These are top-dog days for rolling Red Sox
BOSTON (AP) – So much for the Red Sox only beating up on baseball’s weaklings.
After Yankees general manager Brian Cashman cast doubt on the quality of Boston’s record heading into their series at Fenway Park, the Red Sox swept four games from their AL East rivals to expand their lead in the division to a season-high 9-1/2 games.
Noting that the Red Sox had been 4-5 against New York before the series Cashman said, “You wonder what their record would be if they weren’t playing us.”
The words made their way around the Boston clubhouse.
“Yeah, we saw it,” outfielder Mookie Betts said. “We weren’t paying it any attention. We know what we are, we know what we can do and we went out and showed it.”
J.D. Martinez singled in a pair of runs to key a ninth-inning rally and Andrew Benintendi drove in the game-winner in the 10th on Sunday night to help the Red Sox complete the sweep.
After coming to Boston with hopes of closing the gap in the division, the Yankees left with a renewed focus on the wild-card race.
“Everybody knew how big this series was,” Benintendi said. “We came in and did what we wanted to do. Kind of stole this one. Every win counts the same, but now again we have to re-shift our focus toward Toronto.”
The Red Sox had the day off on Monday before opening a three-game series against the Blue Jays. That gave them a little extra time to enjoy their best-in-baseball record of 79-34 – 45 games above .500 (and just one game below .700) for the first time since Ted Williams returned from World War II to lead the 1946 team to a 104-50 record.
The Yankees are stuck in a season-high five-game losing streak. It was just the seventh time they have been swept by the Red Sox in a series of four or more games in the last 100 seasons. (Of course, they also lost four straight in the 2004 AL Championship Series.)
“A tough way to obviously end a tough weekend,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “But we can’t let this define what’s been a great season.”
The Yankees were on the verge of snapping their skid on Sunday night before closer Aroldis Chapman walked the bases loaded in the ninth and then, with two out, J.D. Martinez singled in a pair of runs. Jackie Bradley Jr. scored from first on a throwing error by third baseman Miguel Andujar to send the game into extra innings.
In the 10th, Benintendi bounced one up the middle to score Tony Renda, who came in as a pinch runner to make his major league debut, to win it.
Boston improved to 7-3 in extra-inning games and has four walk-off wins in its last 13 games at Fenway. The Red Sox have a best-in-baseball 11 sweeps this season while not getting swept themselves at all.
They are 8-5 against the Yankees, putting to rest any doubts Cashman might have had when he said: “You wonder what their record would be if they weren’t playing us. Because when we go head to head, we do some damage against them and it doesn’t seem like anybody else is capable.”
Asked about the comments before the series, Red Sox manager Alex Cora avoided adding to the controversy.
“Don’t lead me into that one,” he said. “He also said that he would love to be in our position, that he respects the way we’re playing. I leave it at that.”