In the course of three innings, the Red Sox did their best impression of the 2011 team, and then reminded us that they are something entirely different.
It was a game with no need for dramatics at all. Two-thirds of the way through, the Red Sox were clobbering the Yankees. If it wasn't quite the domination we saw from them in that last game against the Tigers, it was still quite an impressive bit of work against a normally stingy pitcher in Ivan Nova. Three straight hits to start the second had brought two runs in, and though the Sox would leave the bases loaded in the inning, homers from Will Middlebrooks in the third and Shane Victorino in the fourth brought in another two runs, and a lengthy rally following Victorino's homer chased Nova's replacement in Preson Claiborne and former Red Sox Cesar Cabral from the game, leaving the Red Sox up, six runs to two.
When they added a seventh in yet another lengthy inning, well, the game should have been in the bag. But a disastrous seventh inning from John Farrell and Boston's bullpen would help the Yankees right back in it.
The first mistake was to let Jake Peavy come back out for the seventh inning. Just by virtue of having 105 pitches on his arm, Peavy was no given to start the frame. Factor in the fact that the game had been moving at a glacial pace leaving Peavy about 150 minutes removed from his first pitch, to go with the five-run lead, and it seemed like a perfect time for Drake Britton or Brandon Workman to start the mop-up work.
Instead, Peavy returned, and was allowed to give up not one, but two baserunners to the Yankees before being pulled.
Now, at this point, even if both the baserunners scored, the Yankees would be facing a decent deficit, but it was certainly not the time to be playing with fire. And yet, out came Matt Thornton, one of the least reliable arms in Boston's pen. Unsurprisingly, Brett Gardner laced a single into center to bring one run home and Derek Jeter walked to bring the tying run to the plate in Robinson Cano. To Thornton's credit, he would get Cano to ground out, but that still put the Sox in a three-run game with men on the corners and one down.
This brings us to our third mistake, though it's not hugely surprising that Farrell made it, since it's something that's been going on all year: Junichi Tazawa was brought into the game with runners on base. While on the whole a very strong relief pitcher, Tazawa has, all the way back to last year, struggled when presented with inherited baserunners. And when John Farrell's overshift on Alfonso Soriano turned a potential double play ball into a ground ball single right off the bat, well, that certainly didn't help.
One way or another, though, Tazawa was in thegame, and proceeded to surrender a wall ball double to Curtis Granderson to bring the Yankees within one, and a ground ball single to Lyle Overay to put them over the top. The Yankees had turned a five-run deficit into a one-run lead. The Red Sox were looking a true disaster of a loss in the eyes.
And then, in the ninth, the Red Sox went to their best book of old tricks, and pulled out a fan favorite: they got to Mariano Rivera.
It certainly wasn't easy, particularly with David Ortiz hitting a rocket right to Lyle Overbay to start the innig. But with two down, Mike Napoli hit a looper into center field that got down in front of Brett Gardner, and out came pinch-runner Quintin Berry to do what he was brought here to do: steal bases. The dash to second was a bit haphazard, but Berry not only slid in safe, he went ahead and took third when the ball got away into center field, giving Stephen Drew an opportunity to knock him in by flipping a Mariano cutter into right field for a base hit, knotting the game at eight-a-side.
Alfonso Soriano would give Craig Breslow some help in holding the score through the end of the ninth, getting himself caught off first, making it to second when Daniel Nava couldn't make the clean catch, and then immediately getting picked off second because, apparently, he thought the Red Sox would just mess it up again. This time the Sox made it count, got the out, and one strikeout later, they were headed to the tenth.
There, the Red Sox would need a little bit of help. Jacoby Ellsbury needed none in reaching base on a single and then stealing second, but with a 1-2 count against Joba Chamberlain, Shane Victorino appeared to go around for what would have been strike three. Joe West, however, thought not, and on the next pitch he saw, Shane won the game with a line drive to right field.
Yes, they needed to go through the formalities of actually having Koji pitch the 1-2-3 bottom of the tenth, but come on.
This should be a lesson game for John Farrell, hopefully. He played with fire, and was all-but burnt for doing so. After an impressive job in the eighth inning against the Tigers Tuesday night (the Scherzer game), this was a pretty big step back, perhaps exposing a hole in his judgement in games that do not require aggression, but still cannot be left to rot quite like this was. Maybe also exposing a hole when it comes to using Matt Thornton and expecting outs, which doesn't seem all that reasonable, on the whole.
Whatever the case, it's one that only cost the Red Sox some rest for their relievers, and a whole lot of stress. Not a win. And that's what really matters for now.
Read more Red Sox:
- Koji Uehara approaching Red Sox history
- The Red Sox don't have a Junichi Tazawa problem
- Should the Red Sox convert prospect Rubby De La Rosa to relief permanently?
- Jake Peavy’s velocity is bouncing back, just in time
- Jackie Bradley Jr. key for the stretch-run and offseason