They could breathe again, the 46,306 stiffing the grandstands and the bleachers, so they let loose with an old-school roar, one that reached all the way back to around 2003 or so, back when the Red Sox and the Yankees could turn old Yankee Stadium into a calliope of joy and wonder and deafening thunder, a pingpong marathon of light and color and sound.
Aroldis Chapman was in trouble and then he wasn’t, the Yankees’ 5-3 lead was in peril, and then it wasn’t, because J.D. Martinez rolled into a double play and Rafael Devers bounced out to first, and that 5-3 lead was a 5-3 win, and the Yankees were 19 games above .500 and 9½ games ahead of the Red Sox. Good times, good night.
And good night to you, Boston.
“Tonight was a battle,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, after sending everyone back to the Deegan and the Bridge and the subway platforms smiling from ear to ear. “It was a heavyweight fight out there.”
There are a lot of things that used to feel true about the Yankees which no longer ring true, even a little. There was a time, for instance, when the easiest way to become the least popular person in the virtual playpen that is Twitter was to say something nice about Gary Sanchez.
Yes. That would blow up your account. Sanchez was done, you heard. Sanchez was overrated. Sanchez was lazy. Sanchez needed to go.
You don’t hear a lot of that anymore, on Twitter or anywhere else.
“I’m glad,” Brett Gardner said, “that he’s on our side.”
There was a time when those who like to poke holes in all things Yankees could chuckle and look at the schedule and ask, “Who’ve they beaten?” I was still hearing from Yankees fans as recently as Monday who were relying on that old chestnut.
Only right now, it really doesn’t matter what your record is. When you play the Yankees, you either wait around for them to figure out a way to come back on you or you take your beating up front, right away, and play the rest of the string out.
Remember the Rays, who are still the Yankees’ closest pursuers in the East? They lost four of six to the Yankees. The Padres might not look like the Big Red Machine, but they have a winning record, and they came into Yankee Stadium this week, lost two out of three, and were grateful to sneak away with the one they got.
There was a time when the Yankees bullpen looked like it might not be as good as advertised. Only now, it is fair to wonder: Are they even better than advertised?
All of these things seem especially relevant as the Yankees and their fans bask in the reality that they are now 4-0 against the Red Sox this year, that they beat them in April when they were at their most vulnerable and have done so again now that they’re playing at a .667 clip — or exactly the same as the ’18 Red Sox. The Sox may actually only be a .500 team right now at 29-29 but they are still the defending champs. That still matters.
“We’ve played very well,” Boone said, “and we’ve done it in a variety of ways.”
For a second straight night the Sox jumped to an early 1-0; for a second straight night the Yankees brushed that aside like lint off a sports coat. Friday the hero was DJ Lemahieu — as long as we’re playing the game, remember when the question was: How was he going to sneak into the lineup every day?
Saturday it was Sanchez. And it isn’t just that Sanchez hit his 18th home run to provide the winning margin, and it isn’t just that he’s now matched his total from a year ago, and it isn’t just that he now has more home runs than anyone else in the American League. It’s how Sanchez hits those homers.
The breaking pitch Rick Porcello spun wasn’t one from the Sandy Koufax collection, and it could easily have been drilled down the line or in a gap. There aren’t five other ballplayers who could put it where Sanchez put it, over the 385-foot mark in right-center field. But that’s the kind of zone Sanchez is in right now. Throw one in his eyes or at his ankles, inside or outside, it really doesn’t matter.
“There aren’t a lot of guys capable of that,” Gardner said.
Boone: “That surprises nobody. We know he’s a special talent.”
Special talent. Special team. Special season. The good times aren’t always this good. Right now? They’re as good as it gets.
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