If the Red Sox were hoping to hold off any momentum for the Yankees as New York heads into a Wildcard Game matchup against the Athletics next Wednesday, they are not succeeding. Boston’s pitching was rocked for the second straight day at Fenway as the Yankees bats look ready for October. To add to the frustration, the offense also missed some opportunities throughout this game. It’s important to realize that Alex Cora isn’t managing these games looking to win above all else, but that hasn’t made this weekend easier to watch.
For the second straight day at Fenway, the Yankees won the battle against Red Sox pitching. It was easy to shrug off in the first game when Boston sent out mostly an array of arms that aren’t going to be on the postseason roster. On Saturday, it was more of a representation of what they’ll be using once the playoffs roll around. That’s not to say we have reached a point at which we have to panic — ultimately, the results of these games don’t matter and that’s how they’re being managed — but just to say the biggest excuse one would use to dismiss the results of Friday’s game can’t be used this time around.
Getting the start for Boston in this game was Nathan Eovaldi, who appears to be headed for the rotation in the postseason. That result is a surprise to many (myself included) and seems at least partially based on how he’s performed against New York in a couple of outings this year. Again, that didn’t make Saturday a hugely important start or anything, but there was added pressure at hand.
The good news is, Eovaldi wasn’t too bad in the short time he was on the mound. His start began with his defense putting him in a hole, and a reminder why the question of who will play third base is still a question. Brett Gardner hit a relatively routine ground ball to the left side, but Rafael Devers did what he’s done so much this year, sailing his throw to allow the Yankees leadoff man to reach on an error. Eovaldi did come back with a couple of strikeouts, but then Giancarlo Stanton ripped a ground ball down the left-field line for an RBI double, and New York had an early 1-0 lead. After striking out the final batter of that first inning, Eovaldi tossed an easy 1-2-3 inning in the second with one more strikeout.
That would be it for the righty, and he was solid in the outing. Devers’ error proved costly, and the pitcher does bear some responsibility for not getting around the miscue, but overall an unearned run on one hit and four strikeouts in two innings is fine. Coming on in relief was Eduardo Rodriguez, who has looked strong in his new role as a relief arm. That didn’t quite continue on Saturday.
His stuff did look solid in that third inning, though the command wasn’t quite as sharp as you’d like to see. He walked the first batter he faced before allowing a one-out single, but he worked around the trouble to keep the Yankees off the board. Unfortunately, he wasn’t so productive in his second inning of work. There, he gave up a leadoff single right through the middle, and then a couple batters later Greg Bird ripped a double off the wall in straightaway center field to score New York’s second run of the day. Two batters later, he left a fastball up in the zone to Gleyber Torres, and the Yankees rookie smashed it into the bullpen for a two-run homer. It was a record-breaking homer, too, as it gave his team the all-time single-season record for homers in a season. After allowing one more walk, Rodriguez did get out of the inning, though he allowed three more Yankees across the plate.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was going up against a group of Yankees swingmen. Boston wasn’t quite at full strength in this game, with Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts each getting the day off and J.D. Martinez playing only half the game. Still, it wasn’t exactly a stellar performance for the good guys. They did get their first two batters on in the first on a pair of singles to put runners on the corners, but the middle of the order couldn’t get Andrew Benintendi the last 90 feet and they settled for a scoreless frame.
The second did go a little better. Ian Kinsler kicked things off with a walk, and after stealing second he’d come in to score when Jackie Bradley put a double off the Monster in right field. Just like that, for the moment anyway, the game was tied at one. Once again, however, the Red Sox had a runner in scoring position with nobody out, and once again they couldn’t get him in. They’d settle for the 1-1 tie after two.
After managing just a walk in the third, the Red Sox did get back on the board after Rodriguez allowed those three fourth-inning runs. Blake Swihart got things started this time with a one-out double off the wall in center field, and with two outs Andrew Benintendi came through with a little bloop that fell in right field, cutting Boston’s deficit down to just two.
Unfortunately, that margin wouldn’t last too long. Brandon Workman came on for the fifth, and he looked did not look good in what could be his final outing before the postseason. The righty allowed back-to-back singles to start that inning, and then with one out Miguel Andújar ripped a big double to score two more, putting New York up 6-2. They’d tack on one more on an RBI single from Austin Romine, and suddenly it was 7-2 Yankees.
After that Heath Hembree came on for a 1-2-3 sixth before Steven Wright entered for the seventh. The knuckleballer showed why people are wary of using him in big spots, because when the knuckleball stays up it goes a long way. It’s true that the same can be said for any pitch, but the unpredictability of the knuckleball adds a new element. Anyway, Stanton led that inning off by hitting an absolute bomb out to the Monster Seats in left field to put New York up 8-2. Of note here is that a fan threw the ball back from the stands and it actually hit Stanton as he was rounding second. The Yankees slugger had a little chuckle over that, and the fan was presumably ejected. Wright did recover from there, to be fair, allowing just an infield single after that.
Hector Velazquez had the eighth and allowed just a single. In the bottom of the inning, Boston had a chance to cut into the lead with the bases loaded and nobody out, but they managed just one run in another missed opportunity. Velazquez came back out for the ninth and recorded two outs, but after allowing a double he gave way for Robby Scott to finish things off.
Then, in the bottom of the ninth, things got interesting. Jonathan Holder came on for the Yankees, and Tzu-Wei Lin got it started with a groundrule double. That brought Brock Holt to the plate, and he continued a red-hot September with a two-run shot, and suddenly it was a three-run game. After a single and the first out of the inning, Holder came out in favor of Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees closer got a strikeout but then walked Kinsler to bring the tying run to the plate, but Bradley couldn’t come through and the Red Sox went home with the L.
So, there is but one game left in the regular season, and Boston will try to head into October on a high note. They’ll send Rick Porcello to the mound against Luis Severino. Like every other team on Sunday, they’ll start at 3:05 PM ET.