It's been more than four months, but after a 5-1 win over the Yankees produced largely by the youth movement, the Red Sox have themselves a share of third place once more.
There's no trophy for third, obviously, and the Sox aren't rising any higher, but in a year where the only things left to this team are silver linings and consolation prizes, this was a night filled with plenty of them. Not only are the Sox in third, but the Yankees are now on the brink of elimination from the hunt for the East, and their 10,000th franchise win will have to wait another night.
And all because of the kids. It's been a rough September for many of the players who were on fire heading into the month. Travis Shaw, and Jackie Bradley Jr., for two, had seen their offensive numbers dip from extraordinary heights to below league average on the month heading into this game. Both were in need of a big game, to say nothing of Eduardo Rodriguez, who had the chance to cap off his rookie season with a 10th win, or to see his ERA spike up over 4.00 should his night go south.
And go south it did, for all of one inning. Rodriguez fell behind 2-0 to Jacoby Ellsbury, then gave up a double to left. The Yankees sacrificed him over to third and then home with their first and second outs, but got right back to putting on the pressure as Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley laced singles into the outfield Rodriguez was on the ropes in a big way.
But, after getting behind Greg Bird 2-0, Rodriguez fired off three straight strikes, getting Bird to swing through a fastball to get out of the inning with just the one run to his name, and earn some breathing room. That left it his job to keep the Yankees within reach, and this he did admirably, if not always cleanly. The Yankees wasted a leadoff single from John Ryan Murphy in the second, with Didi Gregorius unable to get a bunt down and Alex Rodriguez striking out on high-90s heat up-and-in from Rodriguez even after Dustin Pedroia made a rare gaffe at second to keep New York alive.
After that, the worst of it was past, with Rodriguez only ever having to deal with the occasional base hit. But that was kind of how Ivan Nova's whole night had been. Through five innings, Travis Shaw had been the only one really on top of New York's starter, picking up a singles in both the second and fourth, with the Sox stranding him the first time and Brock Holt grounding into a double play the second. Mookie Betts had led off the game with a double, but was thrown out trying to take home on a Xander Bogaerts ground ball, and other than that a couple third-inning walks were the only real threat the Sox had mustered, and Nova had struck out Marrero, Betts, and Bogaerts to work around those.
That changed in the top of the sixth, however. This time, Travis Shaw was not asked to play the role of table setter, but the cleanup man, with Xander Bogaerts producing a two-out double. Shaw did more than was asked, getting a perfect middle-middle fastball to crush as the first pitch of his at bat, and sending it a long way to right to put the Red Sox ahead 2-0.
With Rodriguez exiting after the sixth, there were three innings of bullpen to go, perhaps inspiring the Red Sox to keep on swinging away. This time, it was Jackie Bradley Jr. getting the job done. Already, Bradley had produced a couple highlight reel catches in a rare return to left field. Then, with Blake Swihart on base in the seventh, he brought his bat to bear, Bradley got just enough of a high fastball to clear the wall in left, going the other way for a two-run shot that left the Red Sox ahead 4-1.
There was one more run to come in the ninth, and again, it was the result of the long ball. This one was a first, too, as Deven Marrero took yet another high fastball--this one from Caleb Cotham--and sent it into the stands in right, where a Yankees fan gave up a chance for some nice loot by kindly returning the ball to the field for Marrero. The Red Sox' young infielder got his memento, and the Red Sox got one more insurance run.
If the difference between 4-1 and 5-1 doesn't seem huge, it was the difference between Robbie Ross allowing the tying run to reach the plate, and simply come up on deck. With Marrero's homer in the mix, the Sox had little reason for concern even as Ross allowed a pair of baserunners to start the frame before pulling a houdini act to end the game with New York still on just the one run.