What a game. As a Red Sox fan, it wasn’t always fun to watch, but as a baseball game this was a thrill ride. It started out as a pitchers duel that had no business being so close. Chris Sale cruised through his start, but once again got no support. Then, it turned into a display of poor bullpen performance and even poorer management. Finally, it turned into a show of young talent in the Red Sox lineup. They needed some clutch swings from the bats, and they got them from a couple of rookies. Just an incredible game all-around, and the Red Sox came out on the right end of it.
This was a pitcher’s duel throughout, but it was really a tale of two different offensive performances. That wouldn’t be clear if you just looked at the box score, as both teams struggled to string baserunners together to form any real rallies, but one lineup looked to be on the verge of coming through against the opponent’s starter (though they never did), and the other looked mostly overmatched all night long.
The lineup that looked like they were ready to break out was Boston’s, as they made hard contact against Jordan Montgomery throughout the southpaw’s start. It was clear from the very beginning that is was going to be one of those games, as Eduardo Nuñez started the game off with a hard-hit fly ball to the left-center field gap that was tracked down by Aaron Hicks on a diving catch. In fact, the Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in that inning but all three outs were well hit. The same could be said about their third inning. Hicks would come through again with another great catch tracking down a well-hit ball to the left-center field gap in the sixth.
Hard hit outs don’t count for anything, though, and the Red Sox offense only managed to score one run off the Yankees starter despite being all over him all game. Much of that was due to bad luck, but the reason doesn’t really matter in the moment. The fact is they didn’t give Sale the run support he deserved....again.
Their one run off Montgomery came in the fifth on a rally that was started by a Brock Holt walk. This time, aggressive baserunning paid off for the Red Sox as the super utility man was able to get over to second on a pitch in the dirt. It didn’t skip too far away from Yankees catcher Austin Romine, but Holt read it well and was able to advance. This turned out to be a huge play, as with two outs Jackie Bradley came through with a single through the middle that knocked Holt in. Obviously, he doesn’t score if he doesn’t advance on the play. Considering the inning ended right after that at bat, he likely doesn’t score at all without the heads up baserunning.
On the other end of things, Sale was mostly his typical Sale self. I’d say he looked a little bit off in this one, particularly with his slider, but that would be picking nits. He had the Yankees lineup off-balance all night for the most part and rolled through New York’s order.
The lefty cruised through the first four innings, giving up a couple of baserunners but ending each of the first three frames with a strikeout and compiling five K’s all together through that point of the game. One Yankees batter made it to second, but they wouldn’t get beyond that point.
The fifth was the inning where New York broke through and tied the game — immediately after Boston took a 1-0 lead on Bradley’s single — but it’s hard to pin it on Sale. He did allow a one-out single to Chase Headley on a line drive, but that was all that was his fault. After getting a strikeout for out number two, he was facing off against Romine to try to end the inning. The catcher hit a fly ball to deep right field, but it wasn’t deep enough to leave the yard. Instead, Betts had it in his sights right up against the wall, but the ball simply bounced off the heel of his glove. Betts is one of the best defensive players in baseball regardless of position, and seeing him mess such an easy play up was completely and totally baffling. It was scored a triple, but it was very clearly a play that Betts should have made With two outs, Headley was off on contact and able to score on the play and tie the game up.
Sale would end up going seven innings in the game and racked up yet another double-digit strikeout game. This time he got 12, with his final coming on a 99 mph fastball -- his fastest of the night — on his 114th pitch. He is legitimately unfair.
So, this would turn into a bullpen game, and that’s an advantage for the Yankees. They went with David Robertson first, and he set Boston down in 1 2⁄3 innings. That led to Dellin Betances for the eighth, and he set down the top-third of the Red Sox lineup in order.
John Farrell turned to his bullpen for the bottom half of the eighth, and this time he went to Matt Barnes against the top three hitters in New York’s order. It...did not go well. Barnes got one quick out, then lost his control. He walked Hicks, allowed a single to Judge and walked Gary Sanchez to load the bases with one out. Farrell opted to leave Barnes in the game, and after getting to a full count on Todd Frazier he allowed a deep flyout to center field, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Robby Scott came in to finish the inning.
This was bad managing by Farrell. I’ve been a Barnes apologist all year, but Addison Reed was acquired to come in to that spot. Farrell has said Kimbrel won’t be in the eighth inning because they just traded for an eighth inning guy, but then didn’t use said eighth inning guy. Then, when it was fairly clear from the start that this was an outing in which Barnes didn’t have his control, Scott was the only reliever warming. Not having Reed or Kimbrel ready at least for that bases loaded situation is inexcusable. Barnes was bad, but Farrell was worse.
Anyway, it was on to the ninth and the Red Sox needed to make something happen against Aroldis Chapman. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the same Chapman that made an appearance on Friday night when he couldn’t find the zone. He started the inning off with a three-pitch strikeout. Then, it was Rafael Devers’ turn. The kid didn’t miss, as he took a 103 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate and smacked it over the fence in left-center field for a 106 mph home run to tie the game. It’s hard to oversell how impressive the swing was, even putting aside that Devers is only 20 years old. Just an incredible piece of hitting. It was just the second home run Chapman has allowed to a left-handed hitter in the majors. Chapman would get out of the inning without allowing another run.
With the bottom-third of the Yankees lineup coming up for the bottom of the ninth, Farrell opted for Reed over Kimbrel. The former Met uncharacteristically began things with a walk, and the runner would move to second on a sacrifice bunt. That brought up Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carl Willis went out to have a chat with Reed. I only bring this up because, after Reed threw the first pitch in the dirt, Farrell tried to go get Kimbrel in the middle of the at bat. Of course, a pitcher must complete an at bat after a mound visit before a change can be made, so Farrell was sent back to the dugout. Ellsbury moved the runner to third on a groundout to second, and Kimbrel entered with a man on third and two down. After two balls to start the at bat, Dirty Craig came through with the inning-ending strikeout.
Chapman would come back out for the top of the tenth, and for some reason John Farrell sent Mitch Moreland in to pinch hit. That at bat predictably ended in a strikeout, but the Yankees closer followed that up by hitting Jackie Bradley and walking Nuñez. That compelled New York to call upon new addition Tommy Kahnle, who immediately walked Betts to load the bases with one out. So, it was up to Benintendi, and of course he came through. The rookie continued his tear with a single into right field to knock in the go-ahead run. After Hanley Ramirez struck out with the bases still loaded — his fourth strikeout of the game — Devers had another chance. He smoked a line drive, but once again the Yankees outfield robbed a hit as Gardner made a really nice catch going back to the track.
That brought Kimbrel back out to try and save this game against the heart of New York’s lineup. He’d start things off with a groundout to first base on a nice play by Moreland, who was left in as a defensive replacement. That was followed by a strikeout of Judge and a Sanchez pop up to end the game and give Boston a big, wild victory.
So, the Red Sox take a 5.5-game lead over the Yankees, and they certainly earned it. There were some frustrating moments in this one and some things that need to be addressed. Someone needs to grab a hold of that eighth inning job. Farrell needs to be better with the bullpen. The offense needs to score more for Sale. Those are future concerns, though. For now, just bask in the glorious win. The Red Sox will be back at it on Monday with Doug Fister taking the mound for a makeup game against the Indians.