NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 09: Andrew McCutchen #26, Giancarlo Stanton #27 and Luke Voit #45 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout against the Boston Red Sox in Game Four of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 09, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
It was a step back and another step in the learning process for the New York Yankees. Falling to the Boston Red Sox, a 108-win team in the regular season with the highest payroll in baseball, the Yankees are certainly going to need to retool their club in the off-season. Manager Aaron Boone will be hoping he won’t join the likes of Yogi Berra and Dick Howser, as rookie Yankee managers who made the playoffs but weren’t asked back the next season. This series may also have spelled the end of a couple of great Yankee careers for CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner. Nearly a decade since their last title, the Yankees have some work to do in the chase for World Series championship No. 28.
An inauspicious start proved to be too big of a hole for the Yankees to recover in what felt like an eminently winnable game. There’s no clock in baseball but the Yankees simply ran out of time in their 5-4 loss to the Red Sox.
WHAT IS HAPPENING?!
J.A. Happ had essentially owned the Red Sox in the regular season but the postseason is a different animal. It was an outing worthy of a Yankee starting pitcher in a year which won’t be repeated in this space.
In the first frame, a one-out single to left by Andrew Benintendi and a four-pitch free pass to Steve Pearce set the table for J.D. Martinez. Martinez drilled a laser into the first row of the Green Monster seats, staking Boston to a 3-0 advantage.
After a scoreless second, Happ was wrapped by the top of the Boston order again in the third. Mookie Betts doubled to center. Benintendi reached on a bunt single to first, as Luke Voit failed to look at Gleyber Torres covering at first base but one could argue it would’ve taken a bang-bang play to record the out. That ended Happ’s evening but not his responsibilities.
The Yankees lineup did its job from the standpoint working the count against Chris Sale and getting into the underbelly of the Red Sox soft bullpen. While Sale did display dominance with eight K’s in 5.1 frames, I’m sure the Red Sox would’ve preferred a smooth handoff from Sale to Craig Kimbrel.
In the sixth New York finally forced the issue. Aaron Judge singled to center to set the table but would be erased on a Brett Gardner (who entered the game earlier for an injured Aaron Hicks) force out. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a single to left, chasing Sale from the game. Facing Ryan Brasier, Voit singled to right plating Gardner and moving Stanton to third. Another force out by Didi Gregorius enabled Stanton to score.
After a wild pitch allowed Gregorius to advance to second, Brasier walked Miguel Andujar and his night was done. Brandon Workman entered and issued a free pass to Gary Sanchez to load the bases. However, Workman would rebound and get Gleyber Torres to strikeout swinging to end the threat.
If you followed the Yankees in the regular season, you could almost see this coming from a mile away. Bases loaded and zero outs and another opportunity squandered. Andrew McCutchen and Judge started the seventh inning off with consecutive singles to oust Workman. Both would advance on a wild pitch from Matt Barnes, who subsequently walked Gardner to load the bases.
Yet, Stanton would strikeout swinging, a Voit force out would plate McCutchen and a Gregorius groundout would end a frame which left the Yankees wanting more.
COMPARISONS CREEP IN
Fair or not Game 1 could’ve been the start of hot takes comparing Judge to Derek Jeter and Stanton to Alex Rodriguez. Forcing Kimbrel to enter in the eighth inning was helpful for a New York minute.
Judge, who went 3-for-5, opened the ninth inning with a solo bomb to right.
However, Gardner and Voit went down swinging on weak hacks around Stanton, who struck out looking at three pitches on a 1-for-4 evening with four K’s. Certainly, Stanton wasn’t alone in his struggles and the leg injury to Hicks didn’t help matters but it wasn’t a good look in this one at least.
The Yankees played about as clean of a game as one could ask for in their 6-2 victory. The power was there, defensive was solid and the pitching formula worked according to plan.
THE PRICE IS WRONG
It doesn’t matter which players are wearing the laundry or what year it is if David Price is starting against the Yankees and in the postseason it’s usually over before it gets started.
Judge put the squad on his back in the first frame and smoked a solo shot to straightaway center on a 1-2 cutter, staking the Bronx Bombers to a 1-0 edge. The Yankees right-fielder joined Hank Bauer (1958) and Johnny Mize (1952) as Yankees who hit home runs in each of the first three games to start the postseason. Judge also joined Bernie Williams as the only other Yankee with seven home runs in their first 16 postseason contests.
During the second stanza, Sanchez unloaded on a 1-1 cutter to left-center, doubling the Bronx Bombers advantage to 2-0. After Torres and Gardner coaxed consecutive two-out walks, McCutchen drilled an RBI-single off the Monster and following three runs, Price was done.
