2015 will not be a winning season for the Boston Red Sox.
After putting together a six-game winning streak, the Red Sox finally, begrudgingly allowed the Yankees to clinch a playoff berth Thursday night, falling 4-1 in New York. It was their 81st loss of the season, ensuring that .500 is now the best they can do.
For once, Rich Hill looked a little bit human this time around. While he managed to get through a clean first, striking out Alex Rodriguez for his third out, the second proved his undoing. Carlos Beltran cued a high, outside fastball into the right field stands for a very Yankee Stadium home run to start the inning (Blake Swihart is all-too-familiar with those), and Hill quickly got himself back into trouble from there, walking both John Ryan Murphy and Didi Gregorius even as his defense saved him from some hard contact. But with two on and two down, Xander Bogaerts could not quite get to a Brendan Ryan ground ball that made its way into left field to make it 2-0, New York.
And for once, the Red Sox just didn't have all that much fight in them, even with the no-longer-so-great CC Sabathia on the mound for New York. Double play balls from Xander Bogaerts and Rusney Castillo undid positive starts to the third and fourth innings. The fifth saw the Red Sox come close to evening things up, with Mookie Betts singling home Deven Marrero to cut the lead in half before the Yankees intentionally walked Xander Bogaerts to load the bases with two down. Travis Shaw would end up getting ahead 2-0, but could only hit a fly ball to center to end the inning.
From there, the closest the Sox came to getting back into this one was in the seventh, when Mookie Betts just barely missed hitting a solo shot to left field courtesy the wind. In the bottom of the inning, with Jean Machi having replaced Rich Hill, Greg Bird didn't miss on his effort to right field, putting the Yankees ahead 3-1. A third Yankee homer in the bottom of the eighth sealed the deal, allowing the Yankees to finally celebrate against Boston.
The Red Sox came into New York with no real expectation of avoiding this outcome. New York was awfully close to clinching, and while the Red Sox were on a roll, it's damn hard to sweep a four-game series. If nothing else, they made them sweat for it, and oversaw the Yankees' exit from the AL East race. A job well done, frankly. But also one that now leaves them up against it in Cleveland. It's all just...aesthetics, frankly, from here. But the Red Sox will need to sweep in Cleveland if they want to finish the year at .500.