The NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox were battling for last place in the AL East until the Yankees swept a two-game series in the Bronx courtesy of a Brett Gardner grand slam, which capped a 5-3 comeback win at Yankee Stadium.

Brett Gardner Yankees
NY Yankees outfielder Mike Tauchman (left) congratulates Brett Gardner (11) after hitting a grand slam against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. (Image: Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

The Yankees (8-9) came-from-behind to pull off the sweep to move into second place in the division behind the red-hot Tampa Rays (14-4). The defending champion Red Sox (6-13) occupy last place by themselves, while they continue to nurse a World Series hangover.

The Yanks won only their second series all season, which is remarkable considering that 13 players spent time on the IL this season. The injuries piled up, including the latest foot injury to Greg Bird, but manager Aaron Boone does not like to use that as an excuse.

“It’s next man up,” Boone said. “I know you guys are tired of me saying this every day, but it’s truly the case.”

The Yankees and Red Sox, one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports, met for the first time this season. Both teams won 100-plus games last year, but the current squads looked nothing like the teams that posted triple-digits in the win category. The Yanks were also seeking revenge after the Sox knocked them out of the ALDS last October.

Big Maple in the Big Apple

The Yankees traded their top pitching prospect, Justus Sheffield, to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for their Ace, James Paxton. The Yankees wanted the left-hander from Canada to pitch in big games like the series-opener against the Red Sox. Paxton found himself up against Chris Sale, who struggled to the start the season.

Paxton finally earned his pinstripes with his best performance of the season in an 8-0 shutout against the Red Sox on Tuesday night. The lefty flamethrower allowed only two hits and hurled eight scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts.

“I felt like I was searching for this,” Paxton said. “I felt like I really found something tonight.”

His biggest strikeout of the game happened in the top of the fourth inning after he allowed the Sox to put runners on second and third with no outs. The lefty worked himself out of a jam by inducing two pop ups. Paxton secured a third out by whiffing Mitch Moreland. The usually cool and low-key Paxton appeared fired up as he walked off the mound.

Everyone in the Yankees lineup contributed a hit in the rout. Mike Tauchman, a reserve outfield that the Yankees acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rockies before the start of the season, hit his first-career home run. He finished the night with two hits and four RBI.

Gardy Party

The Yankees looked toast after starting pitcher JA Happ gave up three runs. The Yanks couldn’t get anything going against Boston’s starter, but hoped the Sox bullpen could relinquish the lead. The Yanks rallied back to trim the deficit to 3-1.

In the seventh inning, the Bronx Bombers loaded the bases for veteran outfielder Brett Gardner. He took advantage of the short porch in left field and parked an 0-2 fastball into the second row. Gardner hit a grand slam and connected on his 100th home run of his career. The Yankees took a 5-3 lead and Gardner bailed out Happ.

“It was chaos,” said Aaron Judge. “The Stadium was rocking. Our dugout was going crazy.”

The bullpen, which choked eight times this year with a lead, shut the door this time around. Tommy Kahnle got the win and Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the ninth to secure a two-game sweep for the Yankees.

“We kind of need a little kick start,” said Gardner. “Obviously, these first couple of weeks we’ve been dragging.”

Gardner joined Derek Jeter as the only members of the Yankees to hit 100 home runs and steal 250 bases. Along with CC Sabathia, Gardner is the only player remaining from the 2009 World Series championship team.

“It’s special,” said Gardner. “To be a part of it for this long, I feel like I have quite a bit invested in this. At this point in my career the only thing I care about is winning the World Series.”

The Yankees are currently 7/1 odds to win the World Series according to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas.

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