What a long, frustrating game. It started out looking like it would be defined by yet another transcendent performance since Chris Sale, but instead it will be remembered for the mind-numbing length and complete no-show from the Red Sox lineup.
It was clear from the start that this was going to be a good day for Sale despite Brett Gardner kicking things off with a leadoff walk. His stuff was sharp even while allowing the free pass, and he was sort of being squeezed by the ump in that at bat. He recovered from there, though, striking out both Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge in an otherwise harmless first.
In the second, he allowed a leadoff double to Starlin Castro, but recovered with two big strikeouts and a groundout. He allowed another double in the third — this time to Sanchez -- but it came with two outs and he struck out Judge for the second time in the game to get out of another mini jam. That’s the thing about Sale starts. Even when there is a runner in scoring position and the middle of an order coming up, the expectation is still that he’ll get a quick strikeout or two to get out of the inning without any damage. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that feeling about a pitcher.
After that double from Sanchez, Sale was in total control of this start. Not that he wasn’t in control before it, but he took it to another level following that hit. After Sanchez reached base, only one of the next eleven Yankees that Sale faced reached base, and that occurred on an error by Tzu-Wei Lin at third base. In all, Sale would go four more innings after the Sanchez double, allowing one to reach on the error and another to reach on a walk, and that was it. In the meantime, he struck out seven batters during that run.
Despite being comfortably over 100 pitches through seven innings, Sale came back out for the eighth and some (read: me) were worried. He would allow one hit on a blooper to Gardner, but got two outs including a huge strikeout against Sanchez to end his day. All hail Chris Sale.
Craig Kimbrel finished things off for his ace, coming in with two outs in the eighth with Gardner on first and Judge at the plate. In what felt as tense as a postseason at bat, Judge made Kimbrel throw ten pitches but eventually flew out to right field to end the threat.
The Red Sox needed every ounce of that performance from their star pitchers, too, as they struggled to get much of anything going against the Yankees’ ace. Severino didn’t have his best stuff, particularly with his secondaries, but his fastball was still zooming and his command was on point for the most part.
After going down 1-2-3 in the first, the Red Sox did manage to get a couple baserunners in the second with a pair of one-out singles. Jackie Bradley and Sandy Leon failed to come up with the additional hit needed, though, and both runners would be stranded.
The third would be the inning that the Red Sox finally broke through, although not to the extent that one would like. After a quick first out, Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia drew one-out walks before an infield single from Xander Bogaerts would load the bases with just one out. Boston needed Mitch Moreland to at least hit it into the outfield, and that’s exactly what he did. A hit to score multiple runs would obviously have been preferable, but Moreland could manage just a sacrifice fly to score a single run in the inning, and the game.
Starting with that sacrifice fly, Severino went on to retire 14 consecutive Red Sox before Lin singled to begin the bottom half of the eighth with Tyler Clippard on the mound. Despite facing one of the worst relievers in baseball this year, though, the Red Sox couldn’t muster any more offense and went to the ninth still only leading by one.
The lack of offense finally came back to bite them at the worst possible time. Matt Holliday came to the plate to begin the top half of the ninth, and he jumped all over a mistake pitch from Kimbrel. Boston’s closer left a fastball middle-in, and the big Yankee did not miss it. He smashed it into the Monster Seats and just like that the game was tied and Chris Sale lost his chance at a win despite his valiant effort. It appeared to be getting worse after that, too, when Bogaerts made a horrible error on a lackadaisical throw to first. Jacoby Ellsbury would then steal second to get the Yankees a runner in scoring position with nobody out, and it was looking real bad. Kimbrel would settle in from there, though, striking out the next three batters to preserve the tie.
With Dellin Betances coming in for the Yankees in the ninth, the Sox offense continued to struggle by going down 1-2-3. That led to Heath Hembree in the tenth against the top of New York’s lineup, and while he allowed one batter to reach on a walk, he didn’t allow anyone to advance past first base and got a big third out against Aaron Judge.
