Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (307609)
Credit: Wikipedia

On the Fourth of July, the Yankees hosted the Mets in a double-header in the Bronx. A 10-5 loss in the opening game dropped them to 41-41 and had much of their fan base calling for the firing of manager Aaron Boone and demanding massive changes to their roster.

Nearly seven weeks later, after taking a doubleheader from the Boston Red Sox at home on Tuesday, the Yankees had gone 27-11, were 68-52 when they faced the Red Sox in the final game of the three-game series at Yankee Stadium last night (Wednesday, Aug. 18), and had passed Boston for second place in the American League East.

With the Tampa Bay Rays holding strong in first place at 73-47 after a 10-0 shut out of the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, the Yankees, Red Sox (69-53) and Oakland Athletics (68-52) were neck-and-neck for the two American League wild-card spots. Going back to July 4, the Red Sox were 53-32, and over 10 games ahead of the Yankees in standings. But while the Yankees had won five straight and 12 of the past 15 going into Wednesday’s game, the Red Sox were just 7-13 in their last 20.

Tuesday’s afternoon game was a makeup from a rain-out on July 15. Dramatic back-to-back, bases loaded strikeouts by Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga, who came in from the bullpen in the sixth inning, saved the seven-inning game and won it 5-3 for the Yankees. It was Loaisiga’s fifth save this season.

Bronx native Andrew Velazquez knocked in his first RBI as a Yankee, a two-run single in the second inning that put New York up 2-0. “Huge hit to get us going,” said Boone, impressed by the 27-year-old shortstop’s all-around contribution.

“We saw this in spring training. We saw a guy we all liked. All the coaching staff was like, ‘We like this guy and what he can do defensively.’” In the nightcap, the Yankees pitching combination of starter rookie Luis Gil (4.2 innings), Wandy Peralta (1.1 innings) and Chad Green (1 inning) held the Red Sox scoreless for seven innings. Major League Baseball doubleheaders have been reduced from the traditional nine innings to seven. Yankees Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and first baseman Luke Voit had one RBI apiece.

They begin a four-game series tonight at home against the Minnesota Twins before playing nine straight on the road from Aug. 23 through Sept. 1—two versus the Atlanta Braves, four against Oakland and three with the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees and Red Sox face each other three more times this season in Boston from Sept. 24 through the 26th.