Matt Holliday

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Bradley Jr. robbing Judge’s HR highlights Red Sox’s win over Yankees

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BOSTON — Major league home run leader Aaron Judge hit a towering fly ball toward the triangle in Fenway Park’s center field, and Jackie Bradley Jr. began drifting over toward the bullpen wall.

That’s when Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts knew.

“Jackie does this little thing where, midway, while the ball is in the air, he starts timing it,” said Betts, who hit a two-run homer and also scored Boston’s third run on Sunday night to help the Red Sox win 3-0 and split their doubleheader with the New York Yankees.

“Once I saw him start timing it, I figured he had a chance to catch it. He made it look easy,” said Betts, who had three hits in the night game but was happy to join the cheers for Bradley. “It made the hair stand up on my arms.”

David Price (5-2) struck out eight in eight innings, and Bradley went over the bullpen wall to rob Judge and send the Yankees to their first shutout of the season.

A day after the teams played 16 innings over 5 hours, 50 minutes, they spent another long day at Fenway Park and ended the four-game series the way they started: with the Yankees trailing the first-place Red Sox by 3 1/2 games in the AL East.

CC Sabathia allowed two hits over six innings in the opener, and Didi Gregorius hit a solo home run to give New York a 3-0 victory.

It was also 3-0 in the nightcap when Judge, the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby, came up with a runner on first and launched one toward the 420-foot marker in center. Bradley stalked it, and at the last moment leaped against the wall that juts out from right-center to pull the ball in.

“I just hit it to the wrong part of the park and the wrong center fielder,” said Judge, who failed to reach base for the first time in 43 games. “Jackie’s been making plays like that for a long time.”

The sold-out crowd gave a huge cheer, and another after Matt Holliday struck out to end the inning. The Red Sox gathered at the edge of the dugout steps to congratulate Betts – with Price pushing his way through to thank him.

“It was special,” Bradley said. “It was electric. It was just a fun moment to be a part of.”

Price allowed seven hits. One night after giving up a tying homer in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 24th save.

Masahiro Tanaka (7-9) gave up three runs on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine. The Yankees are the last team in the majors to be shut out.

“We probably gave one away and we stole one,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “They got one off our closer, and we got one off their closer.”

Betts homered over the billboard above the Green Monster, his 17th of the year, with one out in the third inning to end Boston’s scoreless streak at 24 innings. He made it 3-0 when he singled to lead off the sixth, took second on an error by second baseman Starlin Castro, third on a groundout and scored on Dustin Pedroia‘s second hit of the game.

Yankees top Red Sox 4-1 in 16th; Boston plays under protest

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BOSTON — Didi Gregorius lined a go-ahead single in the 16th inning and the New York Yankees outlasted the Boston Red Sox 4-1 Saturday in the longest game between the bitter rivals at Fenway Park since 1966.

Matt Holliday hit a tying home run off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth that cleared the Green Monster, and it took 5 hours, 50 minutes and 512 pitches to finish. That is, if it’s really over – the Red Sox put the game under protest after a bizarre play on the bases involving Holliday in the 11th.

Both teams burned through their bullpens, and the relievers won’t get much rest. The Yankees and the AL East-leading Red Sox are set for a day-night doubleheader Sunday.

Boston starter Chris Sale struck out 13 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings of three-hit ball. He leads the majors with 191 strikeouts.

Yankees starter Luis Severino allowed one run and four hits in seven innings. He gave up Mitch Moreland‘s sacrifice fly in the third.

Ben Heller (1-0) went two innings. Seven Yankees relievers combined to blank Boston on four hits for nine innings.

Doug Fister (0-3) gave up three runs in the 16th. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double, Gregorius and Austin Romine hit RBI singles and Gary Sanchez added a sacrifice fly.

A day after Yankees blew a ninth-inning lead and lost, they rallied to win for just the eighth time in 28 games. New York closed within 3 1/2 games of Boston.

The Red Sox had been 43-0 when leading after eight. Kimbrel, the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, had his first career blown save at Fenway following 30 successful ones.

Red Sox manager John Farrell put the game under protest after an odd sequence in the 11th.

Holliday led off with a walk and Ellsbury followed with a grounder to Moreland at first base. Moreland threw to second for a forceout but Holliday retreated toward first and slid into the bag as shortstop Xander Bogaerts‘ throw arrived.

Moreland wasn’t able to reach the ball, which hit Ellsbury and bounced into foul territory. Farrell argued in favor of an interference call and after a lengthy review, the umpires allowed Ellsbury to stay on first.

The clubs last played 16 at Fenway on June 4, 1966, when Jim Gosger’s three-run homer gave Boston a 6-3 victory.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: Manager Joe Girardi said the club was “hopeful” that OF Aaron Hicks, on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right oblique, would “start doing some light baseball activity” when the club returns from its season-long, 11-game trip.

Red Sox: Placed RHP Joe Kelly on the 10-day DL before the game with a strained left hamstring and recalled RHP Brandon Workman from Triple-A. . RHP Blaine Boyer left with right elbow tightness. . Bogaerts put on a soft brace to support his left ring and pinkie finger under his batting glove halfway through batting practice.

HONORED

The Red Sox welcomed about 1,300 Vietnam veterans and their families onto the field during a pregame ceremony.

UP NEXT

Yankees: RHP Bryan Mitchell (1-1, 5.06 ERA) is set for the opener and RHP Masahiro Tanaka (7-8, 5.47) in the nightcap Sunday.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (4-11, 4.75) and LHP David Price (4-2, 3.91) are slated to start.

