As we sit here Friday morning, 2021 is almost in the books, but not quite yet. We still have a few more hours until we officially ring in the new year and enter 2022, which means we have one last chance to look back at the year that was for the Boston Red Sox, a surprising season that saw the team get just a couple wins away from the World Series. Our prompt for the staff roundtable this week was simple. What was your top Red Sox moment of 2021?
My top Red Sox moment was Game Three of the ALDS, when Nick Pivetta threw four shutout innings that would eventually lead to a Christian Vázquez walk-off home run. The home run wasn’t the top moment for me though. Instead, it was Pivetta’s performance. After continuous disappointing plate appearances from the Red Sox offense, Pivetta would storm out there and deliver time and time again. Every pitch was filled with drama and each inning ended with an emphatic celebration from Pivetta. The Fenway crowd was as loud as I’ve seen and the Red Sox would eventually deliver.
I would say my top Red Sox moment of 2021 was the team clinching a spot in the American League Wild Card Game on the final day of the regular season. After getting swept by the Yankees at home and dropping two out of three to the lowly Orioles on the road, the Sox bounced back by sweeping the Nationals at Nationals Park in dramatic fashion.
Boston needed to win the finale of that three-game series to ensure they would not be playing in a tiebreaker, and they did just that despite falling behind early. Even after finding themselves in a 5-1 hole on that faithful Sunday, the Sox rallied thanks to some impressive outings out of the bullpen and clutch hits at the plate.
From the sixth inning of that contest on, Martin Perez, Garrett Whitlock, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nick Pivetta combined for four scoreless, no-hit innings of relief. On the flip side, Christian Vázquez cut Washington’s lead down to three runs in the sixth inning, Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo tied things up at five runs apiece in the seventh, and Devers came through with the game-winning, two-run home run off Kyle Finnegan in the ninth.
It was a memorable come-from-behind 7-5 victory that encapsulated the spirit of the 2021 Red Sox. And it paved the way for Boston to make an enthralling and unexpected run all the way to the American League Championship Series in October.
The Hunter Renfroe Game. Down 1-0 to the Rays in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and a runner on base Renfroe launched a go-ahead two-run shot up and over the Monster. Then in the top of the ninth, backing up an awfully misplayed line drive from Danny Santana, Renfroe gunned down Joey Wendle at third to end it. Two huge plays in the span of about 20 minutes to seal the deal in front of an electric September crowd at Fenway Park.
My top Red Sox moment of 2021 was definitely what I think can be rightfully dubbed as “The Brooks Kriske game”. In a game in which the Yankees always scored first, most Sox fans, including myself, had little hope of Boston pulling out the win in their July 22nd, 2021 series-opening matchup versus the Yankees. Even after their rally in the ninth to tie it at 3-3 after nearly no other success at the plate during the game, I felt little hope that the Sox would win. Then Brooks Kriske showed up, threw four wild pitches, blew a save, and allowed two runs— including a game-winning sacrifice fly by Hunter Renfroe.
Although this game may be remembered by some as a complete and utter failure of game execution from a single pitcher, I think it best shows the resilience of the 2021 Boston Red Sox. They never gave up, even when facing unlikely situations of adversity, and that is something that I will never forget about that team. They showed this tenacity all the way through the playoffs: beating the top-seeded Rays, and nearly defeating the perennial contending Astros. The trait of perseverance is a special one, and it is not seen on every great baseball team, but its presence within that 2021 Red Sox team should give fans hope for even greater success in the near future for this team.
My favorite Red Sox moment of 2021 is one I didn’t actually watch. Let me explain. My wife and I have largely cut cable, so I couldn’t watch most playoff games this year. Instead, I returned to listening via the radio (well, actually, through the MLB.tv app). Hanging on every word rather than every pitch is a whole different experience, but when Christian Vázquez hit a walkoff two-run home run in the 13th inning of game three of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, even though I didn’t see it, I still celebrated like it happened right in front of me. And you best believe I have rewatched the highlights since. You should too.
Bayleigh Von Schneider
Top Red Sox moment for me was beating the Yankees in the Wild Card Game. Not going to lie, I was nervous about it, but man, oh man, when Kyle Schwarber’s bat connected off that Cole fastball, I was as giddy as a child. The 2021 Red Sox overachieved, but the future is so bright, and they were so much fun to watch. Let’s hope 2022 gives us more Schwarber bombs. Fingers crossed.
I’m a long-season purist. I don’t think 162 games should be set aside for a few weeks of playoffs. That said, the moment of the year was in the Wild Card game. And the was the relay to throw out Aaron Judge at the plate. It had everything: a win (both the play and of course the game) against the Yankees, a defeat of their star, excellent defensive positioning, and an absolute gem of a throw from Xander Bogaerts. It didn’t win the game but it sure helped. The 2021 team was really good and probably won’t be remembered that was because the season had so many peaks and valleys but that relay was a thing to see.
My top moment and most lasting memory of the 2021 season was the Yankees vs. Red Sox Wild Card game at Fenway. In terms of a singular moment in that game, it would be Xander Bogaerts’ first inning two-run homer to deep center field off of Gerrit Cole. A towering shot with two outs, which delivered an early lead for the Red Sox, encouraged the fans to stand for every pitch of the remainder of the game (and maybe the entire playoffs), and, thankfully, led to the ESPN cameras showing this gentleman drenching his entire section in cold beer before chugging the remainder of said beer on national television.
Kyle Schwarber hit an equally towering blast to right in the third inning, chasing Cole, who only retired six batters, from the biggest game of the year as 38,324 chanted his first name on each and every pitch. The Sox won 6-2, starting a fun two-week ride.
My favorite moment of the 2021 season was the 6-2 victory over the New York Yankees in the one game play in on October 5th. The Yankees were feeling very good about their chances with Gerrit Cole on the mound, however, it was Nate Eovaldi who stole the show going 5 1/3, striking out eight and allowing just one earned run in the victory. The victory was not simply Eovaldi’s alone though, every pitcher who made an appearance did his job. Overall, the Red Sox pitchers struck out eleven batters while walking zero. The Yankees did not fare so well allowing seven walks. These walks proved costly right away as a Rafael Devers walk in the bottom of the first led to Xander Bogaerts two run shot off of Cole and then again in the bottom of the sixth a Bogaerts walk would be followed by a Verdugo home run. The Yankees wanted the Red Sox, and they got them. Be careful what you wish for.
I’m sure there are some early regular season deep cuts that have been lost to time, but the stand out is Game 4 of the ALDS. They were underdogs in the Wild Card game, but there was some glimmering hope that they could pounce on Cole given his recent struggles. But they were heavy underdogs in the ALDS. That series win was special and Christian Vazquez’s walk off homer is the shining light from that series. That game also has another Enrique Hernández homer and the 4 innings of shutout relief from Nick Pivetta. It was the most memorable game of this playoff run and the best moment of their entire season.
My real answer is the Wild Card Game, which is one of my favorite baseball memories of all time, but I’ll switch it up a bit and expand a bit on Avery’s answer. That game itself was huge, but that entire run in July, right before the trade deadline and everything started to hit the fan, was absurd. It felt like the Red Sox stole wins every day, and to make matters even better the Yankees were on the wrong end of it a few times. That was around the time Red Sox fans were at their highest and Yankees fans were at their lowest, and it doesn’t really get better than that.