By: Jake Perda
Let’s just get one thing out of the way here. This was not a regular season game. Yes, it factors into the regular season records of these two teams, but anyone watching could tell you that this was something much more. This was a playoff game if I’ve ever seen one. The Red Sox were trying to extend their lead in the division to a season-high 5.5 games; meanwhile, the Yankees were fighting to close the gap to 3.5 with a month and a half left to play. As expected, the crowd was electric, the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast was cringeworthy, and the game itself lived up to the hype and then some.
Everyone’s first instinct when looking back at this game is to skip to the 9th inning and point to the Devers home run, but the reason that they even got to that point was because of 7 innings of pitching by Chris Sale that were nothing short of dominant (4 hits, 1 run, 12 K’s). There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether or not Chris Sale should be a part of the MVP race. I don’t see how you could unbiasedly look at the numbers and not AT LEAST consider him. Every time Sale has taken the mound, no matter the circumstances, he has gone out and done exactly what the Red Sox have needed him to do. That’s why the Red Sox are now 18-6 in games that Chris Sale has started. On a Sunday night in New York in which runs came few and far between, Sale was able to match the dominance of the Yankees staff and never showed signs of cracking, even when his Gold Glove right fielder let him down.
Luckily, Mookie’s mishap didn’t end up costing the Red Sox the game, but that would’ve hurt. Obviously, it wouldn’t be fair to pile on Mookie. Yes, he’s statistically the best defensive player in the game if you buy into the metric of DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), but he’s also human. As we’ve been shown by umpire’s time and time again, human error is a part of life. Mookie should've made that catch, but there was a lot for his brain to process on that play when deciding where the ball was going to be, whether he was going to hit the wall or if he was going to have to jump. Sometimes the human brain overloads, and as a result, people make mistakes. Mookie’s mistake just happened to occur in a crucial spot in front of a national audience.
Now, we can finally get to the biggest swing of the night. When Rafael Devers came into pinch hit for Chris Young in the 6th, I liked the move by Farrell. There was no longer a lefty on the mound, so it made far more sense to get Devers up to the plate in an attempt to jumpstart the offense. Despite Yankees reliever David Robertson going on to punch out Devers on a nasty curveball, the 20 year-old’s confidence was not shaken. The next time Devers stepped out of the dugout, he took a 103 mph Aroldis Chapman fastball 418 feet to left-center field.
It’s still an extremely small sample size, but in the 15 games that he has played since being called up, Rafael Devers has proven that he can swing it in the big leagues. If you look at Hanley’s at bat before Devers blast, Hanley looked overmatched... and he knew it. In typical Hanley fashion, he wasn’t hiding the fact that he had no business being in that batters box. On the other hand, when Devers came up, it felt different. This at-bat has led me to believe that Devers has “it”. Call it the clutch gene, call it “the balls”, call it whatever you want. Rafael Devers is not afraid of the moment. In the biggest at-bat of his young career, in the not-so-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, Rafael Devers stayed calm, cool, collected, and became only the second left-handed hitter ever to go deep off of the Yankees’ flame-throwing closer. Not to mention, Devers came mere inches away from a bases clearing double on an absolute ROCKET to left in the top of the 10th.
Andrew Benintendi cooled off a bit, going 1 for 4, but he chose the right time to tally his only hit of the night. With the bases loaded in the top of the 10th, Benintendi ripped a single to right field to drive in the game winning run. In 9 games in the month of August, Benintendi is now hitting .457 with a 1.410 OPS and 12 RBI’s. While Aaron Judge may have locked up the Rookie of the Year award in June, it doesn’t look like the Red Sox left fielder intends to go down without a fight.
Due to the thrilling ending, it seems impossible that Sox fans were ready to riot just a few innings prior as John Farrell’s questionable management of his bullpen continued. When Farrell originally sent Matt Barnes out to pitch the eighth, I was okay with it. After Friday night’s game, I don’t think Addison Reed wanted the ball any more than we all wanted him to get it. Also, you could make the argument for Kimbrel in this situation, but the game was tied. Even if Kimbrel comes in and tosses a 1-2-3 inning, you are forced to rely on the rest of your bullpen in situations in which allowing a run loses you the game. Regardless, Farrell should’ve had someone warming up the minute Barnes began to lose Aaron Hicks. Instead, Barnes was allowed to stay out there and load the bases before giving up the go-ahead run on a Todd Frazier sac-fly.
While there were a bunch of John Farrell blunders that I’ll save for a separate rant, it’s impossible to talk about this game without mentioning this. After Jacoby Ellsbury took an excessive amount of time in the on-deck circle before his pinch-hit appearance, John Farrell sent pitching coach Carl Willis out to talk to Addison Reed. Upon watching Reed throw 1 ball, Farrell was up and out of the dugout trying to bring in Kimbrel. To the knowledge of everyone involved other than John Farrell, that move was invalid due to the mound visit that Willis had made just a few moments before. Not only does this make Farrell look like a complete idiot, which he is, but this is a huge blow to Reed’s already diminished confidence. Congrats on the embarrassment, Manager John.
The Red Sox are now the owners of a 5.5 game lead in the American League East. That’s something to be proud of. However, there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, especially against the Yankees. With that in mind, they can’t afford to take their foot off of the gas now, or at all for that matter. But let’s not let that distract us from the fact that the Sox just took 2 out of 3 from the Yankees in New York. Who’s your daddy now?