Maybe, at last, “the roll” Aaron Boone has said for nearly three weeks that the Yankees were poised to go on has arrived. And all it took for it to start was a visit from a team that started the week an even bigger mess – the Red Sox.
J.A. Happ kept the game close after allowing two early homers, and Brett Gardner’s dramatic seventh-inning grand slam lifted the Yankees to a 5-3 victory Wednesday night in front of 44,106 at the Stadium.
“That was a big feeling,” Gardner said. “Obviously, the season hasn’t gotten off to the start that I would have liked or envisioned, for myself and the team, so to be able to come through in a big spot like that in what was a big game for the middle of April, it felt good.”
The Yankees (8-9) completed a two-game sweep of the reeling Red Sox (6-13), their first home series victory of the season. The awful Royals start a four-game series here Thursday night.
“We kind of needed a little kickstart,” Gardner said. “These first couple of weeks we’ve been dragging along. It’s been frustrating at times. I thought last night was a big win and tonight was a big win.”
Former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi was among the biggest heroes in Boston’s run to the World Series title last season, but came in with an 8.40 ERA over his first three starts. He was terrific for six innings Wednesday, allowing one run (unearned) and three hits in six innings and departing with a 3-1 lead.
But Brandon Workman fell apart after taking over in the seventh. Clint Frazier, who continues to swing a hot bat, led off with his third hit of the night (his double in the fourth produced the Yankees' first run). Mike Tauchman walked and, after Gio Urshela struck out, Austin Romine walked to load the bases. Alex Cora brought on righthander Ryan Brasier, who got ahead of Gardner 0-and-2 on sliders. But Gardner jumped on the next pitch, a 96-mph fastball, and lined it to right for his 100th homer – and fourth career grand slam – making it 5-3.
“It was chaos,” said the on-deck hitter, Aaron Judge, who pumped his right fist in an uppercut motion as the ball cleared the fence. “The stadium was rocking, the dugout was going crazy. That was a big moment right there.”
One the 35-year-old Gardner, despite hitting .200 coming into the night, is built for.
“Nobody else I’d rather have up at the plate in that situation,” Judge said.
Adam Ottavino loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth but got Eduardo Nunez, another former Yankee, to swing at the first pitch and fly softly to right. Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect ninth for his third save.
Happ came in 0-2 with a 8.76 ERA in his first three starts and was far better than those numbers Wednesday. The lefthander allowed three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings, though it didn’t start off well. He allowed a first-inning homer to J.D. Martinez, then a two-run shot to Christian Vazquez in the third that made it 3-0. Happ then mostly abandoned the four-seam fastball that has been giving him trouble, and his night, and the Yankees’, improved.
“You go out there with the intention that you’re going to have everything working, and that just doesn’t happen but maybe a couple games a year, if you’re lucky,” Happ said. “So you try to kind of find what you have and what’s working. That’s part of getting in a groove.”