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The Thursday Takeaway

Heading into Thursday’s game, the Yankees and Red Sox were going in opposite directions. The Sox were riding into the Bronx on a three-game winning streak while the hometown Yankees were reeling after being swept at home by the Indians. The importance of the four-game series between the American League East rivals was not lost on the home team—they not only have to try to gain ground against the Red Sox head-to-head this weekend, they also have to fend off the suddenly hot Twins who're nipping at their heels in the Wild Card race.

The pitching matchup was CC Sabathia against Eduardo Rodriguez. Sabathia has had some luck against the Red Sox in 2017, but the first inning was a little scary for Yankees fans. They just watched their team surrender first-inning runs to the Indians in three straight games and Sabathia loaded the bases in the opening frame. Fortunately, he worked his way out of the jam by getting both Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers to strike out—looking and swinging, respectively.

The Red Sox struck first against Sabathia in the third when Eduardo Nunez came around to score after starting the inning off with a single. What’s notable about this inning is that second base ump Greg Gibson had two calls challenged in quick succession. One was upheld and the other was reversed. He would have a third questionable call later in the game. He did not have a great night out there.

The Yankees struck back in the bottom of the frame on Gary Sanchez’s 28th homer of the season.

After that, the Yankees did most of the scoring. In the fifth inning, Sanchez hit a pop up with Brett Gardner on third base that should have been caught, but Nunez nearly Luis Castillo’d the ball and it fell, landing for an “excuse me” single. Sanchez made it to first, Aaron Hicks advanced to second, and Gardner scored the Yankees’ second run.

In the bottom of the sixth, Chase Headley led off the inning with a long double, which was followed by Greg Bird hitting his third home run of the season and second in as many days to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

After Todd Frazier hit a single, Red Sox manager John Farrell finally pulled his starter from the game. He called upon Fernando Abad, who got Gardner out but gave up a single to Hicks and then, after getting Sanchez to line out, surrendered an RBI single to Didi Gregorius which put the Yanks up 5-1.

David Robertson pitched a clean seventh and had a slightly hairy eighth, but got out of it without any damage. That left the ninth up to Dellin Betances, who hadn’t pitched in a few days, and it showed. He walked Chris Young to start the ninth, then hit both Christian Vazquez and Brock Holt to load the bases with none out. He got Nunez to strike out swinging, but he wasn’t out of danger and Yankees fans were holding their collective breath. They had seen a movie similar to this one last season and the ending was a nightmare.

Luckily, the ending was different this time. The Sox did score a run when Andrew Benintendi worked a walk, but Mookie Betts popped up for the second out and pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland, who came into his at-bat against Betances hitting over .400 with the bases loaded, flied out to Gardner to end the game.

Lost in the performance by the offense was the performance by Sabathia, who after surrendering the run in the third, shut down the Red Sox the rest of the way—he left the game after the top of the sixth. He improved to 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts against Boston this season. He's also 8-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankees loss in 2017. Yankee fans used to call him the “big stoppa” when he signed with them back in 2009 and he’s back to being that type of pitcher for New York again.

The Yankees are now a full game ahead of the Twins again and moved one game closer to the Red Sox in the AL East standings with three more to play in this series.

Quick Hits

Speaking of the Twins, I guess I spoiled things when I said that the Yankees stayed ahead of them in the Wild Card race, but you’ll still want to see how they won their game against the White Sox.

Chicago had a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth at Target Field. Juan Minaya came in to relieve Danny Farquhar and Twins manager Paul Molitor pinch-hit Ehire Adrianza for Chris Gimenez. Adrianza led off with a single. Zach Granite, who has the name of a movie star from Bedrock, attempted a bunt but popped out to the catcher in foul territory for the first out. Brian Dozier walked, which moved Adrianza to second. Eddie Rosario singled, scoring Adrianza and moving Dozier to third. The White Sox walked Joe Mauer to load the bases and Jorge Polanco lined out to Minaya, who didn’t do anything with the ball and all of the runners who may have stepped to far from their respective bases were safe.

Then, because the Twins are on one of those rolls in August, Max Kepler got hit by a pitch to force in the game-winning run. A walk-off HBP! Yep. The Twins won 20 games in August. Just like everyone predicted.

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The Astros and Rangers finished their series at Tropicana Field on Thursday with the Astros winning their 80th game of the season, 5-1, in front of a crowd of 3,385. That sparse crowd got to see slick fielding from Josh Reddick.

And a home run by Jose Altuve.

And Joe West eject AJ Hinch after an interference call.

The ejection actually happened before the Reddick catch and Altuve homer. Hinch was gone before the second inning. The Astros are heading back home to Houston for a doubleheader against the Mets on Saturday.

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This was my favorite thing of the day. Joey Votto hit a home run against the Mets and then he gave his bat to an adorable little boy sitting next to the dugout.

Jacob deGrom was pitching for the Mets and was looking for his 15th win of the season. He didn’t get it. Instead, he picked up his eighth loss. That’s so Mets. No, being so Mets would be getting injured, so he’s safe. For now.

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You may want to make sure you are sitting down when you read this. The Dodgers have lost five games in a row. There was a time when the thought of them losing even three games in a row was preposterous, but it has actually happened. And not only that, they have finally been swept in a series this season. Their division rivals, the Diamondbacks, were the ones to do it, winning the final game of the series 8-1 behind good pitching by Zack Greinke. And behind a potent offense that scored seven runs off Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda in only three innings.

Outfielder A.J. Pollock didn’t just hit a two-run home run for the D-Backs, he also made a couple of great catches.

But don’t feel bad for the Dodgers. They’re still 91-41 and running away with their division.

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The Orioles had their seven-game winning streak snapped by Kendrys Morales, who hit three home runs and collected seven RBIs against them. He finished the 4-for-5 and the Blue Jays won the game 11-8.

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As I was writing this column, this happened:

And as you can imagine, it was a big deal.

Defensive Play of the Day

This is a routine catch that turned into a not-so-routine catch when Nick Markakis’ feet slipped out from under him. He did a nice job of staying with the ball. The last time I fell like that, I got 19 stitches on my chin.

What To Watch On Friday

Game 2 of the Red Sox-Yankees series means a Doug Fister (3-7) vs. Sonny Gray (8-8) matchup. Fister is making his first start against New York this season. He appeared in the 16-inning game at Fenway in July, but pitched the last two innings and picked up the loss. Gray is looking for some revenge. He lost the last time he faced the Red Sox on August 20. (7:05p ET)

On paper the Dodgers-Padres matchup doesn’t look like anything special or important, but what is important for Los Angeles is the return of their ace Clayton Kershaw (15-2), who is scheduled to start against Dinelson Limet (7-5). Kershaw has been out of commission since he left his July 23 with a lower back strain. (10:10p ET)