Yanks close in on playoff berth by beating White Sox
By Grace Raynor and Scott Merkin
NEW YORK -- The Yankees got one step closer to the playoffs Sunday with a 6-1 win over the White Sox. New York remains four games behind American League East-leading Toronto, while cutting its magic number to clinch a postseason berth.
The Yankees can clinch one of the Wild Card berths on Monday if they beat Boston and the Angels, Rangers and Twins all lose.
Brian McCann delivered a sacrifice RBI to score Jacoby Ellsbury in the first after a walk and two Jose Abeu errors loaded the bases for the Yanks. The deciding run came in the sixth on Dustin Ackley's homer. Later that inning, Rob Brantly's passed ball allowed Slade Heathcott to score from third, making it 3-0, and Ellsbury's RBI single in the seventh made it 4-1. The final runs came in the eighth.
Chicago's run came in the seventh when pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia hit his 13th homer over the center-field wall. It was just the second pinch-hit homer this season for the White Sox, who finished 36-45 on the road.
In his first start against the Yankees since 2013, Erik Johnson took the loss after giving up seven hits and two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Rookie Luis Severino picked up the win for the Yankees, his fifth, after throwing six innings of five-hit, scoreless ball.
"Outstanding again today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Severino. "You look at his two starts since he had the tough one [in Toronto] and he's been really, really good. He kept his pitch down for four innings. The last two, he had to work a little harder and that's why I took him out, but I thought he threw a really good game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Ackley steps up: Ackley has earned more playing time over the last few weeks and has started at second base in place of Stephen Drew, who has experienced a cold and dizziness for the last 10 days. Ackley's solo shot in the sixth over the right-field wall was his ninth homer and third in September.
"I think [Ackley's] healthy, and I think he's made some slight adjustments," Girardi said. "[Hitting coach Jeff] Pentland had him early on when he was a Mariner and was familiar with what he needed to do, and he's worked really hard and got himself in the mix." More >
Getting out of the sixth: Severino was in a bit of a jam in the sixth inning, when he had runners on first and third with one out. He walked Adam Eaton and then gave up a single to Jose Abreu to put the tying run on third. But Severino's defense bailed him out as Didi Gregorius turned a 6-3 double play to end the inning. It was the fourth double play of the day for the Yankees.
"We had the one inning, but Severino was tough," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We didn't really have too much. We had the one inning we got something going. But he had two double plays that really took us out of it."
That sort of season: The good news for Johnson after the first inning was the right-hander still had his no-hitter intact. The bad news was that his shutout was gone. Johnson walked Ellsbury, followed by two Abreu errors and Brian McCann's sacrifice fly.
"You don't really see him do that too much, especially like those," said Ventura of Abreu. "It just started off and it didn't get any better. He shook it off and that's something he knows he needs to improve on and he felt as bad as anybody.
Valiant effort: Johnson's fifth start since returning from Triple-A Charlotte represented a career high in pitches at 121. He worked his way out of trouble through five innings, but Ackley's homer and two walks spelled his end in the sixth. Johnson might get one more start this season, although the White Sox haven't announced their final series starters against Detroit.
"It was another one of those days where runners are going to be on base. That's how it's going to be," said Johnson, who walked four and struck out five. "You just have to grind 'em out and keep throwing up zeros as best you can. Definitely against that offense you have to fill up the zone with a lot of quality pitches. They don't chase a whole lot and they make you throw the ball over the plate."
"That's a hypothetical. I think Tanaka is going to be fine, so that is not too much of a concern of mine. But he's pitched extremely well and we have a ton of confidence in him." -- Girardi, when asked if Severino would be a possibility to start in the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser if Masahiro Tanaka wasn't available More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Yankees have drawn at least 3 million fans for 17 straight seasons. The 2015 total to date is 3,036,446. They lead the American League in average home attendance and are fourth in all of the Majors behind the Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants. The Yankees are also one win away from 10,000 franchise wins.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox:Jeff Samardzija (10-13, 5.04 ERA) makes what could be his last start of the season and possibly in a White Sox uniform against the same Royals team he opened 2015 against with a 7:10 p.m. CT first pitch Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field. Samardzija is coming off of a brilliant one-hit performance against the Tigers, but he is 0-3 with an 8.15 ERA against the Royals this season.
Yankees: The Yankees will send Ivan Nova to the mound to open up a four-game set with the visiting Red Sox starting Monday. Nova rejoined the rotation in place of Tanaka, who is dealing with a strained right hamstring. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. Nova has 10 career starts and 11 career appearances against the Red Sox, going 3-5 with a 4.99 ERA in that span.
Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.