New day, same old story. Rick Porcello got the start for the Red Sox on Sunday and, well, he gave up hard contact. Not all of the Yankees runners against him reached on solid hits, to be fair, but he made bad pitches at the worst possible time and yet again his performance was too much for the offense to overcome. It’s a story as old as, well, as old as this season at least.
The Red Sox are all but eliminated from postseason contention, but they are still playing baseball because, well, that’s what you do. There are 162 games and you play them all, and we watch because because is cool, even if the home team’s hopes are close to officially shot. So, Boston took to the field on Sunday Night Baseball — which was inexplicably back at 8:00 even though everyone has been loving their 7:00 starts this year — against the Yankees, looking to at least finish the season off with some dignity. For a lot of this game, it was instead a nice microcosm of what has gone wrong for this team all year, and their tendency to take one step forward and two steps back.
It was Rick Porcello on the mound this year, who may not be the most disappointing player relative to expectations but he’s kind of been the personification of the season’s issues. That would probably go to someone like Chris Sale if it wasn’t for the injury, but Porcello suffers simply for staying on the field. Such is life.
Anyway, the righty has been just so incredibly hittable all year, and it has not been a good combination with the golf balls being used as baseballs this year. Sunday night was no exception against this powerful Yankees lineup. He did get through a quick first inning, though, getting the night off to a good start. It would not last long.
After the Red Sox sent only three to the plate in the bottom of the first, the Yankees got to Porcello. Gary Sánchez ripped one in the first at bat of the game, though Rafael Devers was able to snag it for the first out. The Yankees would continue to hit the ball hard after that, but these didn’t find gloves. Edwin Encarnación singled into right field before Gleyber Torres hit a moonshot out over the wall in left field. With that, New York had grabbed themselves a 2-0 lead.
In the third, they would get to the Red Sox righty yet again, though this time it involved some good fortune for the bad guys. Mike Tauchman started things off with a pop up down the left field line that found space and bounced up into the seats for a leadoff groundrule double. DJ LeMahieu then followed that up with an infield single to put two on with nobody out. The third hit was not luck, though, as Aaron Judge smoked a base hit off the Monster to give New York a 3-0 lead. A couple batters later, Sánchez would bring one more home on a slow roller to third base, and the Yankees had a 4-0 lead after two and a half.
The good news is the Red Sox offense was not going to roll over after falling behind. They were going up against Masahiro Tanaka, a guy against whom they’ve had success in the past including this season. Boston would get a leadoff base hit from Sandy León before Jackie Bradley Jr. stepped into the box. His homer wasn’t majestic, but he went the other way on a high fastball and put it into the first row of the Monster Seats. Just like that, the Yankees lead was cut in half.
With his offense starting to get the bats going, now it was up to Porcello to keep the momentum on their side. And herein lies the similarities to the season as a whole. The bare minimum cannot be counted on from the pitching. Porcello struggled again in the fourth, giving up a leadoff single before Tauchman took advantage of the short right-field line at Fenway. It was a second two-run homer off Porcello, and New York got their lead right back to four.
Once again, the Red Sox offense would answer back. After two quick outs from the middle of the order to start things, Brock Holt extended the inning with a base hit ahead of back-to-back doubles from Mitch Moreland and Sandy León. Just like in the inning before, the Red Sox cut the deficit in half and were within two.
Just like in the fourth, they were now looking for a shutdown inning from the pitcher. This time it wasn’t Porcello, though, as Alex Cora called upon Ryan Brasier for this inning. That went south immediately when Judge destroyed a solo homer to lead things off and push the Yankees lead back to three. New York would get one more as the Red Sox used two more pitchers in the inning, and it was 8-4.
After the second straight failed shutdown inning from Red Sox pitchers, the air was sucked out of Fenway and the offense didn’t have an answer this time around. They would go down in order in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Meanwhile, the Red Sox got a scoreless inning from Jhoulys Chacín (who was supposed to start Tuesday) and two from Josh Smith.
Finally, the Red Sox offense showed some life again in the eighth with Mookie Betts leading off against Adam Ottavino. The Yankees righty caught too much of the plate and the 2018 MVP hit a shot into the Monster Seats to cut the deficit to three. Ottavino would come back and retire the next three, though, to end the inning.
Of course, since the Red Sox scored in the previous half-inning it was time for the pitching to give up some more. Marcus Walden and Hector Velázquez combined to give up a couple runs in the inning, in part thanks to a two-error play from Rafael Devers. Not great!
The Red Sox would then come back and go down in order in the bottom of the ninth to finish the game and put another L on their schedule.
The Red Sox and Yankees finish this weird wraparound series on Monday. Eduardo Rodriguez will be on the mound for Boston while the Yankees send out James Paxton. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.