Tuesday night was pretty fun. Things got extremely shaky at the very end of the Red Sox’ Game Four victory, but for they held the lead for basically the entire game and got great pitching from everyone but their closer. The end result was their second champagne celebration in the Bronx over the last month or so, and a trip to the ALCS to face Houston in a matchup pitting Alex Cora against his old team. There will be plenty of time in the lead-up to Saturday’s Game One to break down that matchup, but for now we look back at the series-clincher in New York with some scattered thoughts.
- Rick Porcello was absolutely incredible on the mounds on Tuesday, and he deserves a ton of credit for how well he pitched. Things started to get a little shaky towards the end, but ultimately he allowed only one run over five innings of work and for the first four he was almost impossibly efficient. At that point he had thrown 41 pitches, of which an amazing 33 were strikes. He was pounding the zone and mixing his pitches, and most importantly he was keeping the ball in the yard. Porcello’s October struggles certainly don’t get the headlines David Price’s do, and for good reason, but the righty had a 5.47 ERA in his first 24 2⁄3 playoff innings heading into this season. His teams had also never won a game in which he appeared. Now, the Red Sox are 2-0 in his games so far this October, and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
- Craig Kimbrel, who we’ll get to in a minute, kind of took over the narrative for the bullpen, but before that ninth inning the first three relievers to come into the game were great. There was some hand-wringing when Matt Barnes came on for Porcello in the sixth inning. The latter had only 65 pitches at the time, and the heart of New York’s lineup was coming up. That last part is exactly why Cora went to Barnes, though. For all of the grief given to Barnes over the last few years, he spent most of this year being a near-elite reliever, and he’s on this roster to shut down the middle of the order of playoff teams in the middle innings. He did just that with a 1-2-3 inning against Judge, Gregorius and Stanton. It was wildly impressive. After that, Ryan Brasier and Chris Sale each came in for a perfect inning of their own. Sale obviously won’t factor in here much, but Barnes and Brasier stepping up and getting on a roll would he huge for this bullpen.
- So I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about Kimbrel. There’s really not that much to say beyond the fact that he almost killed me. It was pretty clear from the get-go that he was going to struggle in this outing because he just could not find the strike zone to save his life. There’s not much that can be done moving forward — you can’t just move away from Kimbrel at this point — but those control issues will be tough to move out of your mind as a fan every time he enters a game. After the season there will be lots of conversations about his future, but I couldn’t possibly care less about the offseason at this point. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
- One positive from that ninth inning: Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox catcher actually had a strong game overall and did a nice job calling Porcello’s night from behind the plate, but that ninth inning in particular was clutch. With runners on base for the entire inning, the Red Sox catcher was phenomenal at keeping the ball in front of him and blocking extremely wild Kimbrel pitches. It really is not difficult to see that inning getting away from them with a couple of extra wild pitches thrown in there.
- Speaking of Vazquez, it was just another example of Alex Cora pulling the right strings with this team. Prior to the game some idiots thought it would be best if they rolled with essentially the same lineup with which they won Game Three. Instead, the Red Sox manager rolled out his right-handed hitters again and specifically gave starts to Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Núñez instead of Brock Holt and Rafael Devers. Both Kinsler and Núñez had big RBIs in the team’s big fourth inning and Vazquez, who surprisingly started over Sandy León, not only had the big ninth inning behind the plate but also hit a solo homer off Zach Britton in the fourth. Cora’s on a heater right now.
- On the other side, Aaron Boone had another rough night and Yankee fans are not too thrilled with their manager right now. Once again, he showed a weird lack of urgency with his starter, allowing CC Sabathia to get through three full innings. I actually didn’t think that decision was overly egregious, though Yankee fans seem to disagree with that. I get that side of it, to be fair, in a must-win elimination game. To me, the wildest part of Boone’s night was that Miguel Andújar, perhaps New York’s most consistently potent bat all year, didn’t come to the plate at all in the game. That simply can’t happen.
- After the game, the Red Sox celebrated in the visitor’s locker room with New York, New York playing in the background. Of course, after the Yankees’ win in Boston in Game Two, Aaron Judge walked past Boston’s clubhouse blaring that same song. It was used as motivation by the Red Sox, and they had a little fun with it after winning the series. It was wonderful.
- Also after the game, Sabathia expressed some displeasure with Angel Hernandez’ strike zone. That’s not super controversial, as Hernandez doesn’t have the best reputation. Well, don’t tell Porcello. The Red Sox starter had some thoughts on Sabathia’s complaints, and something tells me the Yankee veteran isn’t going to appreciate those comments. Stay tuned.