A team that staggered into the All-Star break has come out firing to start the season's second half. At home, no less.
The Yankees, who entered the series 18-23 at the Stadium, completed a three-game sweep of the Reds Sunday with a walk-off 3-2 win before 43,115, a crowd that included managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
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They did it on Brian McCann's pop-up single with one out in the ninth, a ball that fell between three confused Reds.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the ninth with his fourth hit, an opposite-field single to left on the ninth pitch from lefty Aroldis Chapman, who topped out at 102 mph. Entering that at-bat, lefthanded hitters had been 1-for-18 with 12 strikeouts against Chapman. "It's not every day you see someone throwing 102 miles per hour," Ellsbury said.
Ellsbury stole second without a throw and went to third on a wild pitch. Mark Teixeira struck out for the third time, but with the infield and outfield in, McCann won it with a weak pop-up to shallow rightfield that wasn't touched by any of three Reds who had a chance to catch it.
First baseman Todd Frazier probably had the best chance at it, but he got turned around on the play. Rightfielder Jay Bruce came charging in and second baseman Skip Schumaker, who went sprinting out with his back to the infield, got a late jump and never got a good angle on the ball. The two infielders actually overran the pop-up, which fell just beyond the infield dirt.
"Just one of those things -- I thought I was under it and I was not," Frazier said, according to The Associated Press. "By the time the ball was coming down, it was already too late, so I made a mistake, turned my body the wrong way and, one of those things where I should have caught it."
Did McCann think the ball was going to fall when he hit it?
"No," he said with a smile. "But I'll take it for sure . . . I just saw them [the fielders] looking at each other, so then there was a chance. Luckily for us, it fell."
The Yankees (50-47) remained in a virtual tie with the Blue Jays (51-48) and pulled within three games of the AL East-leading Orioles.
Thanks to RBI singles by Derek Jeter and Ellsbury in the fifth, the Yankees led 2-1 going into the eighth before Dellin Betances allowed a one-out solo homer by Frazier.
"I was surprised because it was up and in. It was a bad pitch from me," Betances said of the 98-mph fastball that Frazier put in the leftfield seats for his career-high 20th homer. "It would have been ball four. I don't know how he hit it. I think he just guessed. He's obviously a good hitter."
Hiroki Kuroda was outstanding, allowing an unearned run and three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He outpitched All-Star Johnny Cueto, who came in 10-6 with a 2.13 ERA. He allowed two runs and five hits in five innings, throwing 112 pitches.
"I knew we were facing a good pitcher, so I was just trying to give everything I had from the get-go," said Kuroda, who has a 3.38 ERA in his last 14 starts after posting a 5.14 ERA in his first six.
David Robertson's perfect ninth set up the strange ending. "We've been road warriors," he said. "It's nice [the sweep]. At home, we should win more games. It hadn't worked out that way and it's only a matter of time before it changes."
The Yankees will play 10 straight games at the Stadium to open the second half and have an American League-high 37 home games left, including four straight against the Rangers (39-59) starting tonight. "I've said if we're going to get to the playoffs, we're going to have to win at home because we have so many games," Joe Girardi said. "We have a 10-day homestand, a chance to be home, really, for two weeks in a sense, and it's important that we play well at home. To get off to this start against a team that's playing well, hopefully it gives us some momentum into next week."