October 9, 2018

ALDS 4: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3

Red Sox - 003 100 000 - 4  8  0
Yankees - 000 010 002 - 3  5  1
American League Division Series: Red Sox defeat Yankees, 3 games to 1

The Red Sox marked October 9 as "Yankee Elimination Day" for 2018 with an ALDS-clinching victory in the Bronx on Tuesday night, but the ensuing celebration was not without a fair amount of worry. Boston cruised happily through 8.5 innings - and then Craig Kimbrel took the mound for the bottom of the ninth.

Kimbrel issued two four-pitch walks, hit a batter, allowed a single, and a deep fly to left that stopped drifting about 10-15 feet from becoming a game-losing grand slam. The Yankees hitters ignored Kimbrel's knucklecurves, most of which sailed well out of the zone, and he seemed allergic to his fastball.

With the potential tying run at second and two outs, Gleyber Torres tapped a grounder towards third. Eduardo Nunez came in on the grass and rushed a throw. (My first thought was do not throw it and risk an error.) Steve Pearce stretched for the ball at first and umpire Fieldin Culbreth called "out". The on-field celebration began ... but the Yankees challenged the close call. Did Pearce's foot come off the bag? An excellent replay (from the third base on-deck circle, maybe?) showed the call was correct and the headset-wearing umps eventually agreed. And the celebration began in earnest. (In the clubhouse, where they had also celebrated clinching the AL East, the Red Sox played "New York, New York".)

It's always enjoyable when the Yankees fans get all excited, thinking their team is going to rally and win, because that is the natural order of things, only to have their rising hopes utterly crushed - but tonight's example was far too extreme. There was too much expectation in the stands and too much visualization (in my mind and probably the minds of many other Red Sox fans) of disaster.

Alex Cora and his coaches must figure out what is wrong with Kimbrel - and fix it immediately - or they need to seriously consider someone else as the closer in the ALCS. Because the Astros - who will be at Fenway Park for ALCS Game 1 on Saturday night - will not flop like the Yankees did. They will destroy us.

CC Sabathia had next-to-nothing and lasted only three innings (3-5-3-2-1, 59). He retired the first two batters in the first, but Steve Pearce singled to center, J.D. Martinez reached on an infield single (CC did not bother to cover first base), and Xander Bogaerts walked. Ian Kinsler hit a high fly down the left field line, into the corner, where Brett Gardner made a tough catch - and Boston left the bases loaded.

When Aaron Hicks belted Rick Porcello's first pitch to deep center and Jackie Bradley caught it with his back against the 408 marker on the wall, I thought of how Luis Severino's start had begun the night before. The resemblance ended there, however, as Porcello (5-4-1-0-1, 65) retired the side on eight pitches. He needed only nine pitches in the second, although he did allow a meaningless two-out single.

Sabathia's first pitch of the third glanced off Andrew Benintendi's right arm. Pearce dropped a 2-2 pitch into short right-center and the Red Sox had men at first and third. Martinez's fly to deep left-center brought Benintendi home with the night's first run. Pearce advanced to second on Xander Bogaerts's groundout to the mound and he took third on a wild pitch, a changeup that sailed past Gary Sanchez's glove, untouched. Kinsler crushed a 2-1 pitch to deep left. It sailed over Gardner's grotesquely large head and went to the wall. Eduardo Nunez quickly followed with a first-pitch single down the left field line, scoring Kinsler and giving Boston a 3-0 lead. The Red Sox were 85-5 in games in which they held a three-run lead at any point.

Porcello threw a grand total of 11 pitches in the third, bringing his three-inning total to 28. Sabathia had thrown 59 in his three frames and Zack Britton took over in the fourth. Christian Vázquez drove Britton's fourth pitch to right. Aaron Judge watched helplessly as it carried into the first row for a home run. After that, the Red Sox did not do much until the eighth inning.

Didi Gregorius doubled with one out in the fourth, but the hit went for nought, as Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit grounded out. Brian Anderson and Ron Darling, the TBS announcers, were a bit more subdued in their exaggerated praise for every aspect of the Yankees. It was still in evidence, though. When Gary Sanchez doubled with one out in the fifth, Anderson reacted with more volume and excitement than he had for any Red Sox hit or run in the earlier innings. Gleyber Torres dribbled a grounder down the third base line. Nunez let it roll and it stayed fair. Sanchez was on third and he scored on Gardner's sac fly to left.

Porcello had a 1-2 count on Hicks and threw an inning-ending strike three low (#6 below), but plate umpire Angel Hernandez called it a ball. I was dreading Hernandez behind the plate, but he appeared to do a pretty good job overall. Not here, though. Porcello had done his job in ending the inning, but an umpire's incompetence kept the Yankees' rally alive.

Here was a perfect example of how an incorrect ball/strike call could very possibly alter the course of a game (and a series and a season) - and yet it is something Commissioner Rob Manfred has refused to make a priority. Hicks fouled off another pitch, Porcello went to a full count, and Hicks finally popped out to second. (It was a nine-pitch at-bat, though two innings later, Darling would refer to it as lasting 11 pitches. I guess that white lie made Hicks look better, which was what Darling was trying to do.)

