Game 37: Red Sox at New York Yankees (May 10, 2018)

Last night's game was another nail-biter in the Bronx to close out the series, and this time the Red Sox held on for the win...finally! I was coaching my son's team and then chatting with the head coach (who is also a good friend) so I got home to turn the game on right before the rain delay. I was in a good mood, though, because from the updates on my phone I saw that the Sox had started off the game strongly. That would change over the next couple of hours, though...

Hanley Ramirez got things started early with an RBI in the first to give the Sox a 1-0 lead. He struck again in the third with another RBI single, driving in Mookie Betts for the second time. Following Andrew Benintendi scoring later in the third, Hanley got in on the act one more time with a solo homer in the fourth to push the Sox lead to 4-0 before the heavens opened up and dumped a ton of rain on Yankee Stadium in the fifth inning. It was a shame, too, because Eduardo Rodriguez was pitching great and the layoff from the delay would eventually force him to leave the game. He ended up going just the full five innings, giving up no runs and striking out eight while only walking three and allowing one hit. As has been usual, though, Heath Hembree came into the game in the seventh and made things much, much worse. He loaded up the bases on two hits and a walk and as has been the norm during his entire Red Sox career, he came into a situation and made it ten times worse. I can't stand this guy and hope the Sox can somehow stop using him or get rid of him. Even a four run lead isn't safe from that guy. Speaking of which...Joe Kelly was called in to clean up Hembree's mess and fared even worse if it can be believed, walking in a run, giving up an RBI single to Judge and an RBI on a fielder's choice to Didi Gregorius, and uncorking a wild pitch that brought in another run. When all was said and done, the score was knotted at four heading into the eighth and I sat there with my mouth open, shaking my head at the horror I had just witnessed. The seventh inning, and the Red Sox middle relief, were both complete disasters. It looked like all of the momentum was shifting the Yankees' way...after only mustering a single hit to that point, their bats had come alive. On a personal level, it brought back far too many flashbacks of the Sox choking away a lead in horrifying fashion and finding yet another way to lose. (For Red Sox fans who came aboard during and after 2004, you won't understand what I mean).  Luckily, JD Martinez reversed the tide with a solo home run in the eighth to put the Sox back in the lead 5-4. Kelly, pitched a clean eighth (with a particularly nasty strikeout to end the inning) and Craig Kimbrel atoned for his disastrous performance the night before and earned his tenth save of the season. Final score, Red Sox 5, Yankees 4.

The win pulled the two teams even in the division and also snapped the Yankees' home winning streak at nine games. Still, I can't help but be disappointed that the Sox didn't take at least one more, if not both of the previous games; again, it's experience of being a Red Sox fan who remembers what it was like before '04 that keeps me cynical. Both were winnable and there for the taking late in the game until the bullpen flat out lost them. It looked like it was going to happen again in this one until JD hit that homer (which wasn't without a little controversy...the replay showed that a fan appeared to reach over the fence and help it over as Judge was trying to make a play on it. While the Yankees didn't challenge it, the fan was kicked out for interference). I suppose it's better to leave New York tied for first than down a game, but the Sox could/should also be up one or two...such is life during a long season. There were some good things to take away from this game (and series): Rodriguez pitched brilliantly, Mookie Betts continued to mash, going 3-4 with two runs scored, Benintendi seems to be getting back to last year's production at the plate, and the offense continues to remain potent and able to usually make the clutch hits when they're needed. However, the bullpen is still a MAJOR issue and as I mentioned yesterday, I reject what the stat-heads say about how good analytics say the bullpen is when my own eyes tell me otherwise on a daily basis.

On a slightly downbeat note, this was the second night in a row that Jackie Bradley sat out and, apart from his stellar defense I can honestly say he wasn't missed. It certainly was nice to not have two gaping holes at the bottom of the order...even with the significant defensive downgrade of having JD in the outfield, it was more than compensated for by having Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, and JD all hitting together. Whether the layoff will help Bradley get his head right with his hitting or whether this is the beginning of the end for him remains to be seen, but right now having him and Christian Vazquez both be automatic outs at the bottom of the order was killing the team. It'll be interesting to see how the Bradley situation plays out over the remainder of the season.

Looking at the bigger picture, I still feel really good about this team. I am viewing it this way: the Sox were red hot to start the season and went 17-2 while the Yankees scuffled; since then the Sox have scuffled while the Yankees have been red hot going 17-1. It's a long season and these sort of things tend to even out over 162 games, so I think both teams are where they belong. This was a fantastic series for so early in the season, with all of the drama and tension you'd expect in September and October, and the division promises to be an total dogfight for the next several months. Anyway, now it's on to Toronto and Chris Sale before we can all collectively hold our breath and see what happens with David Price's next scheduled start on Saturday...