From a recapping perspective, it’s always nice when the action stays nice and condensed. The Yankees and Red Sox put 16 zeroes on the scoreboard today, with each team keeping their scoring activities to just a single half-frame, making for a snappy contest. Fortunately, the Yankees made the most of their opportunity just a little more than the Red Sox did, as their three-run sixth was just barely good enough to beat the home side’s two-run fourth inning and 10 punchouts from Nick Pivetta to take the first half of today’s doubleheader.
Both starting pitchers were quite sharp to open the action, with each offense being held to just a single each through three innings. Against a lefty-heavy Boston lineup, Randy Vásquez relied on his four-seamer a little heavier than usual, and it worked like a charm, getting a called strike or whiff on 44 percent of them. He lived in the strike zone with the fastballs, and kept his breaking balls and changeup close enough to the plate to avoid barrels, and until the fourth inning, he managed to keep most Boston’s hardest-hit balls on the ground.
Then the fourth inning came, at which point Vásquez was seeing Boston’s lineup for the second time. In the game thread, I said “all the weak contact in the world won’t matter if you make too many mistakes over the plate to hitters like Rafael Devers, Justin Turner, Adam Duvall, or Triston Casas,” and unfortunately, he made what can only be characterized as a pretty bad mistake to the most dangerous hitter of the above group, and it gave Boston a 1-0 lead.
The end for Vásquez wasn’t long thereafter: Justin Turner lined out to left field, but Triston Casas followed it up with a double, Masataka Yoshida moved him over to third with a groundout. Then, he started to lose his command, and the game became 2-0 when he simply threw it away.
That plate appearance ultimately resulted in a base on balls, and Aaron Boone wasn’t willing to test the rookie’s gall, lifting him for Jhony Brito after 3.2 innings, two runs and three K’s. It wasn’t the most inspiring performance from the rookie, but it’s hard to complain, either, especially since 50 pitches last time out meant that Vásquez could only go so far. He kept them in the game, and the trust and ability to dig deep and work through five or six efficient innings instead of stalling out after three or four is something that will develop in time. Brito, for his part, continued to look fantastic in a multi-inning relief role, ripping off 2.1 scoreless frames in relief of Vásquez. That lowers his ERA to 1.38 in eight games as a reliever, covering 26 innings, as opposed to his 6.32 mark working out of the rotation. It’s certainly something to watch for next season.
The pitch that Brito struck out Rafaela on was a sweeper, as he seems like he might be phasing out the vertical breaking ball he was throwing at the beginning of the year.— Lucas (@DBITLefty) September 12, 2023
On the other side, it was a classic Nick Pivetta start: oodles of strikeouts, an unhittable first few frames, and an inability to make the biggest pitch when it counted. Pivetta did an admirable job giving Boston a chance to win, and unusually, he only walked one over 5.1 innings to go along with his 10 strikeouts. If you lose the game in which Nick Pivetta gives you a 10:1 strikeout-to-walk rate, it’s probably not Nick Pivetta’s fault.
That being said, fatigue clearly set in earlier on Pivetta than Alex Cora would have liked, as he opened the top of the sixth inning looking like a totally different pitcher than the one that had just rattled off five scoreless. Everson Pereira wore one in the back on the very first pitch of the inning, and two pitches later, Kyle Higashioka yanked a single through the left said to put the Yankees’ first runner in scoring position on the day, and DJ LeMahieu cut the lead in half.
Pivetta managed to retire Aaron Judge, but that only brought up Gleyber Torres, who continued his “go ahead, trade me” second half with his 63rd and 64th runs batted in on the year with a single through the right side.
Reliever Mauricio Llovera worked out of the jam from there, but the damage was done, and no team would touch the scoreboard for the rest of the afternoon. Llovera and John Schreiber prevented the Yankees from threatening thereafter, and Brito handed the ball to Tommy Kahnle, who handed the ball to Wandy Peralta, all of whom managed to keep opposing bats quiet.
Then Clay Holmes took the ball for the ninth. This had all of the makings of one of those outings, where you know almost from the moment that he throws the first pitch that he has no idea where the ball is going. He induced a groundout to lead off the inning — but not after throwing three straight balls to Wilyer Abreu — at which point things almost got dicey. The walk to Ceddanne Rafaela wasn’t enough to raise alarms, but by the time his five-pitch walk to Emmanuel Valdez in the subsequent at-bat was complete, things were nervy at best. Loading the bases, though? On a five-pitch walk to Reese McGuire? With Alex Verdugo on deck? That’s the point where full-blown panic starts to kick in.
By the grace of Verdugo, however, it didn’t last long. Sound fundamental baseball can be a lot of things, but one thing it most certainly is not? Watching the often-erratic closer walk the bases loaded, and then swinging at the first pitch to ground into a game-ending double play.
Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Hate to see it.
If they’re not milling around somewhere in the bowels of Fenway Park, these teams are likely already back on the field, getting loose for the back half of this doubleheader, which is slated to start at 7:10pm ET. It will feature Carlos Rodón looking to bounce back against yesterday’s anticipated starter for Boston, Kutter Crawford. We’ll see you in the comments of that game thread in about an hour and a half!