MLB second half preview: Contenders and pretenders

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The All-Star break officially ends at 7:05PM Eastern this evening when the Cubs take on the Orioles and the Pirates take on the Cardinals. Five minutes later five more games will get underway and by the time we go to bed tonight all 30 teams will either have played or will be in action and the season’s second half will have commenced.

Let’s take a look at some of the burning questions for that second half:

Q: Who are the real contenders and who are the mere pretenders? 

The division races are pretty bad this year, my friends. The closest division is the AL Central, with the Indians holding a 2.5 game lead over the Twins and three games over the Royals. Next is the AL East, with the Red Sox holding a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees and Rays. Three divisions feature utter blowouts, with the Astros leading the AL West by 16.5 games, the Nationals leading the NL East by 9.5 games and the Dodgers leading the NL West by 7.5 games. The Brewers hold a 5.5 game lead over the Cubs and Cardinals.

Of the closer races, Boston’s lead seems safe for now, but the AL East has defied predictions in recent seasons. The Indians struggled early but I suspect they’ll hit a higher gear in the second half and pull away. If anything, I suspect the Royals to give them a tougher race than the Twins. I have not counted out the Cubs, especially given their pickup of Jose Quintana yesterday, but the Brewers have been surprisingly resilient so far. The Cardinals don’t scare me nearly as much as the Cubs do, but we could have a really interesting race in the NL Central.

As for the Wild Card: in the American League It’s probably easier to say who isn’t a contender there than who is. If I’m drawing the line I say you can realistically draw it where the Rangers sit, three games out, with the Orioles, Mariners and Blue Jays as marginal and the Tigers, A’s and White Sox out of it. In the NL it’s a bit easier: the Diamondbacks, Rockies and whoever doesn’t win the NL Central are the only realistic contenders.

All of that aside, we have two classes of teams this year: the class containing the Astros, Nationals and Dodgers on the one hand and everyone else on the other. It’ll be up to the GMs of the mass of teams huddling within 3-5 games of the Wild Card in the American League and the couple of teams on the margins in the National League to make deals to distinguish themselves.

Q: Whose schedule presents the easiest path forward? Whose is the toughest?

Let’s keep in mind that baseball is not college football, so strength of schedule is not exactly the be-all, end-all. Anyone can beat anyone at any time and there is enough parity in this game to where the differences between a tough schedule and an easy one are pretty small.

That said, FanGraphs rates such things and, according to them, the Indians, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers and Twins have the easiest second half schedules in the AL with the White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays having the toughest go. That’s suggests the schedules largely cancelling each other out given who has to beat who going forward.

In the National League the Dodgers have the easiest schedule in the second half and the Diamondbacks have the absolute toughest which may put the NL West “race” into perspective. The Cubs have the third easiest schedule, the Cardinals the fifth and the Brewers have the sixth hardest, which should make the Central race interesting.

Q: Who are the buyers at the trade deadline and what are they buying?

Just about every contender has some need. Even the Astros and Dodgers. As usual, it’s mostly pitching. People always need pitching. That being said, here’s what I see as each contender — or marginal contender’s — biggest need.

  • Nationals: A closer. This is the most glaring need among any contender. They cannot enter the playoffs with their bullpen as currently constructed.
  • Brewers: Bullpen help
  • Cubs: They filled their biggest need yesterday with the Jose Quintana acquisition. They could use a backup catcher. They could also use their existing bats to heat up.
  • Cardinals: A bat, bullpen help
  • Dodgers: They could use back-end rotation help. There’s a rumor that they could target Zach Britton or some other back-end bullpen help to give them a devastating 1-2 punch with Kenley Jansen. If you shorten the game you can make up for some weakness at the back end of the rotation.
  • Diamondbacks: Bullpen help. An infielder.
  • Rockies: Bullpen help
  • Red Sox: A third baseman now, as always. Bullpen help.
  • Yankees: They acquired a first baseman by trading for Brewers minor leaguer Garrett Cooper yesterday, but it remains to be seen if that hole is truly filled. They need a reliever not named Tyler Cippard. They need existing players like Matt Holliday and Aaron Hicks to come back (UPDATE: Holliday is coming back tonight). They need Dellin Betances to find the strike zone.
  • Rays: Middle relief, but I doubt they make any big moves. They may be more likely to sell than to buy.
  • Orioles: Starting pitching but, really, true contention seems like a pipe dream
  • Indians: Starting pitching. Or 2-3 of their existing starters to get healthy and/or stop sucking.
  • Twins: Rotation help (Bartolo Colon is not, contrary to popular belief, anyone’s savior), bullpen help. Don’t expect major moves, though.
  • Royals: Starting pitching
  • AstrosDallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers to be healthy. If that can’t be guaranteed — and it never can be — another starting pitcher would be nice.
  • Rangers: Bullpen help
  • Mariners: Pitching, pitching, pitching.
  • Angels: Starting pitching, though they could get several arms back from injury. Still, it’s unlikely that they’ll do much. They are marginal contenders at best and don’t have any prospects to deal. They do get a fella named Mike Trout back tonight. He could possibly help out. Hard to say.

Q: What players are available?

Theoretically: anyone. As far as the guys people are talking about, it breaks down thusly, in no particular order of ranking. Obviously these names can change as teams fall in and out of contention or decide to be buyers or sellers.

So that’s where we stand on July 14th as the regular season, thankfully, resumes.