The story of this season is not close to being finished, and the way we really look back on this year months, years, decades from now is going to be determined in October. As we all know, the playoffs are what matters, and the regular season is just a way to get there. Still, this was an incredible six months for the Red Sox as they posted their best regular season in team history. (I know they had higher win percentages before but that was also in vastly different landscapes.) That regular season came to a close on Sunday, and though they’ve stumbled a bit of late they made sure to put on one final exclamation point. They did just about everything well, and now we can ride a win into the postseason.
The Red Sox hadn’t lost four in a row all year heading into this game, but they were in danger of “accomplishing” this “feat” with a loss on Sunday in the regular season finale. More importantly than that, they were looking to turn things around after looking pretty rough all around for the last few days. The offense did put some runs on the board in the first two games of this series, but a lot of the damage came when the game was already out of hand, and they missed some opportunities earlier in games. On Sunday, they made sure to reverse that trend, scoring early and often and putting the game out of hand early, this time in their favor.
To be fair, they were going up against a pitcher in Luis Cessa who has struggled pretty much all year and is certainly not going to appear in the postseason for New York. Still, it’s always good to see offense. Mookie Betts jumped on Cessa early with a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, and then he’d come around to score in the next at bat when Aaron Judge misplayed a Brock Holt single. Two batters into the inning and it was a 1-0 lead for Boston. J.D. Martinez followed it up with a single of his own before Mitch Moreland knocked in another run with a double. The breaks just kept coming for the Red Sox when Eduardo Núñez hit a ground ball to first but reached on an error, though Boston’s infielder did appear to twist an ankle on a collision at the bag. He stayed in the game, though. After that, the Red Sox would score one more on an Ian Kinsler ground out, and they had a 4-0 lead after one.
In the second, they just continued to pile on. This time it was Jackie Bradley Jr. starting things off with a single, and two batters later Brock Holt stayed hot with a Fenway Double off the Monster to knock in Boston’s fifth run of the game. Then, a couple of batters after that, Xander Bogaerts got a 97 mph up and in and he crushed it to straightaway center field for a two-run shot. Just like that, it was a 7-0 lead for the Red Sox after just two innings.
They’d take an inning off in the third, but then they got right back into action in the fourth. This time it was against Jordan Sheffield, and the young Yankees southpaw was wild. He hit Tzu-Wei Lin — who came in for Betts after Alex Cora gave the likely MVP a chance for an ovation from the Fenway crowd — then walked Holt on four pitches. He then made the mistake of throwing strikes to Martinez, who fittingly ended his season with a home run. The slugger smashed one into the Red Sox bullpen, and that put the team’s run total for the afternoon in double digits.
Meanwhile, on the pitching side was where Boston was really looking for a recovery after the first two games of this series. The Red Sox didn’t quite throw out their very best arms against the Yankees, but they still didn’t look great and were getting hit consistently on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was much better from a wide variety of arms.
Rick Porcello got the start, and just like Nathan Eovaldi on Saturday he was slated to throw just two innings in the game. He got through them with ease, allowing just a walk while racking up a pair of strikeouts and inducing four ground outs. That’s the Porcello they need in the postseason just, ya know, for at least six innings.
After that, it was a hodgepodge of relievers. Joe Kelly was up first, and he didn’t look great. The righty started his inning off with two baserunners on a single and a walk, but then managed to get out of the trouble with a big strikeout and then a double play from Judge. The one really bad performance came from Bobby Poyner, who entered for the fourth and allowed three baserunners including a two-run homer to straightaway center from Luke Voit. At the time it cut Boston’s lead to five, though they’d obviously get some runs back.
Perhaps the most important pitching performances came in the fifth sixth when Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Barnes came into the game. First it was Rodriguez, who was specifically called out by Cora for his poor performance on Saturday. If he is indeed in the bullpen in October — and at this point it seems like a given — he is going to be an important piece. He responded to the criticism well, tossing an easy 1-2-3 inning that included a pair of K’s. Then, Matt Barnes came in after struggling in his last outing, and he allowed just a single while looking strong. If them too can pitch well in October, it totally transforms the bullpen.
The seventh belonged to Ryan Brasier, and he’d get through it allowing just a walk. In the eighth, it was Drew Pomeranz and he contributed a 1-2-3 inning. Finally, it was Craig Kimbrel to finish off the game and the regular season. Poetically, it ended perfectly with as the closer struck out the side. 108 wins.
Well, that’s that. At least for the regular season. We don’t yet know who the Red Sox will play in their next game, but we know it’s going to be either Oakland or New York, and we know it’s going to be on Friday. It’s going to be a long week.