The Boston Red Sox are moving on to face the Rays in the ALDS after an easy win against a lifeless Yankees team. Home runs from Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber were more than enough for Nathan Eovaldi and the Red Sox bullpen as Boston won 6-2.
What was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel quickly devolved into a one-sided affair. Gerrit Cole made quick work of the first two batters he saw ran into trouble early when he walked Rafael Devers. The next batter, Xander Bogaerts, got the scoring started for Red Sox with a two-run homer to straightaway center. Cole hung a 2-1 changeup over the heart of the plate, and Bogaerts drilled it 108 mph.
Cole saw a velocity dip of about 0.6 mph in his last start of the regular season, but it rebounded Tuesday night. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he had trouble locating it. Cole loves to throw his four-seamer across the top of the zone, but he often missed above the letters in the early innings.
Cole's fastball location in his best start of the year vs his fastball location in the first two innings pic.twitter.com/4VUQJPUcGU— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) October 6, 2021
When he finally did throw a fastball across the top of the zone, Kyle Schwarber clubbed it 435 feet for a solo homer. Kiké Hernández then singled on a swinging bunt, and Rafael Devers drew another walk on a 3-2 pitch that wasn’t particularly close. With two on and nobody out in the top of the third, Aaron Boone went to the bullpen, and somehow, that felt too late. Only once before had Cole only lasted 2+ innings in his nine-year career.
What's better than a Schwarbomb?— Red Sox (@RedSox) October 6, 2021
A postseason Schwar . pic.twitter.com/zj2vMIBxeu
Clay Holmes, master of the turbo sinker, replaced Cole and immediately struck out Bogaerts. He then induced a double play from Alex Verdugo, and the Yankees escaped the top of the third trailing by just three runs.
Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi was masterful through five innings. Eovaldi filled the strike zone with fastballs and buried his slider beneath the zone. Through the first five innings, the Yankees barrelled just one ball against him, and that was a relatively easy flyout off the bat of Aaron Judge.
The Yankees offense appeared to inadvertently aid Eovaldi by attacking early. Leadoff hitter Anthony Rizzo put the first pitch of the game in play. Judge saw three pitches in his first two at-bats.
Nate Eovaldi has only needed 53 pitches to get through 14 Yankees batters. The Red Sox bullpen has been gassed and shaky in recent weeks, and the Yankees' uncharacteristically hurried approach at the plate is helping Eovaldi's chances of going deep in this game.— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) October 6, 2021
I mentioned in the preview that the Yankees lead the majors in walks, and the Red Sox bullpen uniformly has issues with command. Still, the Yankees discarded their normally patient approach to try to pounce on Eovaldi early, but it didn’t work. Eovaldi sailed through the first five innings on 64 pitches.
He only ran into trouble when he started his third time through the order. Rizzo hooked a low fastball around Pesky’s Pole for a solo homer, and Judge followed that up with an infield hit. With Giancarlo Stanton coming up, that was enough for Alex Cora to go to the bullpen, so Eovaldi finished just 5 1⁄3 innings but allowed only four baserunners and maintained a 29 percent CSW.
Ryan Brasier came in to get Stanton, and Stanton nearly broke Boston’s hearts again. What looked like another lead-changing homer off the bat became a double off the wall. Judge tried to score from first, but a competent relay gunned him down in plenty of time.
With one out and the score at 3-1, the decision to send Judge there was questionable. Unless you’re absolutely sure Judge can score, risking an out when the alternative in runners at second and third, one out is dubious. When you’re hoping the defense screws up, that’s indefensible.
Looks like Phil Nevin made a mistake sending Aaron Judge (not pictured) home on this play. pic.twitter.com/mW7vW03Vtt— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) October 6, 2021
More baffling than the Yankees’ aggressive approach or the sixth-inning send was Boone’s decision to both bring three catchers and not pinch-hit for Kyle Higashioka once Cole was out of the game. Gary Sánchez hasn’t been great this year, but his .314 wOBA is much better than Higgy’s .272 mark.
All night, Boone didn’t manage as if the Yankees’ season or his job depended on it. Luis Severino dominated for an inning, but the righty, who only threw 99 pitches in the regular season and missed the last two seasons, struggled in his second inning of work. Severino walked the leadoff batter and later gave up a run-scoring double to Verdugo. It was then that Boone finally went and got him. Why wait so long? What’s the benefit of letting Severino struggle when every run is critical? Especially when you have Jonathan Loáisiga, Joely Rodriguez, Lucas Luetge, Aroldis Chapman, and Nestor Cortes among others to cover the final 12 outs.
Even when Loáisiga got into the game, Boone left him in until he, too, was on the precipice of disaster. Loáisiga navigated Severino’s jam, but Chad Green didn’t follow suit. Loáisiga left with runners on first and second and one out. Devers barrelled a ball to the wrong part of the ballpark for one out. Then Green walked Bogaerts to load the bases. Again Verdugo got the big hit, knocking in two more to make it 6-1 Red Sox.
As the Yankees enter their offseason, their needs are obvious. They need some bats to back up Stanton, Judge, and Joey Gallo. Brett Gardner had a better season than Yankees Twitter would have you believe, but they could do better than a light-hitting, 39-year-old center fielder. Going after Corey Seager, Trevor Story, or Carlos Correa should be another priority.
While the Yankees look forward to next year, the Red Sox are looking forward to Thursday where they’ll face Shane McClanahan and the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS.