from Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer
BOSTON – It was a game Yankees he could easily lose.
Late night flight from Pittsburgh. Aaron Judge out with lower body soreness. Two Rafael Devers homers by Gerrit Cole.
But it’s 2022, so the Yankees still won.
In their first trip to Boston this year, in front of a sold-out crowd at Fenway on a pleasant Thursday night, the Yankees improved to an astounding 60-23 with a 6-5 victory. They are now 15 games ahead of the Red Sox. At this point, only a disaster of historic proportions can derail them as they go for their first division crown since 2019.
The last time the Yankees left MLB’s oldest ballpark, they had just given up on the 2021 wild card game with a limping, silent performance. Boston went on to upset Tampa Bay in an unforgettable ALDS battle. The Yankees went on a break.
But nearly nine months later, they returned to Fenway as a different beast, a group renewed, reinvigorated, refocused.
That Cole, the highest-paid pitcher in the known universe, outscored a rookie hurler named Josh Winkowski in his sixth career start wasn’t particularly shocking, but New York’s ride to victory was a truly great watch.
Winckowski avoided a major hammer blow for the first time in the lineup, keeping the no-umpire lineup off balance enough to post zeroes in each of the first two frames. But in the top of the third, with two outs and the pond full of ducks, Josh Donaldson went over the fence in dead center for a grand slam to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
A pitch later, Aaron Hicks added to the party with a shot of his own.
At this point, things looked done and cleaned up. Cole on the mound with a five-run lead and the Sox forced to squeeze 18 more outs from a tired Winkowski and the bullpen? Pack it up. I’ll see you tomorrow.
But in the bottom of the third Devers, the baby-faced wizard with more bat speed than Dracula and a smile that would make Chip Skylark proud, reached for a slider down to his shins and rocked it deep and went right.
It was the 25-year-old third baseman’s fifth career bomb against the Yankees’ ace, but he wasn’t done. After Boston gifted New York a run in the top of the fifth on a dropped pop-up by first baseman Franchi Cordero, Devers stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the bottom of the inning.
Bing bang blam.
Another off-speed pitch under the zone, another big fly for the big kid with a big smile. It was Devers’ 19th of the year and Cole’s sixth since the start of last season. Fenway erupted, Cole moved the next hitter and it felt like the whole house of cards was about to come tumbling down on the Yankees.
In about three minutes, the Yankees’ 14-game division lead felt cut in half. Cole then walked Xander Bogaerts on strikeouts to end the frame. The crowd quieted down and the Sox didn’t threaten again.
New York’s bullpen has been spectacular all season and Thursday was no different. Four strikeouts by Wandy Peralta, two by Michael King and the last three by the world’s closest player Clay Holmes. Ho, I’m humming.
Peralta and King were so dominant that the top of the Boston order never returned to the plate. There was no last hurray, no last gasp from the Red Sox lineup. Devers watched the final play of the game from the rainbow.
Aaron Judge will also play tomorrow. Another day in Yankeeland.
Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and baseball writer for FOX Sports. He is an Orioles fan who lives in New York and thus leads a solitary life for most of October. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.
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