On the outside looking in at the postseason picture for most of the season, the Yankees finally find themselves in the driver’s seat of the wild-card race.
With a sweep of the Red Sox in Tuesday’s doubleheader in The Bronx, the Yankees are now tied (although percentage points ahead) of Boston for a wild-card spot. The A’s have the other wild-card spot.
The victories, 5-3 and 2-0, both in seven innings, gave the Yankees five straight wins.
And as has been the case throughout the season, neither came easily, as the Red Sox loaded the bases with no one out in the seventh of the opener before Jonathan Loaisiga finished it and Wandy Peralta pitched out of a pair of jams in the nightcap.
“We’ve played more than our share of really close ones,’’ Aaron Boone said after the Game 1 win. “The good thing is, I think our guys are really comfortable in those situations. [Loaisiga] was great. He didn’t flinch.”
Neither have the Yankees, who improved to an MLB best 45-23 in games decided by two runs or fewer. And during their current winning streak, they’ve won the five games by a total of just nine runs.
Loaisiga loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the seventh in the first game before he got pinch-hitter Travis Shaw to line out to left. Loaisiga fell behind Kiké Hernandez 3-0, but came back to strike him out swinging and then fanned Hunter Renfroe to end it, as Loaisiga tossed two shutout innings for the save.
They couldn’t relax in the second game, either, getting just a pair of solo homers from Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton.
Luis Gil started and took a shutout into the fifth inning, when he loaded the bases with two outs.
Peralta entered to face Rafael Devers and the lefty got Devers to ground into a force out.
In the sixth, with runners on first and third and two out, pinch-hitter Bobby Dalbec hit a line shot right back at Peralta, who knocked it down, raced to pick it up and fired to first for the third out.
Chad Green closed it in the seventh for the save.
Just like they have for much of the second half, the Yankees got contributions from everyone — including Andrew Velazquez, who made a pair of defensive gems at shortstop and added a two-run single in the first game and Albert Abreu, who got the final out of the fifth inning of the opener.
Voit delivered a go-ahead, two-run single with the Yankees trailing by a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Former Yankee prospect Garrett Whitlock took over for Tanner Houck to start the bottom of the fifth and walked Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge with one out and was replaced by lefty Josh Taylor to face Joey Gallo.
Gallo worked a walk to load the bases for Voit, who flared a single to center that landed just beyond an outstretched Hernandez to score Gardner and Judge and put the Yankees back in the lead.
Stanton’s pinch-hit single in the fifth hit made it 5-3 and Loaisiga made it through his 34-pitch outing unscathed for his fifth save of the year.
Gil started the nightcap and extended his scoreless streak to 15 ²/₃ innings.
After a leadoff single by J.D. Martinez and a walk to Kyle Schwarber in the second, the right-hander whiffed the next three batters to keep it scoreless.
Voit gave the Yankees the lead with a two-out solo homer to right in the second off ex-Yankee Nathan Eovaldi.
Gil stranded Alex Verdugo at third by getting Rafael Devers to line out to center. The Yankees threatened in the bottom of the inning with singles by Kyle Higashioka and DJ LeMahieu to open the inning. Gardner popped out and Judge flied out to deep center.
With runners on the corners, Joey Gallo struck out.
Stanton led off the bottom of the fourth with his 19th homer of the season. The 441-foot shot made it 2-0.
It was enough for the Yankees to improve to 5-10 against the Red Sox this season. They’ll go for the series sweep Wednesday in The Bronx.