The Red Sox came into this series in New York looking to make a statement. They are playing the top team in their division, their number one rival, and one of the scariest lineups in baseball to start the year. With a good series, they’d put themselves back into the conversation of division favorites. With a great series (read: sweep), they’d put themselves atop the division. That quest started on Tuesday, and things got off to a good start.
The offense did their job against a struggling pitcher in Masahiro Tanaka. As I mentioned in the series preview (yeah, this is a not-so-humblebrag. Sue me), the Yankees pre-2017 ace has had some real problems this season and they’ve centered around the longball. That would be Boston’s primary source of scoring on Tuesday night, although the their offense didn’t start that way.
Instead, it started in the first when Mookie Betts led off the game with a single and moved to third on another single from Andrew Benintendi. Both balls were hit decently well, although Benintendi’s could have been a double play had Didi Gregorius not taken a step in the wrong direction upon contact. Either way, that put runners on the corners for Boston and they were able to plate a run on a groundout from Xander Bogaerts. Unfortunately, that was all they’d get in the inning.
They’d get back to it in the fourth, and it was at that point they’d really start to unleash on Tanaka. The frame started with a leadoff walk from Bogaerts — a walk that broke a streak of nine consecutive outs from the Red Sox lineup. They took quick advantage of the leadoff free pass when Mitch Moreland destroyed a two-run home run into the right field bleachers.
Immediately after that, Hanley Ramirez drove one out to the seats in left field to give Boston back-to-back dingers and their fourth run of the game.
That was all they would score in the fourth, but they’d come right back on in the fifth and add another one against Tanaka. This time, it was Benintendi with two outs as he crushed one out to right field for his third homer in his last two games. It seems like he’s officially put that slump behind him.
After that, it was a whole lotta nothing for the Red Sox offense, as they were totally shut down by the Yankees bullpen.
Meanwhile, it was a very Drew Pomeranz kind of start for Drew Pomeranz. The lefty, of course, had looked like he turned a corner in his last two outings. He’d been able to rack up strikeouts all year long, but his last two times out included an efficiency that wasn’t seen from him all season. It was worth considering, though, that those two outings were against the Rangers and White Sox, which are not the most intimidating of offenses. So, this start against the Yankees and their dynamic lineup was a huge test.
It got off to a great start, with Pomeranz jacking his fastball up to 95 mph and recording three strikeouts in the first inning, with just one baserunner allowed. The second didn’t go as well, although it wasn’t entirely his fault. There, he allowed a one-out walk to Aaron Hicks that was followed by a bloop single that allowed Hicks to head to third. Betts tried to throw him out at the bag, but couldn’t get set and made a bad throw that bounced off Hicks and ended up out of play. That allowed a run to score and put a runner on third base with just one out. Fortunately, Pomeranz was able to get out of it with a strikeout and a line out.
He settled down a bit from there, allowing just a walk in the third and a couple of infield singles in the fourth. However, he was also going deep into counts all game long — he had 11 full counts over his five innings of work — and the efficiency that he’d gained in his previous two outings eluded him. Additionally, his velocity was no longer consistently in the mid-90s after the first few innings, although he was able to ramp up to 92-93 when he needed it.
Despite nearing 100 pitches, Pomeranz was allowed to go back out for the fifth, which seemed like a fine idea to me provided they had someone ready to go at the first sign of trouble. They did not. Chris Carter led the inning off with a home run to bring the score to 5-2, but Pomeranz continued to pitch. With his pitch count rising and rising, he got two quick outs before allowing a double to Aaron Judge, who he was allowed to face for some reason. Even after that, with about 120 pitches, Pomeranz stayed in the game to face Matt Holliday and ended up getting the strikeout on a sick curveball.
In an ideal world, Pomeranz would be more efficient, but this was a fine start all things considered. It probably makes one take a step back after his last couple outings, which is fair. However, if you’re going to take credit away for the poor lineups he faced in his good starts, you have to give him a little extra credit for facing a top-three offense in the league on Tuesday.
From there, it was up to the bullpen starting with Robby Scott. It was a curious decision to bring Scott in to face a righty, a switch-hitter and a lefty who doesn’t have platoon splits. He ended up allowing two singles to start the inning — albeit weakly hit ones — and a run would score on a double play. The Red Sox would take that trade, though, as a flyout ended the inning with just the one run scoring and Boston still had a two-run lead.
That led to Joe Kelly getting the seventh against the top of the Yankees lineup, and he and his 100+ mph fastball (one heater clocked in at 104 mph according to both NESN and MLB Gameday) got through the frame unscathed with just one baserunner allowed on a walk.
Matt Barnes came in for the eighth and immediately allowed a leadoff double on a ball that probably could have been caught by Betts but was still well struck by Matt Holliday. The runner would get to third on a groundout before Barnes induced a pop out to give him two runs. That was all Farrell wanted to see, though, as he called upon Craig Kimbrel to come in for the eighth inning yet again. The closer got a strikeout with two outs, but the curveball was in the dirt and got by Christian Vazquez, allowing a run to score and the inning to continue. It was a tough pitch and it took a weird bounce, but Vazquez still probably should have been able to get in front of it. After a walk, Kimbrel ended the inning with the one-run lead preserved with a strikeout of Carter.
Kimbrel came back out in the ninth and set the Yankees down 1-2-3, all going down by way of the K. It got a little scary there in the late innings, but Pomeranz was good enough, as was the bullpen, and the Red Sox did enough damage against Tanaka to take game one of this relatively important series.