So, that was a hell of a Game One, eh? It’s a lot easier to wax poetic about that first contest given the Red Sox winning, but there was a lot of good and a lot of bad in this game. It’s probably going to be like that for however long this series lasts, but hopefully the rest of the series won’t be quite so stressful. Wishful thinking, I know. Anyway, I was hoping for one big takeaway to write about after this game, but there was just too much here for that. So, instead, I’m going to quickly cover everything I could think about during the game. Keep in mind that this is just a few hours after the final out and I’m running on two hours sleep, so I’m not kidding when I say these thoughts are scattered.
- First thing’s first: Chris Sale’s performance was huge. There was plenty of concern around the Red Sox ace due to his injury, his late-season performance and his lack of playoff success heading into this game. In the end, he made all of us who were worried look stupid. Sale came out of the gate pumping 96 on his fastball, and his slider was straight-up filthy. He certainly wasn’t perfect, as he started to lose it a bit in the sixth and his command wasn’t perfect all night, but he ended up with eight strikeouts in 5 1⁄3 innings. This is the Sale the Red Sox were looking for in October when they traded for him. They got him, and that eased a lot of minds in Red Sox Nation.
- On the other side of things, the Red Sox have to feel good about getting to J.A. Happ for early runs. The Yankees lefty has, of course, notoriously owned Boston hitters for his entire career, and that has included this year. They’d had plenty of time to prepare for the southpaw, and it showed in this game. J.D. Martinez had the big blow, and he said after the game he was looking for a fastball down in the zone. That’s exactly what he got in his first at bat and he put it in the Monster Seats. The offense didn’t perform nearly as well against the Yankees bullpen, and that almost came back to bite them, but getting some confidence against a supposed Red Sox-killer can’t hurt.
- The bullpen was bad. There is no getting around that. However, I’m not so sure it was quite as bad as it seems, and I would argue that it was more a result of bad managing than bad pitching. That’s not to take the responsibility totally off the pitching — the relievers need to make pitches whenever they are called upon — but it’s not entirely on them. Before we get to the managing, though, they need to throw strikes. Every reliever besides Rick Porcello had trouble finding the zone consistently, even if they got results eventually. Of all of the relievers who appeared on Friday, Ryan Brasier was the most disappointing to me. The Red Sox need him to be a big-time arm this October, and he was not that in Game One. On the other hand, Matt Barnes did walk a batter but he largely looked good. So did Craig Kimbrel, despite allowing a home run to Aaron Judge.
- Now, as for Cora, I found myself disagreeing with a whole lot of his decisions. For one thing, I wasn’t sure about lifting Sale so early. The Red Sox, as Cora himself has acknowledged, need as much length as possible from their rotation. Sale didn’t look great in the sixth, but he was at only 93 pitches with Luke Voit and Didi Gregorius due up. Sale had made Voit look bad in his previous at bat, and Gregorius was one of two lefties in the lineup. I would have given the starter those two at bats before going to the bullpen. After that, I was really surprised when Brandon Workman came on to start the seventh. The Yankees had the top of their lineup coming up, and while Workman had a huge strikeout to end the previous inning he wasn’t the guy you want against the top of New York’s lineup. I’d have given Barnes a clean inning there rather than calling upon him with two on and nobody out. I was also very confused as to why both Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi were seemingly both not even part of the plan in this game.
- All of that being said, learning after the game that Cora was down an arm in Steven Wright changed things. This was a reminder that second-guessing the manager is easy when you don’t have all the information. Does that mean I’m going to just automatically agree with everything Cora does from now on? Of course not. But it’s always nice to remind yourself that you probably don’t have all the information.
- In terms of unsung heroes in this game, give Sandy León all of the love. We all know about his utter lack of offense, and I’m as frustrated by it as anyone. We saw why he is behind the plate in this game, though. For one thing, he called a great game for Sale and gave the ace the maximum amount of success given his good, but unspectacular, command of his fastball. More importantly, when the bullpen came in León essentially saved the game. Just about every reliever was struggling to find the zone, and most were missing by significant margins. There were ample opportunities for wild pitches and passed balls, but León was phenomenal at keeping the ball in front of him. It was a big-time performance through and through.
- How about that bird hanging out in the outfield all night? I don’t really understand how it didn’t get scared at all, but that bird is now my hero.
- The TBS broadcast was mostly fine — though, with the Astros-Indians series getting Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley I’m certainly jealous — but one thing really bothered me. They plastered a green screen ad on the center field wall all night long. It was awful. Get outta here with that please.