Well, this one sucked. Chris Sale was just a little off and gave up three home runs. Luis Severino completely shut down the Red Sox offense. The strike zone was garbage and helped lead to the inning in which the Yankees pulled away. Let’s just get into the details because there’s not much more big-picture takeaways here.
While the offense failing to score was the bigger reason for this loss, Sale’s performance is probably the more important story in the context of the rest of the season for the Red Sox. There has been some creeping concern that his performance would drop as the year went on, and that was supported in this game. To be fair, Sale was getting squeezed a bit early in this game and it prevented him from getting into a rhythm. On top of that, two of the three home runs he’d allow in this game just barely made it over the left field wall towards the corner. They weren’t exactly moon shots.
With that being said, it clearly wasn’t the same Sale we’ve seen for most of this year. The Red Sox ace noticeably couldn’t put the Yankees away with two strikes, as they fouled off pitch after pitch, just waiting for either a ball or a mistake. Normally, it takes one or maybe two pitches for Sale to put a batter away. In fact, all three home runs in this game came in two-strike counts.
It was fairly clear from the get-go that this wasn’t going to be Sale’s night even though the Yankees didn’t plate a run in the frame. After a quick first out, Sale gave up two straight singles and then the runners moved to second and third on a passed ball. At this point, Sale stepped up as well as he did all day, bearing down and getting two big strikeouts to finish the inning. Even with the strikeouts, though, he allowed a lot two-strike fouls and threw a ton of pitches. Things would go similarly in the second, as New York failed to score but they continued to drive up Sale’s pitch count and got two more baserunners.
In the third, the Yankees finally broke through. In fact, they did so in the first at bat of the inning when Chase Headley launched a line drive that just barely cleared the fence and landed in the first row of seats in left field. It wasn’t a long home run, but it counted the same and gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. He’d get out of the third with three straight outs, but things got worse in the fourth. There, after a quick first out, the southpaw gave up back-to-back homers to Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier. As I mentioned above, both of them came with two strikes.
That was all the damage Sale would give up, but it seemed like the Yankees were on him all night. He’d only end up making it through 4 1⁄3 innings in the start, and while he struck out six batters in that time he also walked two and allowed seven hits. And, of course, he threw a ton of pitches. It certainly could have gone worse, but it’s not what we expect from Sale. Fortunately, he’s been able to bounce back in huge ways after disappointing outings all year long.
On the other side, the Red Sox offense couldn’t get anything going against Severino, who had just disgusting stuff going for him all night long. It’s true that the Red Sox offense has been frustrating for much of this year and they haven’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt. They’ve made plenty of subpar pitchers look like aces in 2017. That being said, Severino would have dominated anyone in this game. He was locating 100 mph fastballs with movement on the corners and dropping offspeed pitches in the zone whenever he wanted.
Really, the Red Sox weren’t able to get much of anything going against the Yankees ace. Things looked pretty good for Boston in the second inning when Mitch Moreland launched a ground rule double out to left-center field to lead off the inning, but two strikeouts and a groundout thwarted any chance at a real rally. They’d get another runner in scoring position in the third when Jackie Bradley singled with one out and stole second with two outs, but another strikeout ended the chance.
After a couple of 1-2-3 innings, they came back in the sixth and put forth their best chance of the night with some help from Frazier’s glove. Eduardo Nuñez would reach on an error by Frazier, and two batters later Betts did the same. That gave Moreland a chance to do some damage with two men in scoring position in a three-run game. A passed ball allowed the Red Sox to score one, but Moreland ended up striking out to end the chance.
That would bring us to the bottom half of the sixth, and this is where things fell apart. Joe Kelly started the inning and the righty got a walk and a strikeout before handing things off to Robby Scott, who came in to face Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. Scott did not do his job, allowing both lefties to reach. That led John Farrell to turn to Addison Reed early in the game with the bases loaded and one out. It was the right move, and Reed struck out the first batter he faced. That brought up Gary Sanchez, and things got shaky. Reed threw two pitches that were, frankly, clearly strikes, but both called balls. The bad calls got Carl Willis tossed and Reed pretty heated. With a 3-1 count, he was forced to find the middle of the plate and Sanchez ripped a ball to third base. Rafael Devers made a great diving stop, but couldn’t get the ball across fast enough to throw Sanchez out. That gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead and the strike zone threw Reed off his game. He followed that up with a double and a home run and in the blink of an eye New York had a 9-1 lead. The strike zone was undoubtedly bad and Sanchez should have at least been down in the count, but Reed needs to come back from that better than he did.
The Red Sox had a few minor chances after this and even scored a run, but really the game was over the moment Reed left the game.
So, the Red Sox had a chance to bury the Yankees this weekend but they couldn’t come through. Instead, they leave the Bronx with a 3.5 game lead and it looks like this division race will last longer than any of us would like. The good news is the Red Sox have 12 games coming up against the Blue Jays, Rays and A’s. As long as they take care of business against these teams they will remain in the driver’s seat. They’ll have Rick Porcello on the bump on Monday to start their series against Toronto.