The GCL Yankees 1 were pushed to the brink, but on Sunday they responded. They evened their best-of-three championship series with the GCL Red Sox by winning 6-5, and they will play Monday in a winner-take-all final game.
The Yankees and Red Sox were deadlocked at 1-1 going into the top of the fifth. After two quick outs, Yankees catcher Alvaro Noriega singled, and he was moved to third after walks to Cesar Diaz and Jorge Mateo. After a pitching change, Bryan Cuevas also drew a walk, scoring Noriega and giving the Yankees the lead. The Yankees had to be happy getting a run on one hit after having two out and nobody on. They must have been really happy when Thairo Estrada followed the Cuevas walk with a grand slam, giving the Yankees a 6-1 lead. Estrada also homered on Saturday.
Yankees starter Luis Cedeno, arguably their best pitcher this season, was strong on Sunday, going 5.2 innings of three-hit ball, allowing one unearned run, and striking out five. It’s when he left the game that things got hairy.
Reliever Deshorn Lake was able to strand a Cedeno runner in the bottom of the sixth, but the beginning of the seventh did not go his way. The first three batters reached on two singles and a walk to load the bases. Lake then allowed a two-run double, threw a wild pitch to score another run, got a groundout, gave up a single, and hit a guy. That was enough, as Travis Hissong came in to relieve. Hissong struck out the first batter he faced, and Alvaro Noriega picked a runner off of first for a double play, stranding the tying run on second base.
Hissong went on to finish the game perfectly while striking out three more batters, very much earning the save.
Estrada’s grand slam was by far the biggest hit of the game, but the Yankees also got four hits, a walk, a run, and an RBI from shortstop Jorge Mateo, who had been hitless since returning from a lengthy injury absence this week. Alexander Palma had two hits, and Alvaro Noriega and Cesar Diaz had one apiece.
Noriega had the huge pickoff in the seventh, but he can also claim to be the first catcher to throw out Rusney Castillo in American professional baseball. The Red Sox debuted their expensive free agent signing today in the leadoff spot as the designated hitter against the Yankees, and he singled and struck out in two at-bats. Noriega gunned him down trying to steal in the first inning.
The Yankees will likely have pitchers Simon De La Rosa, Derek Callahan, and Orby Tavares available for multiple innings on Monday as they attempt to win the championship.