The Red Sox just couldn’t get swept this weekend. Their road to the end of the season looks good no matter what, taking on the Orioles and Nationals to finish their season while the Yankees and Blue Jays play each other in their next series. So as long as they took one game this weekend, they’d have a relatively easy road to the Wildcard Game. They didn’t take one game, and while the road is still certainly manageable, they’re making it harder than it has to be. This was a wild game that you can read about herein, but it included bad defense on both sides, and one brutal missed call that really marked the end of the game. I hate it.
Putting aside all of the very important factors of this game vis a vis the implications for the wildcard chase, this was potentially a big one on a personal level to Eduardo Rodriguez. The lefty, who has spent his whole big-league career to this point with the Red Sox, is set to hit free agency at the end of this season. With the team heading out on the road for their final six regular season games, there’s a very real chance Sunday was the last time Rodriguez will take the mound at Fenway for the home team.
It was a potential signature moment with which toe end his home Fenway career, if that is how things end up shaking out, and he pitched up to the moment for the early portions of his start. The southpaw, who has been frustrating all season, has actually done fairly well against New York in the 2021 matchups. He kept the Yankees offense off-balance through the first four innings, allowing just three singles without any runs coming across.
But over on the other side, the Red Sox bats were once again sputtering against a Yankee starter, this time with Jordan Montgomery doing the job. The southpaw got through the first three innings very easily, allowing just a pair of singles.
But the stalemate was finally broken in the bottom half of the fourth, with Boston drawing first blood. Rafael Devers got things started, ripping a base hit to lead off the inning on the first pitch he saw. After a stolen base and a base hit from Xander Bogaerts, there were runners on the corners and nobody out, a chance for a real statement. Instead, the Red Sox would settle for just one run in the inning, with J.D. Martinez bringing Devers home on a sacrifice fly.
And sure enough, once the lead was in hand, Rodriguez started to hit some trouble. He got up 1-2 on Gleyber Torres to start the inning, but ultimately walked the leadoff man. Eventually, the bases would fill up after a couple of singles, and with still nobody out Rodriguez was going to need a miracle. To his credit, he did get the ground ball he needed in the next at bat, trading a run — and the lead — for a pair of outs. That just left a runner on third with two outs, needing to get DJ LeMahieu out to keep the game tied.
It was a small moment in the game, just an at bat in the top half of the fifth inning, but it felt like a swing. And Rodriguez lost the battle. LeMahieu looked more like his early Yankees years, going the other way with a line drive for the little bit of extra offense in the inning, and New York had a 2-1 lead.
Boston did get to Montgomery a bit in the fifth inning, but it ended up being a frustrating affair. Thanks to a double play and a 370-foot fly out, the Red Sox managed to hit three singles without tying up the game.
Heading into the sixth, Rodriguez’s day was done with Alex Cora opting for Hansel Robles to take over. Facing the meat of the Yankees lineup, he had no trouble at all with an eight-pitch perfect inning. And then after Clay Holmes came out for New York and struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth, Garrett Richards got the call for the seventh and tossed a perfect inning of his own.
Cora then did his best to get Holmes out of the game, sending Travis Shaw out as a pinch hitter to start the seventh. That worked, with New York going to the left-handed Joely Rodríguez, which Cora countered by hitting José Iglesias for Shaw. So, Shaw never actually got to participate in the game, but the move worked with Iglesias leading things off with a base hit, after which Alex Verdugo reached on a bunt single.
Now Christian Vázquez came to the plate, and Rodríguez threw one in the dirt that got away to move the runners up. With runners now on second and third, still with nobody out, Vázquez got the fly ball he needed. It was just deep enough to score the run, but Verdugo did make a mistake in not advancing to third on the throw home.
That brought Chad Green into the game for New York, and after he got Kiké Hernández looking with a generous call on a pitch off the outside corner, Kyle Schwarber stepped up to pinch hit for Hunter Renfroe. LeMahieu dropped an easy pop up in foul ground on the first pitch, giving Schwarber new life. It looked like he failed to take advantage, hitting a routine pop up out to left field, but they dropped it again. This time it was Joey Gallo failing to close the glove, and Verdugo came around to score and give Boston a 3-2 lead.
So now with a new ballgame on our hands, Richards came back out and issued a leadoff walk. Tyler Wade, who came on to run, then got caught stealing second on a play in which he inexplicably did not slide. It was a big first out, though Richards then followed that up with another walk. He was kept in the game to face Anthony Rizzo, who smoked a double into the right-center field gap.
With that, there were two men in scoring position with just one out, and former Yankee Adam Ottavino was coming in to face Judge. He got a pop up in foul ground, but Bobby Dalbec got tentative as he approached the wall and let it drop in. And then Joe West got a huge call wrong behind the plate, ruling a dropped foul tip on Vázquez on a ball that, on replay, was clearly caught and dropped on the transfer. Sure enough, Judge took advantage of his third chance, ripping a double into left-center field to give the lead back to New York. That brought Giancarlo Stanton up to the plate, and just like he did in the eighth on Saturday, he sent one into orbit.
That certainly felt like the game, with the Yankees now holding a three-run lead, but there were still more six more outs to play with for the offense. And Devers got the eighth started by ripping a double into right field that bounced up into the seats. A couple batters later Martinez hit a single to put runners at the corners with one out. But they couldn’t get that run home, and it was still 6-3 after eight.
Boston’s offense provided no flashes of hope in the ninth, either, and that was the game. They now trail New York for the top spot in this wildcard race by a game, while Toronto, who won on Sunday, trails Boston by a game. Seattle, who also won, trails by two games. The Yankees and Blue Jays start a three-game series on Tuesday, so as long as Boston takes at least two out of three from Baltimore they’ll have at least a share of a playoff spot heading into the season’s final weekend.
The Red Sox now have their final off-day of the season before the final six games of the stretch run. They’ll pick things back up on Tuesday in Baltimore.