What a wild game, which is quickly become the norm for this Red Sox team. It was a roller coaster of emotions that included a strong start from Drew Pomeranz until the lefty was forced to exit early for back spasms. It included a couple of early dingers from the Red Sox lineup — from Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez — but some disappointing at bats as well. It included horrible bullpen management from John Farrell in the middle innings and even worse pitching from the relievers in that same time period. But, most importantly, it included yet another late-game comeback from this lineup. It’s becoming increasingly clear as the year goes on that this Red Sox team just doesn’t quit. Thrilling comebacks have become the norm, and it doesn’t matter who they’re facing. The Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball, but they were able to put a rallies together against Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman, all of whom can be fabulous pitchers. It has been a wildly fun month of baseball.
Early on in this game, everything was comin’ up Red Sox. On the mound, Pomeranz was continuing to pitch like he has all year long. Granted, he wasn’t incredibly sharp, but against a frightening Yankees lineup (I don’t care if some guys have struggled a bit in the second half, they are still scary dammit) he kept runs off the board. He had most of his curveballs spinning well, and while his fastball wasn’t flying out of his hand quite like it was the last time he faced the Yankees, he was locating the pitch and getting enough velocity behind it.
Although he kept runs off the board in the time he was able to pitch, he got into a little bit of trouble in just about every inning. In the first, Brett Gardner hit a single and moved along to second before the inning was ended with him stranded in scoring position. The second saw a well-hit double from Chase Headley, but he was eventually stranded at third. In Pomeranz’ third and final inning, the southpaw got Gary Sanchez to sit down on a huge strikeout with runners on first and second.
As I said, he’d have to leave with back spasms in the next inning, but if this is just a short-term concern then there’s no worrying about Pomeranz’ performance. He’s been so consistently solid-to-great for such a long stretch of this season, and that continued on Friday. The Red Sox need that moving forward.
Meanwhile, on offense, the Red Sox had a solid start against Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery. Well, it was a delayed solid start. The first inning was uneventful, but Boston got things going in the second. After a couple of quick outs to begin the frame, the Sox started to rally. Xander Bogaerts got things started with a double off the Monster, continuing to show signs of life that have been missing for so much of the year. Devers came up next, and did what he does best. Montgomery served him a hanging breaking ball on the outer half of the plate, and Devers launched it the other way for a two-run home run. It gave Boston a 2-0 lead.
Things quieted down for the next couple innings for Boston’s lineup, as they drew a walk in each of the next two frames but couldn’t do anything with the baserunners. Then, in the fifth, they’d tack on an insurance run on yet another home run. This time, it was Vazquez who led off the frame by taking a fastball right over the heart of the plate and crushing it over everything in left field. It gave Boston a 3-0 lead, and that insurance run would prove to be important.
So, at this point things were up to the Red Sox bullpen for a much longer period than they had expected. Brandon Workman was called upon first, and though he struggled both with his performance and his velocity, he got through 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings to preserve the shutout.
That brought on Matt Barnes for the sixth, and he wasn’t so productive. He got a quick first out, but things took a bad turn after that. Headley came through with his third hit of the game in the second at bat of the inning to put a runner on for Todd Frazier. The former speculative Red Sox trade target got a fastball on the outer half from Barnes and put it over the wall in left-center field. Just like that, the lead was cut down to one. Barnes would allow two singles that sandwiched a strikeout before leaving the game with two on and two out for Joe Kelly.
Kelly came in and got Aaron Hicks to a 1-2 count before losing control of a slider and hitting the Yankees outfielder in the foot. That brought up Aaron Judge with the bases loaded in a terrifying situation. Fortunately, Kelly came through and got a groundout to end the inning.
So, with the 3-2 lead the Red Sox came out in the sixth to face Chad Green out of the Yankees bullpen, and they put forth an uninspiring inning in which one batter reached on a walk. Kelly would come back out to face Gary Sanchez, and the Yankees slugger crushed the first fastball he saw and tied the game at three.
So, at this point, the Yankees had a clean slate and were bringing up a lefty and a switch hitter who prefers to hit from the left side. Seems like a perfect spot for either Robby Scott or Fernando Abad. Instead, John Farrell sticks with Kelly who promptly allows a walk and a single to put two on with nobody out. In this big situation, instead of going to Addison Reed, Farrell went with Heath Hembree. I understand Reed hasn’t impressed since coming to Boston, but he was brought in for these kind of situations.
Anyway, it didn’t go well. Hembree started things off by walking Frazier to load the bases, still with nobody out. The good news is that New York was sending up the bottom of their lineup with Ronald Torreyes. The Yankees infielder came through, though, taking a first-pitch fastball off the wall to knock in a couple and put the Yankees up 5-3. Hembree would strike out the next batter before leaving runners on the corners with one down for Scott. The Red Sox lefty came in to face Gardner and promptly walked him to load the bases right back up with one out. He’d stay in to face Hicks, but he hit him and allowed a run to score. That brought in Reed with the bases loaded, one out and Judge and Sanchez coming up. Fortunately, the setup man came through with a strikeout and a line out to mercifully end the inning with the Red Sox trailing 6-3.
So, now the tables were turned and it was the Red Sox offense that needed to get the job done. To this point, they’d relied on the long ball to produce their offense but hadn’t really been able to sustain any rallies. That changed in a big way in the seventh. After Devers popped up to start the inning, Vazquez singled and Bradley walked to mark the end of the night for Green. Tommy Kahnle came in and promptly loaded the bases on a well-placed infield single from Eduardo Nuñez. Mookie Betts followed that up with a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to two before Andrew Benintendi brought them within one on a huge single. After Hanley Ramirez drew a walk to re-load the bases, Mitch Moreland came in to pinch hit and came through with another single. This one knocked in two runs and it gave Boston a 7-6 lead. The top of the order had an awful game to that point, but they all came through with big at bats in the seventh to complete that rally.
Reed remained in the game for Boston, and though he walked one batter he came through with a scoreless frame that included a couple strikeouts. The Red Sox lineup would tack on a couple more runs against Aroldis Chapman in a rally that included another hit from Devers off the lefty and another Red Sox double steal off New York’s closer. That gave Craig Kimbrel a 9-6 lead to preserve in the ninth, and he struck out the side to complete the save.
What a game. There’s really nothing else to say. Things looked pretty bleak there for a while in the top of the seventh inning, but this team doesn’t give up. They have shown time and time again that they can never be counted out of a game, and it is a wonderful thing. The elephant in the room, of course, is Pomeranz. Hopefully he is okay, but you never really know with back spasms. For now, though, the Red Sox take a five-game lead in the division and have Chris Sale on the bump tomorrow night. Things are good.