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Scattered Thoughts on a Wildcard Game win

Big thought: It was neat.

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Wild Card Round - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I would honestly be floored if this was the first you were hearing this, but on the off chance you didn’t know, the Red Sox are going to the ALDS thanks to a 6-2 win over the Yankees in Tuesday’s Wildcard Game. As I typically do after a postseason game, I had some scattered thoughts on the big night at Fenway.

  • And that’s exactly where we need to start here. I was not at the park on Tuesday, but you didn’t have to be to feel the electricity. Between just how big of a game this was — and it really doesn’t get much bigger than a winner-take-all game against the Yankees as underdogs — and the fact that we just spent a year without being able to do that kind of thing, the crowd was not going to stop all night. We talked earlier in the week about how home field was a big deal, and we saw it. I’m really not sure I see that game going the same way without the early energy boost.
  • And along those same lines, the first inning was massive for this game. The crowd was amped up to start, and they just needed a clean first from Nathan Eovaldi to really explode. He came through, and then in the bottom half Xander Bogaerts hit a two-run shot. From that moment forward, the crowd didn’t die down for more than a minute the rest of the way.
  • It’s certainly a little extra sweet after it leaked out that the Yankees had chosen to play the Red Sox in the event of a tiebreaker. They got them, and the Red Sox were sure to give them what they asked for. To be clear, I think that was the smart and obvious move for the Yankees in their spot, with the other choice being traveling to Toronto, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less sweet to turn around and beat them.
Wild Card Round - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
  • In terms of the game itself, to me the biggest story was Eovaldi. In a battle of the aces, it was Gerrit Cole getting all the shine before the game, and just like in the previous bullet that’s understandable. But just because the logic is there doesn’t mean it’s not sweet to go against it. Eovaldi pitched every bit like a playoff ace in this game in a way that Cole did not. Most of the coverage there is going to be focused on Cole not pitching like it, but to me the story is that Eovaldi did. I’m going to have more on him later so I won’t say too much now, but he’s cementing himself as a Boston legend.
  • And speaking just more on the technical side, it was fantastic to see him have his secondaries again. He was shelled by the Yankees last month while working virtually just with a fastball and cutter in that game. Here, he did lean heavy on the fastball but he had a few really good splitters and his curveball was awesome. When he has everything working and the hitter truly is left guessing at all times, he’s hard to beat.
  • Thinking about the biggest moments of the game, it’s hard for me to pick anything besides the relay to get Aaron Judge at the plate. When the play first went down, I thought it was just a terrible send. And upon replay it’s still not a great send, but mostly it was a perfect relay, and specifically a perfect throw home from Xander Bogaerts. If Judge scores — and he would on a bit more inaccurate of a throw — it’s a one-run game with a runner in scoring position, just one out, and all the momentum with New York. Who knows where things go from there, but in the moment it was hard to see it going positively. For a team with major defensive issues, they came up with a huge play exactly when they needed it.
  • I said above that Eovaldi was the biggest story of the game, but Bogaerts was the MVP of the day. He had two big moments in this game with the homer and the relay, and he also worked a couple of big walks late that ultimately helped them pull away a bit and get some breathing room. Especially with J.D. Martinez out for this one, and maybe even the next series, Bogaerts needs to hit after slumping late in the year. This was a great sign.
  • Given how often I write something and then the opposite immediately happens, I have to gloat a bit about the Verdugo clutch thing. Above I talked about Bogaerts walking to help add on late runs, and it was Verdugo driving him in. In the sixth, he got a run right back with an RBI double, and then in the seventh he brought two home to extend the lead to five with a base hit. He did end that base hit with a terrible baserunning out, but you take the good with the bad I suppose.
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see Kyle Schwarber leading off, and I hope this continues against righties. Kiké Hernández ended up being better in that role than I expected, but Schwarber’s ability to work a pitcher makes him such a fit at that spot.
  • Alex Cora’s got some kind of magical ability with relievers in the postseason, it seems. He makes some really wacky choices, even going back to Sunday with Martín Pérez pitching an important inning and getting the job done. On Tuesday, I was okay with pulling Eovaldi, but I was not wild about bringing in Ryan Brasier. But it worked, even if it was largely due to the relay mentioned above. I was not a fan of pulling Tanner Houck for Hansel Robles (though the concern waned when Verdugo added those two runs), but he was perfect. It’s kind of cheap for me to call it a magical ability, because it’s clear Cora knows his staff and, even when it doesn’t make sense, has a tendency in these games to find the optimum spot.
  • This was the first time the Red Sox played in a Wildcard Game, and I still liked it. I know it’s the minority position, and I agree some things can be tweaked to avoid things like the Dodgers being in it, but I think it’s exciting, and I’m okay with it being a little unfair in the spirit of entertainment. That said, I always figured I’d really know how I felt after the Red Sox played in one. Maybe it’ll be different if they don’t win next time.
  • And finally, it was really great to see Jerry Remy out there for the first pitch, and throwing to Eck was a nice addition.