By Brad Carroll
In every special season, there is one game or moment that can be looked back on as a team's turning point. Thursday night could be that moment for the New York Yankees. With the Red Sox leading 4-3 and Koji Uehara on the mound, the Yankees were three outs away from watching their season come to an end.
But Mark Teixeira put a sudden halt to the Yankees funeral procession in the Bronx, blasting a leadoff home run off the Red Sox closer to tie the game. One out later, Chase Headley changed the entire course of the season, smashing a no-doubt, game-winning home run to finish off a 5-4 victory. With two huge blasts, the Yankees suddenly went from completely dead to a team with a ton of momentum in the playoff chase.
The win kept the Yankees in the hunt for the second wild card spot, four games behind the Detroit Tigers. If the Yankees can make up that ground over the final four weeks, and jump the Mariners along the way, the victory over the Red Sox will be the game and moment that changed everything.
The Yankees now must take that adrenaline-generating victory and turn it into a series win over the AL Central-leading Royals, who come into the Bronx for three games starting Friday night. There is no alternative, the Yankees need to keep winning series to have a shot at making the postseason.
Here is a closer look at another huge series in the Bronx.
Kansas City Royals (77-71, 1 game lead in AL Central)
at New York Yankees (72-66, 4 GB of second WC)
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Michael Pineda (3-3, 2.09) vs. James Shields (12-7, 3.38)
Saturday, 4:05 p.m.
Brandon McCarthy (5-4, 2.80) vs. Danny Duffy (8-11, 2.42)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Shane Greene (4-2, 3.88) vs. Yordano Ventura (11-9, 3.38)
Playoff Picture: The Yankees saved their season Thursday night, but they still have an uphill climb to make the postseason. With 24 games to go, the Yankees trail the Tigers by four games for the second wild card. They also have to jump the Mariners, which are a half-game back. Right behind the Yankees are the Blue Jays, at 4.5 back, and the Indians, at five back. The Athletics own the top wild card spot, 6.5 games ahead of the Yankees. While the Yankees are hosting Kansas City for three games, Detroit plays three games at home against the Giants and Seattle continues a four game series at the Rangers, winning the opener Thursday. The Blue Jays are at Boston for three games and Cleveland plays three at home against the White Sox. There's no more room for error for the Yankees.
Momentum: If the Yankees don't have momentum now, they never will. Thursday night's dramatic victory over the Red Sox is one of those games that can be looked back as the springboard to a championship season. It was that big. The Royals swept three games from the Rangers coming into this series, keeping their slim, one-game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central.
Who's Hot: Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley hit the two biggest home runs of the season Thursday against Boston. Derek Jeter also had a two-run double in that game. Brian McCann went 4-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in a victory Wednesday against the Red Sox. He went 6-for-12 with two homers and four RBI in the three-game series. Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees most consistent pitcher, allowing one run on four hits in seven innings of work in beating Boston Wednesday. For Kansas City, Salvador Perez is 8-for-21 with four doubles, a homer and five RBI over his current six-game hit streak. Alcides Escobar went 2-for-6 with two doubles in his last two games against Texas. Duffy, who pitches Saturday, has allowed just one run in each of his last two starts. Ventura, who starts the finale, has won two straight starts, allowing three runs in 12.1 total innings.
Who's Not: Over his last five games, Stephen Drew is 0-for-11. Carlos Beltran is 2-for-18 over his last six games. He's going to have surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow after the season. Greene, who starts Sunday, was roughed up by the Red Sox Tuesday, allowing six runs in 2.2 innings, taking the loss. McCarthy, who goes Saturday, has lost his last two starts, against Detroit and Toronto. For Kansas City, Billy Butler is 1-for-13 over his last four games. Last Monday, Shields, who starts Friday, allowed six runs on 10 hits in 6.2 innings during a 8-1 loss to the Yankees.
Looking Ahead: The Yankees finish a nine-game homestand with three against the Tampa Bay Rays starting Tuesday night.