Masahiro Tanaka kept the Red Sox order in check. Aside from an obligatory solo home run to straightaway center by Bogaerts in the fourth, Tanaka limited the Boston lineup. When you can make Betts a non-factor, it’s tough for the Red Sox to rev up anything on offense.
Tanaka hurled five frames, fanned four, yielded one run on three hits and one walk. A 1-2-3 frame against the 9-1-2 of the Boston order enabled the bullpen to be perfectly aligned from the sixth inning on.
EL GARY IS SCARY
Don’t make Sanchez angry, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. In the fifth, the Red Sox reliever Brasier was screaming at Sanchez to get in the box and struck him out. He may have won the battle but the Red Sox lost the war.
Facing Eduardo Rodriguez in the seventh, Judge reached on an infield single to set the table. Voit followed with a walk. A controversial moment ensued as Stanton grounded to third and the high throw by Eduardo Nunez appeared to pull Ian Kinsler off the bag at second and it appeared as though the bases would be loaded but a replay review negated what looked like a correct safe call on the field.
Other than losing out on a potential grand slam, it wouldn’t hurt the Yankees.
Sanchez came up and clocked a 479-foot bomb to left-center on a 2-1 fastball. Sanchez joined Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui as the third Yankee with two home runs against the Red Sox in a postseason series and Sanchez became the first Yankees backstop with two home runs in a single postseason contest since Yogi Berra in Game 7 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Dellin Betances led the bullpen bucket brigade with a 1-2-3 nine-pitch sixth inning. His only blip was an RBI-double to Kinsler in the seventh. If you credit Boone for nothing this season, his effective usage of Betances for the entire haul, something Joe Girardi couldn’t figure out for four seasons, should be lauded.
Flashback to Game 3 of the 2017 ALDS, then-manager Joe Girardi was nearly booed out of Yankee Stadium during introductions. Flash forward to Game 3 of the 2018 ALDS and current skipper Aaron Boone found himself on the receiving end of voracious booing from the Bronx crowd before the game was over. The Yankees were embarrassed and looked unprepared. The only one with a worse evening was first base umpire Angel Hernandez. The capper was backup catcher Austin Romine surrendering a home run to Brock Holt to complete the cycle in a 16-1 loss.
Regardless of whether or not anyone dropped the ball on the 7:40 p.m. start time, Luis Severino wasn’t sharp and he didn’t look ready. Betts took Severino to the wall in center for the first out in the first inning and the Red Sox continued to square him up. Although the Red Sox essentially singled Severino to death, Severino didn’t have a put-away pitch working and it showed, on an evening where he allowed six runs on seven hits. With the Yankees down 3-0 after three innings, one could argue Severino didn’t have it and shouldn’t have been marched out there for the fourth, especially with a fresh bullpen with the Sunday off day.
Yet, Boone sent Severino out and he loaded the bases. Rather than start Lynn with a clean inning or Green for that matter or Green with the bases loaded, Boone brought in Lynn, who is a starter by trade and can be erratic. Lynn walked in a run and gave up three in total and only recorded one out. By the time Green toed the rubber it was too late and a fools’ errand.
Jonathan Holder, Stephen Tarpley and the aforementioned Romine were left to clean up the rest of this mess.
The only positive to come out of this is they were left with a more, rested back end of the bullpen for Game 4.
OFFENSE FAILS TO EVOLVE
Judge can’t hit a homer every game. Gregorius bunting during the second inning didn’t exactly scream analytical genius either. A groundball force out by Gregorius plated the lone run in the fourth frame. Stanton recorded a pair of hits but there wasn’t much else happening in the rest of the order.
Nathan Eovaldi continued his mastery of his former team with seven frames, five K’s, five hits, zero walks and one run.
It was a grind but Boone didn’t learn from Game 3 and was burned again in Game 4. CC Sabathia was left in for too long, Robertson and Betances were called upon too late. The offense somehow managed to cobble together three runs without the virtue of a hit on any of them. Perhaps because Andujar was glued to the bench for no apparent reason. The 4-3 loss effectively ended the season and kick-started a long off-season.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
At a minimum, Boone should’ve been looking to go get Sabathia at 2-0 in the third inning. In that third, Sabathia hit Benintendi to start the frame. A Pearce single made it runners at the corners. A sacrifice fly by Martinez made it 1-0. Following a Bogaerts groundout and a wild pitch, Kinsler turned around Gardner with an RBI-double to left. Nunez followed with an RBI-single to left.
In the ninth inning, the Yankees put some pressure on Kimbrel. Judge walked and Gregorius singled to right. After Stanton struck out, Voit walked and Walker was hit by a pitch to plate a run. Sanchez just missed a big fly and his sacrifice fly to left pulled the Yankees within a run at 4-3. However, a Torres groundout meant the end of the 2018 campaign.