I was surprised that Porcello was lifted after only 65 pitches. But the bullpen did its job. Torres's infield hit was the Yankees' last baserunner until the ninth inning. Matt Barnes pitched a perfect sixth (6-3, P5, 6-3). Ryan Brasier retired the side in the seventh (F9 (Betts made a great running catch by the line, pulling up short just as he was about to hit the side wall), K swinging, P4). Chris Sale threw a clean eighth (F8, 5-3, K looking). Pitches: Barnes 14, Brasier 15, Sale 13.

There was no intention to use Sale for two innings (he was still on track to start a possible Game 5 on Thursday), so it was Kimbrel Time in the ninth. Before that, though, the Red Sox tried to pad their 4-1 lead. Nunez doubled off Dellin Betances with one out in the eighth. Jackie Bradley grounded to first and the ball clanked off Voit's mitt for an error. Vazquez struck out and Betts was intentionally walked. Benintendi looked at two strikes and fouled a pitch off before Betances threw ball 1 outside. Hernandez called it strike three (#4).

Kimbrel walked 31 batters this season, compared to only 14 last season, an average of 4.5 BB/9. He started the home ninth by walking Judge on four pitches. Gregorius followed with a single to right. Kimbrel was throwing a lot of knuckle-curves, staying away from his fastball. Stanton (Anderson called him, wrongly, "John Carlos" throughout the entire series) was overanxious and struck out, chasing a pitch well outside of the zone. Kimbrel saw no momentum from that first out, though, as he walked Voit on four pitches, loading the bases and bringing the potential game-losing run to the plate.

Kimbrel hit Neil Walker in the front leg or foot with his first pitch, forcing in a run. The Yankee Stadium crowd was going berserk. Sanchez swung and missed at two pitches, then worked the count full, thanks also to Kimbrel's shaky control. Sanchez hit a high fly to left that took Benintendi to the track. It ended up being a sac fly that cut the Red Sox's lead to 4-3. Torres took a ball and a called strike before swinging and missing an outside fastball. He hit the next pitch towards third, where Nunez made the play that ended the Yankees' season and sent the Red Sox to the ALCS.

TBS's Anderson made a big deal about the fact that, if the Red Sox won, it would be their fourth consecutive postseason victory at Yankee Stadium. That certainly sounds impressive (or cool, anyway), but the first two of those four games were played in 2004 - in a completely different ball park on a completely different piece of land. What Anderson was saying was the Red Sox would win their fourth consecutive postseason game played on the Yankees' home field. Which may not sound as impressive - but it is correct.

Game 1: Red Sox 5, Yankees 4
Game 2: Yankees 6, Red Sox 2
Game 3: Red Sox 16, Yankees 1
Game 4: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3
Rick Porcello / CC Sabathia
Betts, RF
Benintendi, LF
Pearce, 1B
Martinez, DH
Bogaerts, SS
Kinsler, 2B
Nuñez, 3B
Bradley, CF
Vázquez, C
Dear Alex Cora:

Might I suggest a few first-inning bunts?

September 1, 2017


April 5, 2010

August 7, 2011

April 7, 2012

April 11, 2014


allan said...

Hicks, CF
Judge, RF
Gregorius, SS
Stanton, DH
Voit, 1B
Walker, 3B
Sanchez, C
Torres, 2B
Gardner, LF

allan said...

Bill James, October 9, 2018:
"Belief in batter vs pitcher history is a superstitious connection, stated in numbers. Saying that this batter is 7 for 11 vs. a pit with 2 homers, therefore he hits him well, is like saying I saw a black cat 11 times and it rained 7 of those times, so a black cat indicates rain."


OB just packed an umbrella.

allan said...

OMG, I forgot:

TBS's play-by-play guy Brian Anderson should be fired immediately solely for referring to earned runs as "ernies".

This is actually worse that Dave O'Brien calling fastballs "swifties".


A professional announcer on a national broadcast said that, not as a joke.

And I suppose unearned runs are "berts"?

Paul Hickman said...

Never in Doubt !!!!!!!!

Craig Kimbrel , thankfully , fell just short of being awarded the perpetual "Alby Mangels of a Lifetime" award ........

Justice was done ......... Justice was slightly delayed , but it was done !

MThomas said...

I was at the game tonight, and I have to say that no win was sweeter than #111 this year (except for maybe 119, should it happen).

FenFan said...

The fact that the Red Sox played "New York, New York" in the clubhouse during the celebration is the icing on the cake.

Strange that Kimbrel seemed so unwilling to throw his fastball because he did exactly that in Game 1 against the MFY and, aside from the HR he gave up to The Almighty Judge, easily blew away the final three batters, including Stanton. Why he decided instead to throw knuckle curve after knuckle curve is baffling. He needs to be on his game against Houston because, in your words, they will destroy him.

Jim said...

Kimbrel's BB/9 is 4.5? That is frightening. Betcha from here on in Cora will show us some interesting reliever choices as the games wind down.