groundout from A-Rod. That lead lasted about 10 minutes, as David Ortiz delivered an RBI groundout of his own in the bottom of the third.

– In the fourth, the Red Sox executed some perfect small-ball after a Jarrod Saltalamacchia leadoff double. Daniel Nava advanced him with a bunt, and Stephen Drew plated him with a fly to left. All of which was rendered pretty moot when Will Middlebrooks followed with an opposite-field homer, making it 5-3.

– In the fifth, with everyone still wondering when CC Sabathia might retaliate for the earlier incident, he blew his last good chance by giving up a double to David Ortiz with Dustin Pedroia on first. He later intentionally walked Saltalamacchia after a 3-0 count. With the bases loaded, he walked Daniel Nava, scoring the sixth Boston run.

– The Red Sox, not satisfied with five unhorrible innings for Dempster, pressed their luck. Which is something that tends to happen when a team has only three reliable relievers, all of whom pitched the day before. Dempster gave up a leadoff homer to A-Rod and still the Red Sox stayed with him. He was finally pulled with the bases loaded, and rookie Drake Britton surrendered a triple to Brett Gardner. 7-6 Yankees.

– The Yankees, too, kept their starter in for some ungodly reason, yet it didn’t bite them. Sabathia walked Middlebrooks to start the bottom of the sixth, but he bounced back with a strikeout of Jacoby Ellsbury before being removed. Shawn Kelley came in and got two right-handers to end the inning.

– That was it for most of the excitement in what turned out to be a 9-6 Yankees win. We did see three HBPs after the warnings were issued, none of which resulted in ejections. We saw umpire Brian O’Nora get hit in the throat by a fastball that Chris Stewart flat-out missed, stumble around for a couple of minutes and then stay in the game. We saw the Red Sox get two men on in the bottom of the ninth against Mariano Rivera, who was riding a streak of three straight blown saves, only to have the game end on a lineout to left from Salty.

The story here will be A-Rod, A-Rod, A-Rod. Yet this came down to a battle of the bullpens, and the Yankees won it. Absent Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Miller and Matt Thornton (and Daniel Bard, too, if you’d like), the Red Sox are short of guys they can trust, and manager John Farrell decided to use all three of his those guys (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow) to protect a five-run lead on Saturday. The Yankees had all of their guys available, and their four relievers combined to allowed two hits in 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Boston’s five relievers allowed two runs, three inherited runs and eight hits in those same 3 2/3 innings.

As for Rodriguez, it was definitely his best game since his return; he collected three hits for the first time and hit his second homer. The Yankees are 7-5 with him in the lineup. Sabathia improved to 11-10 despite giving up six runs and walking five. Dempster fell to 6-9, though the Red Sox had won each of his last six starts (Dempster went 1-0 with five no-decisions in the span).

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.