Once again, the Red Sox were shut down by C.C. Sabathia and, frankly, this is starting to get ridiculous. The good news is they won’t see him for the rest of the regular season, because he seriously has their number. After allowing just one run in six innings in this game, he’s allowed just three runs to the Red Sox all year over 26 innings of work. The Red Sox did have their chances in this one, but they couldn’t come through. On the other end, Eduardo Rodriguez wasn’t at his best but was also the victim of some bad luck.
The Red Sox inability to get anything going against Sabathia has been infuriating all year, but it was particularly frustrating during Thursday’s series-opener in New York. It wasn’t as if the Red Sox had nothing against the Yankees’ veteran southpaw, but rather kept shooting themselves in the foot during potential rallies. There were points when it looked like Boston’s lineup would finally be able to break through against Sabathia for the first time all year, but they couldn’t come through when it mattered most. It wasn’t just a matter of struggling to get the clutch hit, either, as bad defense and bad base running cost them runs on both sides.
The offense against Sabathia was the focus, though. They got started early and it really looked like it was going to be different this time. After a leadoff strikeout, the Red Sox loaded the bases on a throwing error from the Yankees pitcher and two straight walks. With the bases drunk, as Eck would say, and just one out, they needed to come up big. Instead, Xander Bogaerts struck out with one out without even swinging the bat and Rafael Devers struck out swinging in the next at bat. It was a tough way to end a rally, to say the least.
After a relatively quick second inning, the Red Sox had a chance at more damage in the third. This one started with a single from Eduardo Nuñez and another from Andrew Benintendi to lead off the inning. On the second single, Nuñez was running and made it to third. However, Benintendi tried to stretch his base hit to a double for some unknown reason and was tossed out at second. The play was much closer than it should have been thanks to a great slide from Benintendi, but it was an ill-advised play. After Betts drew his second walk of the game, he took off during Bogaerts’ next at bat. It was a good thing he did, as the Red Sox shortstop hit what should have been an inning-ending double play, but Betts was safe at second and allowed the run to score. That gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, that was all they’d get. The Red Sox got runners on the corners later in that third inning, but they were stranded there. After a 1-2-3 fourth, the Red Sox got a one-out single from Benintendi in the fifth. In the next at bat, Betts had a rough at bat in which he watched a fastball on the inner half go by for strike three. Benintendi was off on the pitch and was caught to complete the strike him out, throw him out double play. The Red Sox would once again get a runner on with one out in the sixth, but Devers was caught in between first and second on a bloop that he thought might be caught and was thrown out at second. They couldn’t put together a two-out rally after that.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez was simultaneously not at his best and on the receiving end of some really bad luck. Early on, he was keeping runs off the board but also struggling with his control and getting into plenty of jams. Later on, he was making better pitches but the Yankees were putting the ball in play and just finding the holes in the defense. It was frustrating, to be sure.
He’d allow a couple of baserunners in the first on a hit batter and a walk, but got out of it with a flyout and a couple of big strikeouts. He’d allow a leadoff walk in the second, too, but got three straight outs after that to escape.
The real trouble started in the third. In that inning, he gave up a solid single to Brett Gardner to lead things off. That was followed by a hard-hit line drive from Aaron Hicks, but it was right back up the middle and Rodriguez made a great reaction play to snare it and double up Gardner at first. It looked as if he’d escape another inning when he got to a two-strike count against Gary Sanchez, but the Yankees catcher took a pitch on the outer half and lifted it up over the right field wall for a solo homer. It was a true Yankee Stadium home run as it appeared to be a pop up, but a homer is a homer. Just like that, it was 1-1.
The fifth inning only brought more frustrating, as the Yankees started catching some breaks and the Red Sox started playing some really bad defense. This one started with a strikeout and a legitimate single before the madness started. With Gardner on first, Hicks hit a weak line drive that barely escaped the infield for another single, and then Sanchez hit a popup to shallow right field. Nuñez couldn’t quite get the right positioning on the ball and Betts didn’t come in and take charge, and the ball fell for an improbable RBI double. It was a play that an average infielder should have made from second base, but also one that Betts should have made. The outfielder needs to take control of the play, and Betts failed to do so in this instance. After an infield single loaded the bases once again, Rodriguez managed to escape the frame with the deficit at just 2-1.
The Red Sox sent their lefty back out with 91 pitches in the sixth, and he quickly made them regret that. Rodriguez gave up a leadoff double and then a two-run home run to Greg Bird to start off the inning, and left after giving up a solid single. Fernando Abad would come on — a strange time to finally bring him in for a close game in my mind — and he’d allow two singles before getting out of the inning. At the end of it all, the Yankees had a 5-1 lead. Heath Hembree would come on in the seventh and give up another run.
The Red Sox would make things a little interesting in the ninth, or more accurately, Dellin Betances made them more interesting. With a five-run lead, he started things off by walking the first batter he faced and hitting the next two to load the bases. From there, the Red Sox struck out, walked, popped out and flew out to end the game.
So, that was not how the Red Sox wanted to start this series. The team has a chance to put their rivals in a big hole in the division this weekend, but they got shut down in their first shot. Fortunately, they really just need to avoid a sweep and have three more chances to do so. As we stand now, they have a 4.5 game lead in the division. They’ll try to get this one back on Friday night with Doug Fister on the bump.