About Yesterday: Red Sox 6, Yankees 5
By Mike Whiteman 8/21/2023 *** On this day in 1931, Babe Ruth hit his 600th home run, a shot to right center off George Blaeholder of the St. Louis Browns. https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLA/SLA193108210.shtml At age 36, Ruth was slowing down a bit, his 46 home runs outhomering only three American League teams. Per The Sporting News, there was an interesting backstory to the round tripper. Unlike today, when there’s a countdown and scrutiny towards reaching a major milestone like this, there didn’t seem to be much anticipation at all for Ruth reaching the 600 HR mark. Of course, nobody had even come close to reaching this number prior to the Babe. In fact, it was Ruth himself who noted it and immediately made a request through local radio (during the game) for the milestone ball, the incentive being a $10 bill and a brand new baseball. Sure enough, ten minutes later, a ten-year old boy showed up with the ball. The Babe enthusiastically fulfilled his end of the deal, providing the cash and the new ball. A few minutes later, another boy showed up with a ball, claiming that one was the 600th home run ball. Ruth again reciprocated by producing a $10 bill and a brand new baseball. Right field at Sportsman’s Park sat right along North Grand Blvd in St. Louis, and home run balls in that direction went into the street, and out of sight, so verifying the “true” ball was a bit of a challenge. Of the two balls presented by the young fans, one seemed a bit more scuffed up than the other. Ruth rationalized that the worn one was the real 600th home run ball as right after Ruth’s blast, Lou Gehrig hit a home run of his own over the right field wall after a brand new baseball was introduced. In the end, Ruth was pleased to get what was certain to be his landmark ball, and two boys got new balls and $10 bills during the Great Depression. The picture below is one of Ruth hitting a home run in St. Louis, but not his 600th.
QUICK STATS The Yankees are 60-64 on the season. They have lost eight games in a row. They are nine games out of the American League Wild Card. Their .484 winning percentage translates to 78 victories on the season, a low number we have not seen in over thirty years. BIG STORY In four of their past five games, the opposition put up significant runs in the early inning, and coasted to a win, in large part due to the Yanks’ feeble offense. So, job number one yesterday was to keep the visitors at bay. Clarke Schmidt did his job. After yielding a first inning homer to Rafael Devers, the feeling of dread started to come over the game, but that was all he allowed in the first five innings. Unfortunately, the Yankee offense continued their woes, only putting a solo home run by Kyle Higashioka.
Schmidt didn’t get help from his defense in the sixth, when a poor flip by Gleyber Torres and throwing error by Anthony Volpe while trying to turn a double play allowed Devers to hustle home from second with a run and the Bosox took a lead. It’s hard to criticize Volpe, who looked to be rushing his throw after stretching for Gleyber’s relay. Gleyber atoned for his part of the problem with a solo HR in the bottom of the frame, and we again had a tie game. Unfortunately, while Schmidt was on his game, his relief was not. Mike King allowed a three-run home run to Justin Turner in the seventh. Three runs behind are a lot for the 2023 Yankees to come back from, but they did! Anthony Volpe’s three run homer of his own tied the game in the seventh. They took the lead in the eighth when Isiah Kiner-Falefa made a mad dash home from first on a single to left muffed by leftfielder Rob Refsnyder – until it was overturned and he was called out at the plate.
Boston took a 6-5 lead in the ninth on Turner’s RBI double. The Yanks put runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the frame, but in a scene much too familiar this season, they could not even move the runners up. Strikeout, strikeout, fly out. Game over.
Red Sox win, 6-5. PLAYER OF THE GAME Turner had a home run and four RBI for Boston. NOTABLE PERFORMANCES The Yanks needed a big-time performance from Schmidt, and while 5+ innings doesn’t exactly scream “ace”, he did a great job…Volpe had two hits including his home run. He leads the Yankee position players in WAR. BETTER TO FORGET Giancarlo Stanton flew out to left field pinch-hitting for Jake Bauers, dropping his batting average to .199. After a solid .273/.354/.516 season in 2021, he has hit .206/.291/.452 the past two seasons. THEY SAID IT “I understand. We feel the same frustration. I certainly understand the anger. It’s no fun going through it“– Aaron Boone on the Yankee struggles and fan frustration “We got to get a win first” – Boone in response to a media question about if the team can still make a run this season. MY TAKE The Yanks’ play since the All-Star break has certainly had the feel of a collapse. The team had a 49-42 record at the break, and was a game behind Toronto and Houston for the final playoff spot. Since then: 11-22 record .225 team batting average 3.7 runs per game (that actually surprised me – I figured it was less!) 4.97 ERA That’s bad baseball. And now for something completely different. What is on your summer reading list? While in our household summer is unofficially over (I live with a college student and school employee), I’m still plugging away at back porch reading. Here is one baseball and one non-baseball offering I’m working on.
Split Season 1981 by Jeff Katz. The 1981 season was one of my first really involved seasons, and like many kids my age I was just devastated by the strike. At the end of the year, I have great memories of watching the 1981 postseason with my dad, Rocket Men by Robert Kurson (I'm re-reading this one). Space Travel and NASA are fascinating to me. Much is made of Apollo 11, and reasonably so. Apollo 8 was also a big deal.
Next? Well I think another look at The Least Among Them by our esteemed editor Dr. Semendinger over Labor Day weekend.
NEXT UP An off day today, and the Nationals come to town tomorrow. Carlos Rodon (1-4, 7.33 ERA) comes back from the IL to make the start for the Yanks. Whatever happens in the remainder this season, I think it would be good for Rodon to put together some good starts before the long offseason.