Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees: Looking ahead to ALDS Game 2
I mean let’s be honest. We all knew it would come to this. From the moment Tyler Austin slammed his bat on the ground and Joe Kelly took one step towards home plate and waved him on, it became apparent that this was a special year for the best rivalry in baseball.
The Boston Red Sox put together more wins in 2018 than they had in the entirety of their existence. The New York Yankees hit more home runs in a season than any team ever had before. Both the Red Sox and Yankees eclipsed the illusive 100-win mark and the fanbases seem to be at each other’s throats like I haven’t seen in a decade.
This story could only end one way. And that’s with these two teams meeting in the post-season for the first time since 2004; the year the curse was finally broken.
The Red Sox and Yankees squared off last night in Fenway Park and fans were treated to a little bit of everything. We got home-runs from the power-hitters, exploitation of pitching weaknesses, and a razor-close finish that left both teams with positives and negatives heading into the rest of the series.
In the end, it was the Red Sox edging out a 5-4 victory over the Yankees but it was the Yankees coming on late, scoring 4 unanswered in innings 6-9.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, we should see this pattern throughout the series. The Yankees starting rotation lacks a true ace and the Red Sox bullpen has been inconsistent. Both teams can hit, but it’ll likely be the Red Sox scoring early and the Yankees scoring late.
There are, however, a few finer points I’d like to touch on before game two steps all over my UFC 229 watch party tonight:
I was at Fenway Park for the game last night. It was my first postseason experience and it delivered on all my expectations. To paraphrase the great Ferris Bueller: “It was so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend going.” But for real, it was awesome.
Shout out to the Yankees fan sitting in front of me who got kicked out for vaping. Security was obviously looking for an excuse to throw him out, but I don’t feel like he crossed any lines. Also, I would’ve loved to have cheered in his face when Craig Kimbrel threw that last strike.
Speaking of Kimbrel, I’m actually more impressed by his outing than worried. People will make a big deal out of the Aaron Judge home-run in the 9th and I get that. But after giving up a home-run to the lead-off batter of a monster lineup, the man earned three consecutive strikeouts to win the game. That’s the kind of resilience you want to see in a closer.
The bullpen has been the Achilles heel for the Red Sox this year. At least, that’s the narrative. In reality, Red Sox relievers finished 8th in the league for combined ERA and Batting Average Against. The Yankees are tied with the Red Sox for BAA and actually fall a few spots short of the combined ERA (10th overall).
That said, the narrative can be more powerful than the reality, especially in baseball. As soon as Chris Sale’s pitch count hit the 80s, Yankees fans in the crowd began to chirp about the Red Sox bullpen. And in the end, they were right.
Ryan Brasier gave up 1 hit and 1 walk in a third of an inning. That, plus a fielder’s choice led to the first two runs for the Yankees, both of which were credited to Chris Sale. Brandon Workman entered the game, promptly loaded the bases with a walk, but was able to get a clutch strikeout to end the inning.
Don’t worry Yankees fans! There was still time for Workman to screw things up. He kicked off the 7th with back-to-back hits and was quickly replaced by Matt Barnes who walked his first batter. Again, the Red Sox were faced with a bases-loaded situation, only this time there were no outs.
Barnes actually did a wonderful job. He struck out Giancarlo Stanton for the first out and set up a perfect double-play ball that should’ve ended the inning. The Sox failed to turn two and that led to a fielder’s choice RBI, credited to Workman. Barnes forced another easy grounder to second and the Red Sox got out of a bases-loaded, zero-out situation with just one run scoring. I’ll take that any day.
Perhaps the most telling moment came when Alex Cora decided to put their game-three starter on the mound rather than another reliever. Rick Porcello came in for a 15-pitch outing, earning the first two outs of the inning before Craig Kimbrel forced the Andrew McCuthen pop-fly for out number 3.
It wasn’t a great night for the bullpen, but a win is everything in a five-game series.
The Red Sox now lead the Yankees 1-0 with another big pitching matchup on the horizon. Masahiro Tanaka has been terrible of late – and historically bad against the Red Sox – but he tends to shine in the postseason, with a 1.44 ERA through four October starts. David Price has had a great year so far, but the criticism has always been on the mental end of things. He’s been infamously bad in the playoffs and just as bad against the Yankees. Well this game has both.
For my money, game two is the biggest coin-flip of the series. Who will shake their demons and have the momentum heading into the Bronx on Monday? There’s only one way to find out. Price and Tanaka square off tonight at 8:15 ET and it promises to be a heck of a show.