2016-09-29 03:43:06
Yankees 5, Red Sox 3: Mark Teixeira’s Ninth-Inning Grand Slam Lifts Yankees From Brink of Elimination

03:43, September 29 306 0

A quick survey of the Yankees’ clubhouse — a small sample, admittedly — revealed that no one was familiar with the perhaps apocryphal tale from Russian history of Rasputin, the spiritual adviser to Czar Nicholas II, whose rivals fed him poisoned wine, shot him several times and then tossed him into an icy river, which he tried to claw his way out of before finally dying.

“Who?” the rookie Tyler Austin asked.

“Never heard of him,” said a smiling Adam Warren, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, but in business administration.

The question seemed relevant because the Yankees had entered Wednesday needing one more day of Rasputin-like survival instincts to keep alive their playoff hopes, which hovered somewhere between microscopic and nonexistent.

After dramatic victories the previous two nights, the Yankees mustered another one when — down to the final out to stay mathematically alive — Mark Teixeira blasted a game-ending grand slam to keep the Yankees relevant for another day with a 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees, trailing by three runs entering their final at-bat, knew a loss would eliminate them after the Baltimore Orioles staged a ninth-inning rally of their own, coming from behind to beat the Toronto Blue Jays.

As Teixeira threw his arms up while rounding first base, watching the pitch from Joe Kelly land in the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field, there were contrasting displays of emotion. As his teammates poured out of the dugout, the Red Sox — who clinched the American League East title thanks to Toronto’s loss — trudged off the field.

The Yankees have provided some dramatic victories this season and have endured some gut-wrenching defeats, particularly in the last two weeks, but Wednesday’s turnabout may have been as unlikely an outcome as any they have experienced in 2016.

The entered the ninth inning having managed just one hit against Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox’ starter, and two relievers.

Brett Gardner led off the ninth with a single off Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox’ closer, who then walked Jacoby Ellsbury and Gary Sanchez to load the bases. Brian McCann, Kimbrel’s former battery mate in Atlanta, fought off four two-strike pitches to work a 10-pitch walk that forced in a run and spelled the end for Kimbrel.

But Kelly came on to strike out Starlin Castro and retire Didi Gregorius on a shallow fly ball in foul territory. That set the stage for Teixeira, who had hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of Monday’s comeback victory at Toronto.

The Yankees got an outstanding performance from Bryan Mitchell, who kept Boston scoreless through seven innings, but the Red Sox took the lead in the eighth. The inning began inauspiciously for the Yankees when Castro, the second baseman, playing in short right field, booted Sandy Leon’s grounder. Dustin Pedroia followed with a ground-rule double to right-center field.

After Xander Bogaerts lined out to third baseman Chase Headley, boos rang out when the longtime Yankee tormentor David Ortiz was intentionally walked. With the bases loaded, Mookie Betts bounced a bases-loaded double off Adam Warren just inside the third-base bag to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. They added another when Ortiz slid home safely on a passed ball.

At that point, the odds of the Yankees’ even staying in the playoff hunt were remote. A loss, which seemed likely, would have knocked them out. Now, with four games left in the regular season, their chances are still chimerical.

Although they finish the season at home with three games against Baltimore, the Yankees also trail Detroit, Seattle and Houston. Even if they win all of their games, they need assistance from the Blue Jays, as well as Atlanta, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels — three of the worst teams in baseball, who finish the season against the Tigers, the Mariners and the Astros, respectively.

Mitchell, who missed the first five months of the season after breaking a bone in his foot late in spring training, turned in by far his best performance since returning early this month. He mixed his fastball, curveball and changeup expertly, holding the Red Sox’ formidable offense in check.

Mitchell allowed two hits, walked five and struck out two through seven innings. The only trouble he encountered occurred in the fifth, when he had a bout of wildness, and the seventh, when he fought off fatigue.

In the fifth, Mitchell walked three batters — the first of whom, Hanley Ramirez, was thrown out by Sanchez while attempting to steal. Mitchell recovered by retiring Andrew Benintendi on a pop-up and Leon on a ground ball to end the inning.

In the seventh, Betts ripped a single to left field to lead off. Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr. flied out to right. After a walk to Brock Holt and with the left-hander Tommy Layne and the right-handed Warren ready in the bullpen, Girardi stuck with Mitchell, and Benintendi grounded to Teixeira to end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankees did just as little with Buchholz, who continued his resurgence after being banished to the bullpen just before the All-Star break. The only hitter to trouble him was Brett Gardner, who walked twice and singled.