Yankees find relief in marathon win over Red Sox

BOSTON -- Following their 16-inning triumph over the Boston Red Sox that spanned 5 hours, 50 minutes, the New York Yankees used phrases you would expect: They said it was a big win, an important win.

But to truly understand the immensity of their 4-1 victory, you really have to think about if they had lost this game.

It would have been their 20th loss in 27 games. It would have wasted their best pitching performance of the season, with Luis Severino nearly matching Red Sox ace Chris Sale pitch for pitch before the entire bullpen combined for nine scoreless innings, culminating with their last reliever, Ben Heller, throwing the final two for the win. They would have lost in the final inning for the second consecutive night.

They would be heading into a tough schedule in which they have a day-night doubleheader Sunday at Fenway Park followed by a three-game trip to Minnesota -- which includes a day game Wednesday after a night game Tuesday -- then a flight to Seattle to play four beginning Thursday. The Yankees will still do this, with a shot bullpen. But at least they have Saturday's victory to lighten their load.

"It is an important win," said manager Joe Girardi, who wondered if the club soda he had opened before the 4:05 p.m. game still had any fizz in it after he finished his postgame talk more than six hours later.

Girardi hadn't yet figured out the exact impact the win had taken on his roster when he spoke to the media. If the game had gone on, Heller would have probably pitched one more inning, and then starter CC Sabathia was the most likely next man up.

Now with a short bullpen, Girardi will start Sabathia in Game 1 of Sunday's doubleheader, with Bryan Mitchell likely be called up for relief support. Masahiro Tanaka will still take the ball in Game 2.

Guys like Heller and Jonathan Holder, who threw three scoreless innings, might be sent down before Sunday's twin bill because the bullpen is exhausted two games into the second half.

They would have to deal with all these issues, even if Didi Gregorius hadn't hit a go-ahead single in the 16th to become the first Yankee in history to knock a game-winning hit that late at Fenway. The Yankees teamed up to add two more runs for a win and learned a lesson.

"You never give up," Gregorius said.

They needed one of their veterans to turn what was a quick-moving game into a marathon. In the ninth, Matt Holliday -- who just came off the DL Friday -- nailed a solo home run off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, who has dominated right-handed hitters all season.

Holliday was part of Red Sox manager John Farrell's protest in the 11th inning on the odd double play attempt that resulted in Holliday sliding back into first, even though he had already been forced out at second. That added a near-five-minute delay as the umpires tried to figure out what was going on.

In the 16th inning, Gregorius' game-winning hit was set up by Jacoby Ellsbury's double and Chase Headley's single.

It was nearly 10 p.m. at that point. Headley thought the game would have been long over. In fact, he was thinking to himself that with Severino and Sale cruising, the Yankees would find a way to scratch out two and the game might go just two-and-a-half hours in Boston.

Instead, it went nearly six hours, but the Yankees won. It felt good, because they haven't done much winning lately. Plus, 3.5 games behind the Red Sox feels a lot more manageable than 5.5.

The Yankees will try to build on it on Sunday, attempting to win back-to-back games for the first time since June 12.