The New York Yankees washed the fledgling Chicago White Sox out of a rain-soaked Bronx on Labor Day, 9-1. After a one-hour, 53-minute delay at Yankee Stadium on Monday, the Bombers' flood gates opened in an eight-run, seven-hit fourth inning.
The rout came behind the pitching strength of David Huff, who relieved Phil Hughes in the second inning with one out once the delay had ended. He went 5.2 innings—the longest relief outing of the lefty's career—and surrendered just one earned run on five hits en route to picking up the victory. It was also just the third time this season that Huff had gone at least 3.0 innings.
The offensive barrage began with the Yankees leading 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth. They batted around, sending 13 hitters to the plate. No Yankee left the ballpark, however, and a few of the hits during the rally didn't even leave the infield.
They were beneficiaries of some odds and ends in the inning, including two deflected balls off the pitcher that bounced their way and, of course, defensive ineptitude.
Alex Rodriquez led the inning off with a double to right, sliding head-first into second. Next, Vernon Wells grounded one off of pitcher Dylan Alexrod's glove and reached first. After Curtis Granderson walked to load the bases, Mark Reynolds lined one to third, but the ball trickled away from a diving Conor Gillaspie and Rodriguez came home to score the Yankees' second run.
On the very next pitch, Austin Romine drilled a hanging slider to center, extending the lead to 4-0. Brett Gardner followed with a double of his own to score Reynolds from third, and Derek Jeter singled on the second ball to hit off of Alexrod, allowing Romine to come home on.
After a brief exhalation on a Robinson Cano pop-out, the red-hot Alfonso Soriano laced another double past Gillaspie at third and Gardner scored. Rodriguez was the 10th batter of the inning, and on a foul pop up through the silo behind home, catcher Josh Phegley added insult to injury when he failed to squeeze the potential second out of the inning.
Rodriguez ultimately walked after being granted a second life in the at-bat, loading the bases again. Alexrod was relieved, but the Sox were not. Adam Dunn fielded a Wells grounder at first, went for the force at second and promptly chucked the ball into left field, allowing two more runs to scamper home for a 9-0 lead.
The Yankees never allowed Chicago back within striking distance, convincingly taking the first of a three-game set—a series that takes place in the middle of their current 10-game homestand as they look to climb back into the AL East and postseason discussion.
In the eighth inning, manager Joe Girardi gave catcher J.R. Murphy his Major League Baseball debut, allowing him to pinch-hit for Cano. To the wild excitement of his friends and family who were in attendance, the 22-year-old reached on an infield single. According to ESPN, Murphy represented the 52nd player utilized by the Yankees this season, which breaks a franchise record from both 2005 and 2008.
At this point, New York is a half game behind Baltimore and just three back of Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot.
They play two more against the White Sox before back-to-back four-game series with Boston and Baltimore beginning this Thursday.
Although Boston still maintains a comfortable position atop the East, New York could cut the lead in half with a great weekend and a sustained outburst from the offense.
Dating back to a 14-7 victory August 13 in Anaheim, the Yankees—traditionally one of the league's premier slugging teams (just not this season)—have shown sporadic glimpses of scoring ability. They have put up run totals of 11, 10, nine (twice), eight (twice) and seven, respectively.
This is undoubtedly the make-or-break juncture of baseball's final month for the New York Yankees.