After taking a 1-0 lead in the opening game of this best-of-five series, the series is going to be tied heading back to New York. Boston was the first home team to lose in all of baseball in the Division Series this year, and the story was David Price. The Red Sox starter couldn’t get the Yankees or the playoffs monkey off his back, not even making it through two innings. On the other side, the offense was also very disappointing as they couldn’t pick up their starting pitcher. It was particularly disappointing because the bullpen was nails after Price was lifted. Mostly, anyway. Regardless, the Yankees rolled to a relatively easy victory, and the series is tied. It was never going to be easy.
Just like in Game One, the story for Game Two was always going to be Boston’s starting pitcher. David Price was trying to get two monkeys off his back, both of which we know all too much about. We know he has never had success in the postseason, at least as a starting pitcher. It’s one of those things that many, myself included, point to the small sample and other examples of other players struggling in October simply until they don’t. It happens all the time, and given how well Price has pitched this year it seemed like this could be the postseason where it turns around. The other was his struggles against the Yankees since joining the Yankees, which is impossible to overlook. Still, with it being at home, there was some reason for optimism.
Well, those reasons for optimism didn’t carry into the game and it was another disappointing performance from Price. For the first time in either a regular season or postseason game, he didn’t strike a batter out. His command wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. It didn’t help that the strike zone was wildly inconsistent all night, but to blame his outing on the umpiring would be a cop out and, frankly, just plain wrong. The fact is Price made bad pitches at inopportune times, and a strong Yankees lineup was able to beat up on it.
It got started early, too, and this was Price’s biggest mistake of the game. After getting a weak ground ball to start things off, he tried to get a backdoor cutter in for strike three against Aaron Judge. He started it on the outside corner, which is a recipe for disaster. The pitch ended up right in Judge’s wheelhouse, and the Yankees slugger was able to get his arms extended and smashed it way out to center field for a 445-foot shot into the Monster Seats. Price would get two outs after that, but the tone had been set.
In the second, New York got right back into action right away. This time it was Gary Sanchez, who has notably crushed Price throughout his career. In terms of location, this wasn’t a bad pitch. Price was once again trying to go with a backdoor cutter, and he got it on the outside corner in the lower-third. That’s where you want it. However, it was both exactly what Sanchez was looking for and also a flat pitch, and that’s not going to work. The Yankees catcher jumped all over it, and he led off the inning with a solo shot into the Monster Seats. After two quick outs, Price then walked two straight hitters with the second being an inexcusable free pass to Brett Gardner, and there were two on and two outs. Andrew McCutchen then ripped a base hit off the Monster to give New York a 3-0 lead, and that was that. Alex Cora had seen enough, and Price was lifted. We’ll have more on Price tomorrow, but yikes. This was a bad outing, through and through.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was trying to match that performance against Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees righty has had plenty of success in the postseason, but at the same time Boston has been able to hit him well every time they’ve seen him in 2018. With the way Price performed, they were going to need a similar performance from the bats. They didn’t get it, though.
The first inning was promising, even if they didn’t get any runs on the board. They did get a base hit from J.D. Martinez — and it probably should have been a double down the left-field line but it hit the wrong part of the wall in foul ground — but nothing more. However, of the four batters that came to the plate three of them hit the ball hard. It seemed like a good indicator that it was only a matter of time until they really got to Tanaka.
That wasn’t the case. Instead, they’d go down in order in the second and then in the third they managed just a single from Jackie Bradley Jr. Mookie Betts did get a pitch that he knew he should have hit 500 feet, but he popped it up. Fortunately, the script did change a bit in the fourth. There, Xander Bogaerts came up second and he got a first-pitch fastball middle-in. You don’t get many first-pitch fastballs from Tanaka, and the Red Sox shortstop took advantage and drove one into the seats in straightaway center field. Finally, Boston was on the board. That was also the last bit of damage for a little bit.
The good news is that this was still a game because, unlike in Game One, the Red Sox bullpen looked great on Saturday night. Joe Kelly got the call immediately after Price, and he looked like he did in the middle of this season. He got an out with runners on the corners to end the second, then came out and allowed just a single in the third before tossing a 1-2-3 fourth. It was a massive performance.
Ryan Brasier got the ball next, and he had a solid inning as well. He did get a runner into scoring position with just one out, but that was because Eduardo Núñez made a nice play on an Aaron Judge grounder before throwing it away. After a walk, Brasier worked around the trouble with huge strikeouts against Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. Prior to the final pitch of the second K, he chirped a little bit to Sanchez about stepping out of the box. It was cool, and a sign that the fear we may have seen in Game One wasn’t there in this one.
The sixth belonged to Brandon Workman, at least to start. It was weird to see him in the game since a lefty was starting the frame and Eduardo Rodriguez had been warming earlier. It was the righty’s inning, though, and he did get a quick first out. However, after two relatively weak singles his night was over and Rodriguez did indeed come in. The southpaw did his thing, getting two outs and keep the Yankees at three.
Rodriguez would come back out for the seventh, too, but things got rough. Judge started it with a weak grounder towards first. He was able to reach, though, because Rodriguez got a bit of a late break to the bag and then didn’t hustle to the bag. Maybe his ankle was still affecting him, but it was an inexcusable effort and led to an infield single. After that, he allowed a walk and then it looked like Núñez made another error, this time on a throw to second. However, Ian Kinsler somehow kept his foot on the bag and they cut down the middle runner. Then, Sanchez struck again. This time he blasted one a whopping 479 feet for a three-run shot. Just like that, it was 6-1 Yankees and it felt like a back breaker.
So, the Red Sox now needed a five-run comeback against the vaunted New York bullpen. In the bottom of the seventh, they did get a base hit from Mitch Moreland to start things off. Núñez for some reason got another at bat after that, and he popped one up. Then Kinsler also got another at bat, and it seemed like a bad decision. He was able to come through, though, smacking a double off the Monster to score another run and bringing Boston within four. That was all they’d get, though, and they had just six outs remaining.
Zach Britton was on the fourth, with the top of Boston’s lineup coming up. They did get a walk from Benintendi, but that was it. Aroldis Chapman then came on for the ninth, and while Boston did manage another walk but that was it. Yankees win, series tied 1-1.
So, the Red Sox and Yankees will have a day off before playing a pivotal Game Three in Yankee Stadium on Monday. The pitching matchup is still unclear — the Yankees will definitely be starting Luis Severino, the Red Sox will go with either Rick Porcello or Nathan Eovaldi — but we know first pitch will be at 7:40 PM ET.