Yankees’ bullpen implodes, allows nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings in loss to Red Sox

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Last night, Mariano Rivera surrendered a game-tying RBI single to Stephen Drew with two outs in the ninth. Joba Chamberlain then allowed what became a game-winning RBI single to Shane Victorino in the tenth. Tonight, it seemed like a real team effort as four Yankees relievers combined to allow nine runs in the eighth and ninth innings as the Red Sox went on to win 12-8.

Phil Hughes started off the bullpen meltdown by allowing an RBI infield single to Dustin Pedroia in the seventh. Joe Girardi came out to replace Hughes with lefty Boone Logan for the platoon advantage against David Ortiz. Ortiz struck out, but Girardi left Logan in to face Mike Napoli. While Napoli doesn’t have much of a platoon split over his career, Logan does. Thus, it was no surprise when Napoli drove a fly ball to deep right field for a grand slam. In Logan’s defense, Napoli’s fly ball is a catchable out in 29 other ballparks, but that is no excuse. Preston Claiborne later came on and ended the inning with no further damage.

Claiborne, a 25-year-old rookie, remained in the game to start the eighth with the game still tied at eight apiece. After David Ross struck out, Will Middlebrooks singled to left to bring up Shane Victorino. Victorino, who recently changed from switch-hitting to hitting right-handed full-time, drove Claiborne’s 85 MPH slider into the seats in left field to break the tie and put the Sox up 10-8. They weren’t done. Mike Carp singled, which brought Girardi out again, this time to bring in Joba Chamberlain. The embattled former top prospect quickly got the second out of the inning, but things quickly got out of hand. He intentionally walked Ortiz, unintentionally walked Napoli, walked Nava with the bases loaded to force in a run, and allowed an RBI single to Drew, boosting the Red Sox lead to 12-8. All told, Hughes, Logan, Claiborne, and Chamberlain combined to allow nine runs on eight hits and four walks while recording just six outs.

Red Sox closer Koji Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finalize the 12-8 victory, lowering his ERA to 1.12 in the process. With the Rays in progress, the Red Sox temporarily move to seven games ahead in first place in the AL East.

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

Associated Press
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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.