Red Sox advance to ALDS with dominant Wild Card victory over Yankees – Lowell Sun
The Red Sox knew about the Yankees’ preference to play them in the event that a tiebreaker game needed to be played, but insisted that it didn’t add any motivation. They didn’t need it. Tuesday’s winner-take-all Wild Card game was more than enough.
“They wanted us and they got us,” Kiké Hernández said.
And then, they sent their rivals home for the winter.
This Red Sox season, once never expected to last this long, will live on. Nathan Eovaldi rose to the occasion, Gerrit Cole did not, and the Red Sox rode it all the way down to Florida. Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber each hit homers, and Alex Verdugo drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the seventh that sealed the deal, as the Red Sox ended the Yankees’ season with a 6-2 victory at an electric Fenway Park.
They advanced to the American League Division Series, where they’ll be the underdogs against the AL East-winning Rays. Game 1 is set for Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
“I don’t think there’s many people that picked us to win this game,” Schwarber said. “We all have faith in ourselves.”
Eleven days after Cole beat Eovaldi in what was a potential Wild Card game preview at Fenway, the script flipped. The latter looked like the elite postseason performer that he’s become.
Eovaldi recorded just eight outs in the Sept. 24 loss to the Yankees in one of his worst performances of the season, but after rebounding with a strong performance last week in Baltimore, he redeemed himself Tuesday night. Despite an unsatisfying ending, he came through in the most important game of the season, allowing just one run in 5 1/3 strong innings.
He worked with an early lead — something that has evaded the Red Sox of late — after their de facto captain set the tone in the first inning. Xander Bogaerts, who struggled at the plate to end the regular season, came up after Rafael Devers worked a walk, and took advantage of Cole’s early inability to locate his pitches.
As the crowd tried getting into the Yankees ace’s head with chants of “Gerrr-it,” the Red Sox shortstop provided his worst nightmare. Bogaerts made no mistake on a hanging 2-1 changeup, smashing it to the center-field seats and sending Fenway’s raucous crowd into hysteria.
“Talk about a pop,” Schwarber said. “The crowd went nuts, and you feed off that energy. You thrive for that, and Red Sox nation brought it tonight. We needed it, and you can’t say enough about the crowd tonight.”
Cole, ultimately, didn’t see Bogaerts again.
Schwarber delivered a little bit of deja vu against the Yankees ace in the third inning. Schwarber, who homered against Cole in the 2015 National League Wild Card game, did it again to lead off the third. The designated hitter somehow caught up with Cole’s 97 mph fastball above the zone and cranked it to right field to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
Cole’s night didn’t last much longer. He gave up a softly hit infield single to Kiké Hernández, issued another walk to Devers, and that was it. In stunning fashion, Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn’t hesitate to come out and get his ace. There was no argument from Cole, who handed Boone the ball and walked to the dugout after his shortest start of the season, much to the fans’ delight.
“For us to get to him early, that was a huge win for us,” Schwarber said. “That’s what we wanted to do.”
Eovaldi, meanwhile, was dealing. After having trouble gripping the ball last time against the Yankees, he had no such trouble on Tuesday. With pinpoint accuracy, Eovaldi mowed down the Yankees, who were jumping all over his first pitches to unsuccessful results. He retired 10 consecutive Yankees during one stretch through five shutout innings.
The game, however, reached a potential turning point in the sixth. With a 3-0 lead after a leadoff strikeout of Rougned Odor, Eovaldi’s third trip through the Yankees order created some stress. Anthony Rizzo ripped a first-pitch curveball around Pesky Pole to cut the Red Sox’ lead to two runs before Aaron Judge barely beat out an infield single.
Despite Eovaldi’s dominance, Cora was quick to the hook, summoning Ryan Brasier to face Giancarlo Stanton in what turned out to be possibly the most pivotal at-bat of the game.
Stanton, who had crushed Eovaldi off the left-field wall for a loud single in the first, sent another ball high off the Green Monster that narrowly missed being a game-tying home run by about five feet. The hit should have put Stanton and Judge on second and third with one out. But a strong rally and an awful send spoiled the Yankees’ rally. Hernandez, backing up the play in left, made a quick throw to Bogaerts, and with the aid of third-base coach Phil Nevin inexplicably waving Judge home, the shortstop made a perfect throw to the plate well ahead of Judge for the out.
The Yankees didn’t really threaten again, with Stanton’s ninth-inning solo homer a blip. Tanner Houck, Hansel Robles and Garrett Whitlock held down the struggling Yankees offense to keep this season going at least one series longer. They’ll face a Rays team that they went 8-11 against this season.
“We have some familiarity with those guys,” Bogaerts said. “It’s going to be an interesting series. Hopefully we come out on top.”