What a game and what a series. Having taken the first three against the Yankees, I and the rest of Red Sox Nation got greedy and wanted the sweep heading into Sunday night's finale. Boston had beaten New York by bashing out runs, shutting them down with pitching and defense, and everything in between; the question was what could they possibly do to top everything we'd seen so far? The answer was one of the most thrilling, heart stopping, and defining games of the season.
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All eyes were on David Price in this one...he's been notoriously bad against the Yankees, most recently in his disastrous start in the Bronx a month ago. If ever there was a time for him to exorcise his demons against them, this was it. He was pitching under relatively little pressure since the Sox had already won the series and he was in front of a supportive home crowd. He actually had some margin for error in this one and so he should have been relaxed and confident. What he did was toss one of his best games against the Yankees, pitching into the seventh inning without giving up any runs. He allowed four hits and while his five strikeouts and three walks weren't dominant, he was very good. He left the game with runners on first and second and no outs...that's when the Heath Hembree horror show happened. Before that, though, let's back up to see where the Sox were at that point. Masahiro Tanaka had stymied Boston all night, only allowing a solo homer to Mookie Betts (his 26th) in the bottom of the fifth. Boston had put the leadoff man on base in just about every inning to that point but couldn't convert (they ended up stranding a whopping twenty-four runners in the game). Hembree came in to the game with the Sox clinging to that one run lead and he absolutely botched it. True, a fielding error by Xander Bogaerts on a sure double play ball allowed two to score on Aaron Hicks' bases loaded grounder, but Hembree had walked the bases loaded before that. After the error, he gave up an RBI single to Giancarlo Stanton before getting pulled by Alex Cora. I don't care what the ESPN guys in the booth said about Hembree being one of the top relievers in the game when inheriting runners...every single time I see him in those situations, he makes it worse for the Sox. I'm going to come right out and say that he's a bum, a guy who I groan with disgust every time he comes in a game (and have done so his entire Red Sox career), and someone I hope to never see in high pressure situations again. Ryan Brasier came in to clean up Hembree's mess and gave up a sacrifice fly to Gleyber Torres to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead. With as lightly as the Sox were hitting the ball to that point (by then, JD Martinez had struck out three times), it seemed like Price was going to get the hard luck loss since the first two runs Hembree allowed were charged to him.
But then the ninth inning happened. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was in the game to seal the deal and allow New York to salvage a game in this series and while the Red Sox usually hit off of him pretty well, the fact of the matter is that he routinely throws 100 mph and Boston hadn't done much of anything at the plate all night. However, they loaded the bases for JD Martinez, who ripped a single to drive in two runs and cut the Yankee lead to one. In some sort of redemption, Xander Bogaerts reached on a fielding error by Miguel Andujar to bring in another run and tie the game at four. You could just see the wind taken out of New York's sails while the Red Sox were pumped up. That set the stage for the bottom of the tenth when Andrew Benintendi knocked in the winning run on a single to center field to complete the 5-4 comeback win and the sweep. Benintendi had himself a good night overall, going 3-6 with only one RBI, but it was a big one. Mookie went 2-4 with an RBI, two runs scored, and two walks, while the rest of the lineup scraped out hits but made them count when they needed to.
With the win Boston all but buried New York in the division, swelling their lead to 9.5 games and sending the Yankees to their fifth straight loss. The Sox now get a welcome day off to rest before heading out on the road for the next week and a half. Series against Toronto, Baltimore, and Philadelphia should give them a chance to add to their lead and continue to pile up the wins, but that starts tomorrow. For now, it's time to savor this sweep off the Yankees while remembering (see: 1978) that there's still a lot of baseball left to be played.