Game 152: Red Sox at New York Yankees (September 19, 2018)

First of all, let's get it out of the way and dispense with the inevitable comparisons. This is 2018, not 1978, and the Red Sox are not going to blow this. They're going to win one more game of their final ten, the Yankees are going to lose one of their final ten, and Boston will clinch its third straight AL East division title. With that being said, though, there is some very valid and very serious cause for concern with this Red Sox team. Unlike the Dodgers and Astros (to name but two teams) who are playing their best ball of the season right now, the Red Sox have been playing their absolute worst for the better part of a month. The starting pitching has been erratic, the bullpen atrocious as always, and the potent high-scoring offense has been silent apart from a few small bursts here and there. It all came to a nadir in what may be simultaneously the most embarrassing and enlightening Red Sox loss of the season Wednesday night.

David Price was starting for the Red Sox and trying to exorcise some of his demons at Yankee Stadium. He'd been the Red Sox best pitcher by far since the All Star break so it looked like everything was lining up for him to finally have a strong outing in the Bronx. Opposite Price was Luis Severino who has been a complete trainwreck since the break. It looked set up perfectly for Boston to win and clinch the division, but as always games are played on the field and not on paper. The night got off to a bad start in the bottom of the second when Miguel Andujar hit a solo homer to get the Yankees in the scoring column first. The lowest point was later in the inning when Eduardo Nunez horrifically botched an Aaron Judge grounder at third that allowed two Yankees to score. It was a Little League error, through the legs on a routine grounder and it might be the most embarrassing error of the season (and with as many gaffs as Rafael Devers has made at third this season, that's saying something). Luke Voit hit a solo shot in the fourth to put the Yankees up 4-0 and the Red Sox looked dead, dead, dead. There was a bit of hope in the fifth when Nunez hit a double and Sandy Leon got his first hit of the month to drive him in, but any rally the Sox may have mounted was snuffed out by Severino in what ended up being the calm before the storm. That tempest came in the next inning when Voit hit another home run, a two-run version this time, in the sixth and the rout was on. Joe Kelly came in for Price and promptly gave up a two-RBI triple (shocker, I know) to make it 8-1. Finally, in the eighth Alex Cora waved the white flag (which he'd already done by putting Kelly in as far as I'm concerned) and put William Cuevas in who proceeded to cough up two more runs to the Yanks, one on a Greg Bird fielder's choice and the final one on Aaron Hicks' RBI single. The final humiliation was a 10-1 loss to a Yankees team that looked like dead men walking up until two nights ago and now look like they've woken up and are rounding into form as October approaches. You know, basically the exact opposite of how the Red Sox have played since mid-August.

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Price wasn't horrendous in this game, but he wasn't good either. Yes, he was charged with four earned runs but he wasn't responsible for the two Nunez gifted New York. What was more concerning was his control; he only struck two batters out, but he walked four. The bullpen continued their season-long trend of being awful by surrendering four runs on six hits, but let's not absolve the offense. It's been over a month since they've consistently put up 4-6 runs per game and during that stretch they've been mostly silent. Apart from the odd burst of runs in an inning or two here or there, there's been no urgency, no clutch hitting, and no sustained rallies to speak of. It doesn't matter how good or bad your pitching and bullpen are, if you're only scoring one or two runs a game, you're most likely losing. The lone bright spots in the batting order were JD Martinez (3-3) and Nunez (2-4, one run scored). Otherwise, even though the Red Sox were only outhit 11-9, they stranded twenty-three and didn't make anything happen.

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This team is continuing the ignominious tradition of the final two John Farrell teams by playing their worst, most listless baseball of the season at the end as they once again back into October. Regular season win-loss records mean nothing when everyone starts the postseason 0-0 and right now based purely on their play, the Red Sox are not the best team in baseball (that would be Houston). Given how they've played most of this season up until now and how the last two years ended, anything less than an appearance in the ALCS would be an unmitigated disaster; however, with how this team has looked the last month I don't even see that happening. They'll look to Eduardo Rodriguez to turn things around in the series finale Thursday night as he'll go up against Masahiro Tanaka. After that, it's on to Cleveland to play another very good playoff team. I don't mean to be fatalistic, but since I 'm old enough to actually remember the bad old days pre-2004, I can't help it: the way this team is stumbling to the finish line, it might not be until the Baltimore series next week before they finally clinch the division. I know that's hyperbole and that probably won't be the case, but nothing I'm seeing right now is inspiring confidence. At all.