I’m officially done. I’ve got nothing left. Stick a fork in me and put me to bed for the rest of the year. That was it.
In 10 years, if someone asks me what I remember most about the 2018 Red Sox, barring an eventual World Series title, I’ll give them one simple answer: Saturday, June 30. That is a night we won’t be forgetting any time soon. And if they need to ask why, just tell them to look up the box score.
Red Sox 11, Yankees 0.
It was the night when Chris Sale went into Yankee Stadium 24 hours after the Sox were thrashed by their most loathsome rival, and with first place in the AL East on the line, he threw seven innings of shutout baseball, allowing just a single hit to Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning. And that was just the beginning of it. As sensationally as Sale pitched, no moment in the game was bigger than the first inning grand slam off the bat of 21-year-old Rafael Devers.
That grand slam was special for many reasons. There are the obvious reasons, like the fact that it happened against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and it silenced thousands of Yankee fans. It probably gave them nightmarish flashbacks to last August when Devers – just weeks into his Major League career – took on David Ortiz proportions and drilled a ninth inning game-tying homer in the Bronx.
Then there are the slightly less obvious reasons, like the fact that the grand slam broke the Sale Day tradition of scoring few to no runs and leaving our best pitcher for dead on the mound, while he pitches his lanky rear end off just to preserve an excruciating 0-0 tie. Let’s be real for a second; nobody deserved that grand slam, and a 4-0 first inning cushion, more than Christopher Allen Sale.
And then, there are the even less obvious reasons, like the fact that the grand slam gave a breath of fresh air to us Red Sox fans who were still banging our heads against the wall after Friday night’s debacle. It has been an incredibly tight race with the Yankees for the division lead for months now, and to this point, there has been no bigger event of the summer (sorry, World Cup fans) than this three-game series in the Bronx. Coming in, we knew first place would be on the line, and we needed to win. And then we got our butts kicked on Friday as the Yankee bats clobbered us for eight runs, and C.C. Sabathia reminded the world that he’s still got it.
Getting crushed 8-1 in the series opener felt about the same way I imagine taking a shot of vinegar would feel, and even though Sale was on the mound the next day, it was difficult to shake the feeling that New York was going to have all the luck in this series. Then Devers blasted that first inning grand slam, the Sox took an early 4-0 lead and boom, suddenly we were alive and breathing again.
I wasn’t sure anything else this season would be able to top the first meeting between the Red Sox and Yankees this year, when Boston obliterated the Bombers 14-1 at Fenway Park. The very next night, Joe Kelly – at that point something of a pariah among fans – became beloved by Sox fans after he shook the holy hell out of Tyler Austin in the biggest bench-clearing brawl between these two clubs since Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek back in 2004.
Those were a memorable few days at Fenway, and yet, Saturday night’s 11-0 victory in the Bronx topped it in my opinion. It may have had a lot to do with the fact that both teams were dead even for first place coming into the game, but most of it was because it happened at Yankee Stadium. The Sox didn’t just win a game at Yankee Stadium, they completely embarrassed the Yankees and left them out to dry. Remember way back during the 2004 ALCS when the Yankees destroyed the Sox 19-8 in Game 3 at Fenway? That loss, while still horrendous, wouldn’t have stung quite as bad if it hadn’t happened at home. That’s why crushing the Yanks in their own house is so enjoyable, because you know it’s just pure and utter misery for their fans. Winning at Yankee Stadium is almost more fun than winning at home.
Lastly, while I’m speaking of fun, Saturday night’s win was another reminder of just how much fun this 2018 Red Sox season has been. This is honestly the most fun I’ve had following the Sox since the 2013 playoffs, when they won their third World Series title in 10 years. The 2013 season was a whirlwind and essentially a fairy tale, and everything since then has been the complete opposite. Finishing last in both 2014 and 2015 was dreadful. Boston then won back-to-back division titles in 2016 and 2017, but were swept in the division series each year by the eventual American League champion.
But 2018 is different. There’s a new manager in town (Alex Cora) who has done a great job at making me forget about John Farrell. There are some other new faces, like MLB home run leader J.D. Martinez, who has provided the consistent power bat that the Red Sox lost when Big Papi retired. The greatest rivalry in all of sports is finally thriving again with the Sox and Yankees neck-and-neck in the division race. While stressful at times, it’s been a very easy ride to enjoy this year. To put it simply, it has just been an absolute blast.
This is what being a sports fan is all about. We’re supposed to just relax and have fun supporting our favorite teams, but we get so caught up in the winning and the losing that it can be hard to do that sometimes. It hasn’t been hard this year. I haven’t had this much fun supporting the Red Sox in five years.
That’s something I’m going to try to keep in mind as the Sox go for the series win on Sunday, even while I’m stressing out about David Price potentially having a Yankee Stadium meltdown on the mound. At the very least, the Red Sox will be tied again with the Yankees for first place, so the end result can’t be too bad.
And no matter what happens the rest of the year, we’ll always be able to look back and fondly remember that time when Chris Sale, Rafael Devers and the Red Sox left 47,000 fans hanging their heads in sorrow and defeat. Good times, good times.