What an awful way to snap an eight-game winning streak. The Red Sox got an outstanding performance from Eduardo Rodriguez tonight, but Addison Reed and Joe Kelly combined to implode and give the Yankees a win. It’s a little unfair to weigh their contributions equally as Reed was clearly more responsible, but the eighth inning in which they pitched was an all-around horrible frame.
As for the offense, they had a few big swings but it was a frustrating night for much of the game. They left some chances with runners in scoring position and then couldn’t come through in a golden opportunity in the ninth largely thanks to yet another terrible decision on the basepaths. This game was so good for so long, and then it was decidedly not.
As I said, it didn’t always look like it was going to be a strong outing from Rodriguez. In particular, the southpaw looked a little shaky in the first inning as he threw 30 pitches and (by my unofficial count) only one non-fastball. He was predictable, and even worse was having some problems with control. It was a bad combination that led to a ton of inefficiency. Rodriguez would allow two batters to reach via walk in the inning, but would eventually get out of the inning unschathed with a little help from a two-out sliding grab by Jackie Bradley in center field.
That first inning aside, things were mostly smooth for Rodriguez against a Yankees offense that is suddenly starting to slump after looking like their lineup from 90 years ago in the first half. He’d set them down 1-2-3 in the second, and fourth. In the third, he did allow a one-out double to Aaron Hicks, but was able to come up big against both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez by inducing a pop up and getting Judge to strike out on a high fastball.
He’d give up another double in the fifth, but Ronald Torreyes was not able to advance beyond second base. That cutter I mentioned above came into play in this inning, as he froze Hicks with a backdoor cutter on the outside corner to end the inning. The pitch was, in a word, disgusting. He broke it out again in the sixth for yet another backdoor strikeout. If he’ locating that pitch on a consistent pitch, my heart goes out to his opponents.
In all, it was an impressive outing from Rodriguez even if it wasn’t perfect. Those nasty cutters aside, it would be nice to see him be willing to lean on his secondaries a little more rather than just pounding the opponent with fastballs. Additionally, there was some early inefficiency and some loud contact that just barely stayed in the yard. All that being said, the positives far outweighed the negatives. After his last start, I said he needed to show that kind of performance against a better lineup. The Yankees may be struggling right now, but Rodriguez did just that on Friday night in one of the team’s biggest games so far this year. You can’t be anything less than thrilled with where he’s at right now, and the battle for the fourth rotation spot (if Price is healthy) is going to be very, very interesting.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was a little frustrating but they did just enough against Jaime Garcia. Perhaps most encouragingly was that they used the long ball to do their damage, something that hasn’t exactly been a strength until very recently. Boston got started early in this one, as Mookie Betts drew a one-out walk and Hanley Ramirez followed it up with a two-out home run. Garcia left him a fastball on the inner part of the plate on a 3-1 count, and it was precisely what Ramirez was looking for. The Red Sox designated hitter turned on it and deposited it into the left field bleachers to give his team an early 2-0 lead.
From here, the Red Sox took a stroll down frustration lane. In the second, they got a runner on second after an infield single and a wild pitch, but stranded him there. The third was even worse, as Betts and Andrew Benintendi hit back-to-back singles and put themselves on second and third with one out thanks to great baserunning. After the Yankees intentionally walked Ramirez, Boston had a prime chance to break this game open. Instead, Chris Young struck out and Xander Bogaerts grounded out and Boston left the frame with the same 2-0 lead with which they entered it.
After a 1-2-3 fourth, the Red Sox finally extended their lead a bit in the fifth. This time, it was Benintendi doing the damage on a middle-in fastball with one out. He turned on the pitch and hit a no-doubter out to right field to give Boston a 3-0 lead and stay on his current hot streak. The rookie hitting like this makes this lineup a lot more dangerous.
This led us to the bullpen section of the game, and things took a turn at this point. The seventh was not much of a problem with Matt Barnes on the hill. He did walk the first batter he faced on four pitches, but got out of it without issue after that.
Addison Reed took the eighth, and he didn’t have the same success. The newest member of Boston’s bullpen hit the first batter he faced before he left a slider belt high on the inner part of the plate to Hicks. The Yankees outfielder didn’t crush it, but it went just deep enough to clear the fence in Yankee Stadium’s shallow right field and cut Boston’s lead to one. He followed that up by allowing a single to Sanchez and a walk to Judge, and that would be the end of his night. It was an awful, awful outing.
Things didn’t get much better with Kelly in the game, as he allowed two consecutive singles to start his outing and just like that the Yankees had a 4-3 lead. He’d eventually load the bases again and allow a sacrifice fly before his night was over. Kelly was put in a nearly impossible situation to clean up for Reed, but he didn’t come through. Fernando Abad finished off the inning in one batter, but it was still a 5-3 lead for the Yankees.
That gave the Red Sox one last chance against Aroldis Chapman, and things got off to a hell of a start. The Yankees closer walked the first three batters he faced to immediately load the bases. Benintendi followed that up with a sacrifice fly to bring the Red Sox within one, but it came with a price. For some reason, Eduardo Nuñez decided to try to tag from second and reach third on Hicks’ arm and was thrown out at third. It was an awful baserunning decision that handed New York an out. Mitch Moreland would fly out after that to end this crushing game.
There’s a lot to take away from this game. The baserunning continues to be wildly confusing, and I am waiting to hear the explanation on Nuñez’ decision to try and take third base. As for the bullpen, it was an awful night for a unit that has been so good for most of the year. Every unit is allowed to have some bad nights, but the Red Sox setup crew — mainly Reed — picked a real inopportune night for theirs. Many were clamoring for Craig Kimbrel in that eighth inning, and it made sense with the heart of New York’s lineup coming up. I’d have loved to see it, but it’s hard to get on Farrell too hard for not doing what no one in the league does. Maybe in a few years that’ll be the norm. Either way, as bad as that loss was the Red Sox still hold a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees. They have a tough matchup against Luis Severino on Saturday, but they’ll counter with Drew Pomeranz. Take the next two and they’ll still be in an outstanding spot.