After seeing a three-run advantage slip away in the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader at Fenway Park, the Yankees snatched the lead back in the top of the eighth inning. But with closer Clay Holmes under the weather, getting the final three outs up just one run in the home half of the ninth would be an indigestion-inducing experience for manager Aaron Boone looking to avoid a sweep of twin bill.
With a runner on first and two gone in the top of the ninth, Oswald Peraza – the 23-year-old who had an .832 OPS in his first 18 big league games a season ago only to falter terribly at the start of his follow-up act and spend most of this year at Triple-A – would see just one pitch — an 81 mph slider from Boston reliever John Schreiber — sending it 403-feet into the night and into the seats atop the Green Monster for a two-run homer.
“Incredible moment, right there, for me,” Peraza said, speaking through an interpreter after the Yanks’ 8-5 win. “Especially in that inning, we definitely wanted those runs right there, so to be able to come through and connect there, incredible.”
Peraza aggressively pumped his first after seeing the ball land over the wall as he rounded the bases, and his manager liked the show of emotions from the infielder.
“It was good to see him really get into a ball,” Boone said of the 103.6 mph exit velocity round-tripper.
After beginning the season 9-for-52 (.173) in his first 19 games over two stints with the big league club. Peraza was called up for good in late August and the results got worse: 6-for-33 (.061) in his first 10 games. With four hits across the doubleheader Thursday (including a double in the five-run second inning), he now has 15 in his last 40 at-bats (.375) with six extra-base hits over his last 10 games.
“I feel like he’s in the fight a little better,” Boone said earlier this week on the Talkin’ Yanks podcast. “And hopefully, by continuing to get regular at-bats up here he continues to get more and more comfortable, continues to make the necessary adjustments. So we’ll see.”
Peraza echoed the sentiment from his manager after Thursday’s nightcap.
“Yeah, definitely more consistent,” he said. “I think overall I have a string of games here in the big leagues, and this game at this level it’s about adjustments and I’m feeling more comfortable making more consistent adjustments and having better and better at-bats overall. For sure definitely feeling more comfortable.”
The skipper added that Peraza’s hits have been coming between shortstop and third base and “he hasn’t been driving a lot of balls. Today, drove the double and obviously the big homer.”
“Well, I think today he clicked. I think he’s been getting some results lately, but tonight was a lot better,” Boone said. “He’s capable of that, he’s capable of driving the ball, hitting the ball with authority on a line, he’s strong, he’s got bat speed. Working through things just mechanically to get into better striking position. But I thought he had some good ones tonight.”
Peraza has also been making some fine plays at third base, and in the win started one of three double plays that helped starter Clarke Schmidt get out of a few jams.
“Feel like he’s done a really nice job defensively,” Boone said earlier this week, “so hopefully he can continue to build on some of his offensive success he’s had over the past week or so and really, really finish strong here and build some momentum for him going into the winter.”