Mariano Rivera was honored Sunday prior to his last ever regular-season appearance at Fenway Park. The Red Sox made sure that was the only time he’d see the mound all weekend.
The Red Sox shook off a first-inning Yankees run with three of their own and routed the Bombers 9-2 for a three-game sweep in Boston. They claimed six out of seven games over the last week and a half to finish the season 13-6 against the Yankees. As the Providence Journal’s Alex Speier pointed out, the Red Sox are the first team to beat the Yankees 13 times in a season since the Orioles went 13-5 against them way back in 1976.
Tonight’s star was Daniel Nava, who went 4-for-5 with a couple of doubles. Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer off Ivan Nova in the first. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was credited with a steal of home in the fourth after Xander Bogaerts took off for second and Brendan Ryan failed to handle the throw from Chris Stewart.
Clay Buchholz, making his second start since coming off the DL, allowed just an unearned run over six innings, even though he wasn’t particularly sharp. He walked four and his fastball looked pretty hittable, but the Yankees couldn’t cash in. Their only run came after Curtis Granderson walked to start the first, reached third on an errant pickoff throw and came home on an Alex Rodriguez groundout.
Rodriguez later exited with right calf tightness.
The Red Sox are 11-3 in September and have 17 wins in their last 21 games. They own baseball’s best record at 92-59 and best run differential at +183 despite playing in the league’s toughest division. If they win five of their last 11 games, they’ll finish with 97 wins for the first time since 2004 and second time since 1978. If they go 8-3, they’ll reach 100 for the first time since 1946.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.