The Yankees fell behind 5-0 early, but chipped away at Boston’s lead to close to within one run. Unfortunately, the valiant comeback effort came up short, as Boston held on for a 5-4 victory in Game One of the Division Series at Fenway Park.
Heading into today’s game, fans on both sides of the rivalry were unsure what to expect from Red Sox starter Chris Sale. The perennial Cy Young Award candidate had thrown a total of only 17 innings since the beginning of August. Arm trouble landed him on the disabled list twice, and he struggled with mechanical problems since returning to action. Much to the chagrin of Yankees fans, it was the dominant, unhittable Sale who showed up to pitch on Friday night.
Sale struck out the side twice, and limited the Yankees to just three hits through five innings. But New York’s plan was to drive up Sale’s pitch count, oust him out of the game as early as possible, and get to the soft Red Sox bullpen. The plan almost worked.
Trailing 5-0, the Yankees finally got on the board with two runs in the sixth. Aaron Judge singled, Brett Gardner grounded into a force out, and Giancarlo Stanton singled to knock Sale out of the game. Ryan Brasier came on in relief, and immediately gave up an RBI single to Luke Voit. Didi Gregorius grounded into a force play, driving in Stanton for New York’s second run.
New York managed to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate, but came up empty. Miguel Andujar walked, and Gary Sanchez drew a four-pitch walk after Brandon Workman replaced Brasier. Workman rebounded to strike out Gleyber Torres swinging, and the Yankees left the bases loaded.
The Yankees loaded the bases again in the seventh, this time with nobody out, but they only managed to plate one run. McCutchen and Judge singled, and Gardner walked. After Stanton struck out swinging, Voit grounded into a RBI-force out, and Didi grounded out to kill the rally.
Give Red Sox skipper Alex Cora credit, he made the most of his club’s sketchy bullpen situation. Cora brought in scheduled Game Three starter Rick Porcello to pitch the eighth, who retired the first two batters before giving up a single to Torres. So Cora went to All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel for four outs.
Kimbrel escaped the eighth unscathed, but coughed up an opposite-field home run to Judge leading off the ninth. Kimbrel then struck out Gardner, Stanton, and Voit to shut down New York’s comeback attempt.
As if losing the game wasn’t enough, the Yankees also lost their starting center fielder. Aaron Hicks lined a singled to lead off the fourth, then came up lame as he crossed first base. He was removed from the game with a tight right hamstring, with Gardner going in to pinch-run and play center.
Boston got on the board immediately in the first inning against Yankees starter J.A. Happ. Andrew Benintendi singled past a drawn-in Miguel Andujar at third base, Steve Pearce walked on four pitches, and J.D. Martinez homered into the first row of the Monster Seats to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
The Red Sox added two more runs in the third. Mookie Betts led off with a double high off the Green Monster. Benintendi dropped a perfect bunt down the first-base line, and reached when Voit failed to make the throw to Torres covering. Chad Green relieved Happ, and promptly coughed up an RBI single to Pearce. Benintendi moved to third on a long fly out by Martinez, and scored on a Xander Bogaerts sacrifice fly.
Join us tomorrow for Game Two, as the Yankees try to even the series. Masahiro Tanaka (12-6, 3.75 ERA) faces off against left-hander David Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA). First pitch is 8:15 PM EDT.