The Yankees came into their Tuesday night game with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. They would have needed a bit of help, starting with a Minnesota Twins loss. The Twins game was rained out, but they were unable to fulfill their end of the bargain anyway, getting blasted for ten runs, plating only four themselves.
The first inning was basically the whole show. Boston nearly took the Yankees out at the knees from the outset. The Sox clobbered six runs off Michael Pineda –12-9 4.24 ERA– in the opening frame, including the first of two dingers from catcher Blake Swiheart, who had only three on-the-season beforehand. The Yankees avoided an early exodus by countering with four runs off Rick Porcello –9-14 5.02 ERA — in the bottom half. All said and done, the first inning yielded ten total runs and lasted 36 minutes. That pace, if held, would result in 5 hours 24 minutes over 9 innings. Also, following that logic, the score would be 54-36….. So let’s just ignore those projections.
Instead, there was a statistical regression toward the mean, with both pitchers settling in, The game was speedy going forward and finished at a prosaic 2 hours and 57 minutes.
While Pineda was shelled in the first, over the next three innings, he retired his opponents in order. Mookie Betts broke that up with a first-pitch homer to lead off the fifth. Pineda finished out that inning without incident and went on to strikeout the side in his sixth and final inning.
Porcello fared much better. Despite the tumultuous first inning, he only allowed two hits the rest of the game, lasting all the way through the eighth. Porcello kept the Yankees off balance all night, mixing his solid four-seam with a baffling 12-6 curveball that dips to 72 MPH. He finished the night with eight strikeouts, and did more than enough to give Boston the win.
The Yankee Stadium crowd was surprisingly sparse for a late September match with their archrivals. Perhaps it was to do with the teams respective positions in the standings: Boston, having long been out of contention, and New York, with a 99.9% chance of securing the wild card slot, according to Baseball Prospectus. Or perhaps the sketchy weather kept fans at bay.
Rain chased away most of the faithful lingerers in the ninth, and the weather forecast looks to bungle the whole procession to the playoffs. Many Tuesday games were delayed and three were postponed. Meanwhile, weather.com predicts rain for the Bronx seemingly in perpetuity. The Yankees have their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, slated to start on Wednesday, which lines him up to start in the wild card playoff game next Tuesday. If the game is postponed on Wednesday, common sense would dictate that be withheld from starting and throw a simulation game instead. So a rain postponement would likely ensure that Tanaka will not be available for the remainder of the regular season.
The Yankees magic number is at two, and they sit three games over Houston for the first wild card spot. While they’re a shoo-in for the wild card, whether they can finally clinch this week still depends on the heavens.