Game 35: Red Sox at New York Yankees (May 8, 2018)

This was a very entertaining and frustrating game. I was exhausted from a long day at work and coaching an impromptu baseball practice, so all I wanted to do was sit down and relax with this game. I'd been looking forward to this series for a week and while the result wasn't what I wanted, it definitely did not disappoint. There was a charged atmosphere like you'd expect from a Red Sox/Yankees game, even in early May, although as Jerry Remy said on NESN it was a real "two-strike crowd." Yankee Stadium was mostly dead quiet unless there were two outs and two strikes on a Red Sox batter...then it got loud. The new stadium isn't nearly as loud or intimidating as the old one and perhaps they don't make Yankees fans like they used to...

If you didn't watch the game, I'll cut right to the chase and get the score out of the way: the Yankees won 3-2. What was so frustrating is that this was an incredibly winnable game for the Sox; it was there for the taking but they couldn't capitalize. Drew Pomeranz, pitching with what was shown to be a nasty fingernail that was ripped half off, was certainly good enough to get the win if he'd gotten any run support. Six innings of work and six strike outs while only giving up two runs (both on solo shots to Giancarlo Stanton) should be enough to win. However, Yankees starter Luis Severino was pitching well (aided by a VERY generous strike zone from home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom who was calling strikes 6+ inches off the plate on seemingly every lefthanded batter. The two he called on Andrew Benintendi, in particular, were absolutely ridiculous). However, Cederstrom is not why they lost the game. The Sox outhit the Yankees 8-6 and played some good defense to keep the game tied at 2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, including a great play to throw Stanton out at home on an infield single late in the game. The Sox runs were both provided by Eduardo Nunez (who scored both) and Mookie Betts (who had big hits in both cases). Mookie's RBI triple in the seventh to tie the game looked to shift all of the momentum Boston's way until the bottom of the inning happened. The always awful Heath Hembree relieved Pomeranz and could only get one out while walking two and loading up the bases in truly ugly fashion. I know I've complained incessantly about the Sox middle relief, but they're usually passably adequate...except for Hembree. He seems to almost always make any situation he comes into worse and that was certainly the case here. Why he's still on the team and being put into tight games like this I'll never know. He started a fresh inning and left an absolute mess for Joe Kelly to clean up. Kelly did an admirable job, only giving up an RBI single to the fearsome Aaron Judge with the bases loaded to get out of the inning with only one run given up. That would be the difference, though. The Sox squandered a great opportunity when Xander Bogaerts grounded into a killer double play, and while the Sox would get the tying run on base in the ninth in Jackie Bradley, they couldn't push him across and lost the game.

With the loss, the Red Sox are now tied with the Yankees atop the AL East. What was so frustrating is that this game was entirely winnable. Pomeranz only gave up two runs and while Severino pitched much better than he did at Fenway Park a month ago, the Sox hitters were getting to him. They just couldn't capitalize on their opportunities, stranding seven men on base. The bottom of the order is really hurting the Sox, too. I'm as big a Jackie Bradley fan as you're going to find, but he is in such a bad funk right now (.173 BA) that I'm almost at the point where I'm not sure his stellar defense is enough to keep him in the lineup every day (at least short term). He struck out three times and his only productive at-bat was when he got hit by an Aroldis Chapman fastball in the ninth to get on base. Christian Vazquez is another case...great behind the plate but anemic with the bat. My hope is that the continued plate appearances will snap both of them out of it, especially Bradley because he's a guy who should hit ~.250 and ~20 homers as he's done the last couple of seasons. He's always been streaky but right now he just looks lost at the plate. The other big news from the game was that David Price, slated to start the second game, was scratched because of lingering issues with his throwing hand (remember this disastrous start?). I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it's a little coincidental that Price had the hand issue when he got rocked against the Yankees and it now rears its head again for another big game against the Yankees. I'm not saying he's not hurt, especially given his last two putrid starts, but it's more than just a little strange. Luckily for the Red Sox, that bumps Rick Porcello to start game two and Eduardo Rodriguez (who has had some good starts against the Yankees) for the series finale. I'd really like to see the Sox take the next two and if they continue to hit Tanaka and Sabathia as hard as they have over the last season, it's doable. Scoring only two runs isn't going to cut it, though...they've got to score more, especially if they want to keep up with this latest iteration of the Bronx Bombers.