Red Sox aim to clinch AL East against Yankees
NEW YORK -- On Sept. 15, Hanley Ramirez capped a stirring comeback for the Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees at Fenway Park with a ninth-inning, game-winning home run off Dellin Betances.
It began a memorable 11-game winning streak and the Red Sox are now the verge of winning the American League East. Boston will have its first opportunity to clinch Tuesday night when it visits New York for the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
Before Ramirez's dramatic home run, the Red Sox were 81-64 and led the division by one game. Now the Red Sox are 92-64, six games up and can clinch with either a win or a Toronto Blue Jays loss to Baltimore Tuesday.
During this streak, the Red Sox are batting .271 (101-for-373) and their offense has been powered by retiring designated hitter David Ortiz, Ramirez and Mookie Betts.
Ortiz is 16-for-39 (.410) with four home runs and 13 RBIs while Ramirez is batting .390 (16-for-41) with five home runs and 13 RBIs. Betts is hitting .444 (20-for-45) during a 12-game hitting streak.
Ortiz's latest big hit occurred in the 10th inning of Sunday's 3-2 win over the Rays at Tampa Bay when he doubled in Dustin Pedroia. Ortiz has 124 RBIs this year and his latest occurred one when Pedroia eluded the tag at the plate several times.
"That was a crazy play," Ortiz said. "I saw Dustin looked like he was dancing around the catcher."
The win Sunday gave the Red Sox an eighth straight road victory and a 26-9 mark against divisional opponents since the start of July. The Red Sox have won 11 of 16 meetings with the Yankees, with seven of those coming after July 1.
During the four-game sweep at Fenway, Boston batted .378 (14-for-37) and scored 11 times in the seventh inning or later.
Besides a potential division title celebration, Ortiz will be playing his final series at New York. Ortiz announced himself as a key figure in the rivalry with two home runs at New York in the AL Championship Series on July 4, 2003 and hasn't stopped hitting Yankees pitching ever since.
This year he is batting .315 (17-for-54) with six home runs and 13 RBIs against the Yankees. Including the time he spent with the Minnesota Twins, Ortiz has batted .307 (271-for-884) with 53 home runs and 171 RBIs in 240 regular-season games against New York.
"Competing in New York, playing in New York is very special for me," Ortiz told MLB.com. "The fans are very into every inning. You have to be on the tips of your toes because you want to make something happen
While everything has gone right for the Red Sox in the last two weeks, it has been the opposite for the Yankees. A seven-game winning streak from Sept. 5-10 brought the Yankees back into the AL Wild Card and division races but they have dropped 11 of 15 since.
Following a 5-1 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 10, the Yankees were one game out in the Wild Card race and three games out of first. Now they are 5 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot and 12 games behind Boston.
"Our team has been fighting all year," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We're probably not going to make the playoffs. We're just going to enjoy ourselves the rest of the year and keep fighting."
The Yankees concluded a 3-8 road trip with a wild 7-5 win at Toronto on Monday, which featured two benches-clearing incidents in the early innings. New York wound up getting the win by scoring five times in the ninth on Teixeira's solo home run and a two-run shot by Aaron Hicks.
"Obviously we got some serious long odds but we have to win," Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. "It felt good to win."
David Price will be on the mound for the Red Sox and will be seeking his ninth straight win. Price has a 2.82 ERA in his last nine starts since losing Aug. 7 at Dodger Stadium and kept the streak going by allowing three runs and six hits in seven innings Thursday at Baltimore.
Price is 17-8 this season but 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA in four starts against the Yankees this season. Price last faced New York Sept. 17 in Boston and allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings in a no-decision.
Luis Cessa will make his eighth start for the Yankees and New York has dropped his last three starts. Cessa took a tough 2-0 loss in Tampa Bay Thursday when he allowed two runs and six hits in six innings.
Since entering the rotation Aug. 20, he is 2-3 with a 3.83 ERA and allowed six hits or less in each outing and three runs or less in six of those starts. Home runs have been an issue for Cessa as 22 of the 30 runs he has allowed have come on 15 homers.