It looked like the Red Sox would be able to pull through in the bottom half of the tenth with Chasen Shreve on the bump for New York. Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley started things off with singles to give Boston two runners with nobody out. Of some controversy was Benintendi not attempting to get to third on Bradley’s single into right field. Personally, I was fine with not risking an out against Judge’s strong arm, but that extra base turned out to be fairly important. After Chris Young struck out in his pinch hit appearance, Lin hit a line drive to the right-center field gap that was caught by Judge. If Benintendi were on third, he’d have scored. Instead, it was the second out and Betts popped out to right field to end scoring chance and the inning. It’s also worth mentioning that bunting with either Young or Leon (who Young pinch hit for) would have been another option with nobody out.
The top half of the eleventh is when this game just completely lost its damn mind. Hembree came back out to start the frame but was removed after walking Holliday on four pitches to start things off. Then, with Robby Scott in, Ellsbury hit a grounder to first base and Holliday forgot how to play baseball. Holliday started towards second, and when Moreland threw the ball there to get the first out Holliday doubled back towards first for no reason at all. He went sliding back into the bag — after he was already thrown out at second — preventing Moreland from covering and allowing Ellsbury to get in safely. It sure seemed like an obvious case of interference, but the umps simply didn’t call it. After about five minutes of conversation, the call remained the same and John Farrell put the game into protest. After all of that, Scott retired the next two batters to keep the game tied.
In the bottom half, the Red Sox once again got their leadoff runner on, and Pedroia even moved over to second on a wild pitch with nobody out. With the middle of the lineup up, Boston had to come through here. Except, they didn’t. Bogaerts and Ramirez flew out weakly and Moreland struck out swinging.
Blaine Boyer came in next for the Red Sox, and after a leadoff walk he induced a double play on a bunt and ended the inning after facing just three batters. Unfortunately, the Red Sox also went down 1-2-3 in their next turn. Boyer would come back out for the next frame as well, but left with the trainer after his warmup tosses. That led to Brandon Workman coming in for the heart of New York’s lineup, but he got the job done. He struck out Sanchez, walked Judge and induced a flyout from Holliday. With two outs, Judge tried to steal second, but Christian Vazquez was having none of that.
After Boston went 1-2-3 against Jonathan Holder — who tossed three scoreless innings in this one — they called upon Fernandez Abad in the top half of the 14th. It didn’t go well for the lefty, as he allowed a walk and a single while recording just one out. That led Farrell to call upon Doug Fister, who was scheduled to start on Tuesday, to finish things off. He came through, and we stayed at a 1-1 score heading to the bottom of the 14th. Unfortunately, the Red Sox couldn’t do anything after Bogaerts led off the frame with a walk against Aroldis Chapman.
That led to the 15th, with the top of the order coming up for New York and Fister back out for Boston. Both teams would get one batter on via a walk in the 15th, but once again both teams failed to score.
Finally, the score changed in the 16th inning, but it was the wrong team putting runs on the board. Fister started off that frame by allowing a double to Ellsbury that was followed by a base hit to put runners on the corners. From there, Didi Gregorius smacked a base hit to knock in the go-ahead run and Austin Romine followed that up with an RBI single of his own.
So, the Red Sox entered the bottom of the 16th — just shy of six hours after first pitch — trailing by three. After having done nothing at the plate all day, it was hard to be excited about their chances of a late comeback. They proved that lack of excitement to be correct, going down 1-2-3 to end the game.
There’s not much else I really want to say about this garbage game. On the one hand, the Yankees pitching — particularly Severino -- was outstanding. Still, the Red Sox had some chances to do damage early and get Sale his win in regulation. The offense, particularly the stars near the top, are wholly to blame for this one, with a little sliver to also go to Kimbrel for the home run he allowed. Beyond the results of this game, there’s also the implications for what it means for the rest of the doubleheader. Expect plenty of roster moves on Sunday morning. Now, go get some rest. We have at least 18 more innings to play tomorrow.