The New York Yankees have won their 10th consecutive game, and they did it in rather dramatic fashion. They beat the Oakland Athletics 5-4 on a walkoff home run from Aaron Judge. This streak has been a perfect storm of good fortune for the Yankees, who are now just 1.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for the second wild card spot in the American League.
The yankees last world series is a sentence that describes the Yankees’ recent success. They have a chance to win their first World Series since 2009.
Given that the New York Yankees have won the most games in the majors during those 36 seasons, it’s hard to believe they haven’t won 11 in a row since 1985, when Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, and Ken Griffey Sr. roamed the outfield. In the intervening years, they had won 10 games in a row six times, but each time they lost the 11th game.
With two outs, the bases loaded, and the Yankees clinging to a 5-4 lead, dangerous Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman stepped up in the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday, the moment had a playoff-like tension between two potential World Series opponents, with the winning streak on the line. It was the classic game-on-the-line situation: it was just his fifth plate appearance in the majors this season, and he got to a 3-2 count with the bases loaded in the ninth inning with two outs and the batting side down a run.
The odd aspect of all of this is that it was Wandy Peralta, not Aroldis Chapman, who was throwing to Freeman.
Chapman had begun the inning for the second night in a row after tossing 11 pitches the night before. Adam Duvall singled with one out, and Ehire Adrianza walked on four pitches with two outs. Ozzie Albies reached on an infield single in a seven-pitch at-bat, miraculously beating out a simple two-hopper to third base to load the bases (one of the most impressive hustle plays of the season).
The @Yankees have won 11 consecutive games for the first time since 1985! pic.twitter.com/UXNeOYEP5w
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Chapman was sweating like Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest” in a rubber suit at this point. Chapman has been better recently following a period from mid-June to early-July in which he allowed 15 runs in 523 innings, but he is still working to regain Aaron Boone’s trust. Chapman returned late last week after missing 13 days due to elbow discomfort, and in his first game against the Boston Red Sox, he gave up a home run, a walk, and a single, prompting Boone to remove him for Lucas Luetge, who got the last out for the save in a 5-2 win.
So when Chapman walked Jorge Soler to push in a run on a 3-2 slider on Tuesday, Boone removed Chapman for the second time in a save situation.
Peralta, who was acquired from the Giants for Mike Tauchman in late April, has pitched his way into crucial circumstances. After a nine-pitch duel with Freeman, he eventually got him to fly out, giving him his third save with the Yankees.
Andrew Heaney, the starting pitcher, was blown away.
“You’ve got to throw a lot of nuts to get him out; I believe it was three or four consecutive 3-2 changeups to the reigning NL MVP, all of them excellent pitches,” Heaney said. “That’s a tough situation to be in, and Wandy’s performance was outstanding.”
Boone, who had a day off on Wednesday, handled this one like a playoff game, removing Heaney after four innings and bringing in six relievers. The Yankees, on the other hand, only have one planned off day until September 22, meaning they’ll play 27 games in 28 days. Even with a few additional roster slots in September, the bullpen is being pushed to use six relievers each night. Plus, after this performance, Boone isn’t going to want to utilize Chapman on consecutive days — and that’s without even considering his comfort level in save situations. Remember that Zack Britton is expected to miss the rest of the season and may need Tommy John surgery.
Still, since the “Field of Dreams” game in Iowa, the Yankees haven’t lost. They are 2.5 games ahead of the Red Sox in the wild-card race, with the A’s behind the Red Sox by two games. While the positives are lining up elsewhere — improved offense with Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo; Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon settling into a tough one-two punch; a defense that has made some big plays recently (including Andrew Velazquez delivering a nice relay throw to nail Freeman at home plate to save a run on Tuesday) — the Chapman issue looms over the Yankees’ stretch run.
It’s difficult to see the Yankees going all the way with Chapman as their closer right now. He can still wipe out hitters with the slider or a split-fingered ball if he gets ahead of them, but getting ahead has been difficult, with 31 walks in 42 innings. With seven home runs allowed, he has already equaled his career best. He has little confidence in his fastball, as we witnessed against Albies and Soler, throwing three consecutive sliders with three balls to Albies and then five straight sliders to Soler after a first-pitch fastball went beyond the zone. We’re not accustomed to Chapman being scary and domineering.
As the Yankees continue to dominate, Boone is faced with a tough decision: who will pitch in the ninth inning?
The Red Sox and Alex Cora may be asking themselves the same question in the near future. In Tuesday, they defeated the Twins 11-9, but Cora had to remove his closer, Matt Barnes, after Barnes came on with a three-run lead and gave up a home run to Josh Donaldson and two walks. Hansel Robles had to clean things up after allowing 20 baserunners in his first 82/3 innings with the Red Sox after being acquired in a trade deadline deal. He got two strikeouts and then Jake Cave to line out to second base.
After a strong first half, Barnes was named to the All-Star team, but he has struggled in August, allowing 10 runs and three home runs in 413 innings. He had also thrown on Monday and had to be removed after allowing four of the five hitters he faced to hit him and squandering the save (although the Red Sox won the game in the 10th inning). Barnes has always been shaky in consecutive games throughout his career, so that’s a worry, much as Chapman’s.
Robles had ten saves with the Twins before to the trade, and he threw 99 mph on Tuesday, but he’s far from a dependable, shut-down option.
For the time being, Cora has focused on the good — a victory.
After the game, Cora remarked, “We have 72 of those, and not many teams can claim that.” “There are 27 outs. It’s easy at times and difficult at others. We seem to have used almost the whole roster during the past two days, which isn’t ideal, but it’s enough. Wins like these may help you develop your character.”
So, for the time being, everything is OK, even though the worry level is rising as we approach October.
This is true for all playoff teams and supporters. I got a message from a buddy who was watching the conclusion of the Yankees game and was a Mariners supporter (rooting for a loss, of course). He texted, “This is more tense than an M’s game.”
It’s worth remembering that Seattle swept the A’s in two games, putting them only one game behind Oakland and three games behind Boston. Despite a minus-56 run differential, the M’s are still in this game. Drew Steckenrider, who threw the last seven outs of a 5-1 victory on Tuesday despite throwing just 23 pitches, was given a pass by Scott Servais. So, despite the struggles of All-Stars Chapman and Barnes, the Mariners have stayed in the wild-card chase because to Steckenrider and Paul Sewald, two free agents signed after their previous teams released them. They have a 2.18 ERA between them.
Toss away the résumé at this time of year. You want a hot hand, and both the Yankees and the Red Sox are looking for one.
This article was supported by ESPN Stats & Information.