It’s done. It took a little longer than we would have liked, but it’s done. The Red Sox took care of business on Thursday night, with the offense breaking out of its slump and picking up a poor performance from Eduardo Rodriguez. The lefty was inefficient and struggled with control all night, and Heath Hembree gave up a devastating grand slam, but it didn’t matter. Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts had big home runs, J.D. Martinez had a couple of big hits and the Red Sox are currently pouring out more champagne than I’ll ever be able to afford in my life. Life is good.
Both of the starting pitchers in this game were, frankly, brutal to watch. Rodriguez and Masahiro Tanaka were each nibbling around the edges of the zone, and they were both in full counts seemingly in seemingly every at bat. I don’t want to be that guy who complains about watching a baseball game, and really this wasn’t a bad game to watch, but jeez some of these at bats were straight-up brutal.
The good news is that the Red Sox did get on the board early, which is something they’ve failed to do so many times in recent weeks. Mookie Betts almost really started this game off with a bang, in fact, as he hit a shot out to left field that missed being a home run by just a few inches. Instead, he settled for a double, moved over to third and scored on a J.D. Martinez single. Xander Bogaerts struck out after that, but Martinez was stealing second on strike three and made it to third when Gary Sanchez’ throw went into the outfield. Unfortunately, he’d be left there and the Red Sox settled for just the one run, though Tanaka tossed 31 pitches in the inning.
They really could have used a strong start to this game from Rodriguez, too, in order to build some momentum, though that’s not exactly what they got. The lefty walked the first batter he faced, but caught a break when Andrew McCutchen would get himself caught stealing. That was the second out of the inning and now the bases were clear, and that was huge. Aaron Hicks immediately ripped a double that likely would have scored McCutchen, and after another walk Rodriguez escaped the inning without allowing a run. He did toss 29 pitches in the frame, however.
In the second, the Red Sox were trying, and succeeding, in not allowing Tanaka to get into any sort of groove. They got two straight base hits from Rafael Devers and Blake Swihart to kick things off, and after a couple of outs (one of which moved each runner up a base to put two in scoring position), Betts came through again. He smacked a base hit into center field, scoring two more runs and extending the lead to three.
Rodriguez didn’t waste any time giving some of it back, and it was the biggest Yankee star from the night before doing the damage. Boston’s southpaw gave up a one-out walk, his third of the day already, before Luke Voit stepped to the plate. He left a fastball over the middle of the plate and not far down enough and the Yankees first baseman crushed it to straightaway center field for a two-run shot. It was his third homer since the start of Wednesday’s game, and it cut New York’s deficit down to one. Rodriguez did give up another base hit in the inning, but that was all.
Fortunately, the Red Sox offense was still not letting Tanaka get anything easy, and they got some of it back in the top half of the third. That inning started with a couple of quick outs, but then Brock Holt came to the plate. Tanaka tried to sneak a fastball on the inner half by the Red Sox infielder, but it didn’t go according to plan. Holt destroyed one out to right field, extending Boston’s lead to two with the mammoth solo shot.
From here, we fast-forward to the bottom half of the fourth, with the Red Sox still leading 4-2. This is when disaster struck. Rodriguez has struggled his way through three innings, but Alex Cora kept him in, and kept his leash decidedly too long. He did get two outs to start things off, but then he issued yet another walk to McCutchen. He was then allowed to face Aaron Judge, and he walked him too. Then, inexplicably, he still stayed in to face Hicks, and issued another walk. Suddenly, the bases were loaded, and finally Cora had seen enough. He turned to Heath Hembree, who spent most of this year being the ace with runners on base, but that trend has not remained true of late. Unfortunately, it continued down that road here. The righty tried to get a slider by Giancarlo Stanton, but the Yankees outfielder put one just over the right-field wall for a grand slam. Suddenly, it was a 6-4 lead for the Yankees.
Now, for the first time on the night, the Red Sox were playing catch up behind the Yankees. Fortunately, they still had Tanaka’s number, and they got off to a hot start. Betts kicked off another inning with a double, and an Andrew Benintendi single put runners on the corners with nobody out for Martinez. The slugger didn’t come through. He did get one run in on a double play, but the two outs were crucial and the Sox were still down by one at the end of the frame.
We jump now to the top of the seventh, with the score still 6-5 after Steven Wright tossed a pair of perfect innings. That was the kind of stability the Red Sox needed on that side, and now they needed some offense. They were going against Chad Green, who had set the side down in order in the sixth, and Jackie Bradley Jr. led off. He got a changeup down and in in the zone, and he lofted one into the seats in right field, and just like that the game was tied. After Green allowed a single to Christian Vazquez, his night was done and Dellin Betances was in. The righty gave up a one-out double to Benintendi, and after an intentional walk of Martinez, the bases were loaded for Bogaerts.
This is where things got weird. The shortstop didn’t make great contact, but he did hit it to moderately deep center field. Deep enough for a sure run with Tzu-Wei Lin pinch running at third. So, instead, Hicks tried to make a play at third base, even though Benintendi wasn’t running. Well, the throw was short and it ate up Miguel Andújar. It bounced off the third baseman’s arm and into the seats in a bizarre turn of events, and Benintendi was awarded home. So, somehow, some way, the Red Sox left the inning with an 8-6 lead.
Wright then came back out for the seventh, and while he wasn’t perfect this time around he allowed just a single in another scoreless frame. Then, in the eighth, the Red Sox broke it open. Rafael Devers led off with a base hit off Aroldis Chapman, who was pitching in his first game since August, and Bradley drew a one-out walk. That brought Betts up, and this time he went all out. He crushed one out to left field for a three-run shot, and suddenly it was a five-run lead.
They just needed the bullpen to protect a big lead, and they did just that. Ryan Brasier came on for the eighth and tossed a 1-2-3 inning. Then, it was Craig Kimbrel for the ninth. The closer started things off by allowing a triple to McCutchen, but he got three straight outs from there and kept the Yankees off the board to end it. Three straight division titles. Pretty good!
That’s it. The Red Sox still have to play baseball games, of course, but now it’s all about getting set for October. They’ll be in action against the Indians on Friday with Chris Sale on the mound taking on Trevor Bauer, and the hangover lineup will be one to behold.