2018 American League Division Series 1
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|2018 American League Division Series|
|Boston Red Sox
108 - 54 in the AL
|3 - 1
|New York Yankees|
100 - 62 in the AL
The first Division series of 2018 was greatly anticipated by baseball fans everywhere, as it pitted the game's two fiercest rivals, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, with both coming off 100+ win seasons. It was also a battle of rookie managers, Alex Cora versus Aaron Boone, and a return to the two classic postseason series that were the 2003 ALCS and 2004 ALCS, the last times these behemoths had met in the postseason.
The Red Sox won the series in four games, their main advantage having been a better performance by their starters, as three of the four starting pitchers for the Yankees left early after having let Boston take a significant lead. Even though Boston's bullpen was less than perfect, that was enough to guarantee them the needed victories. The Yankees were also unable to win at home, where their power-heavy line-up is usually a big asset: the Red Sox pounded them without hitting many long balls, and also inflicted on them the worst defeat in the Yankees' postseason history in Game 3,
The Red Sox had been the team to beat in the American League almost from the first days of the season, as they got off to a great start and never looked back. The Yankees managed to keep pace for a while, but began to lose ground after the All-Star break and were basically relegated to the wild card race when the Sox pulled off an impressive four-game sweep against them at home in early August. It was the third straight division title for Boston, but this one felt much more special as the team had set a franchise record for wins, after bowing out meekly at the Division Series stage the past two years. That lack of postseason results had cost manager John Farrell his job, and his replacement, rookie manager Alex Cora, was determined not to let that happen again. They were now favorites to claim the AL pennant, and their legion of fans was anxious to see a deep postseason run for a change.
The reason the Red Sox had taken a big step forward from already being a successful team was the addition of DH J.D. Martinez as a free agent. He had filled in the hole left by the retirement of the legendary David Ortiz, a hole the 2017 team had never managed to patch. His mere presence in the line-up seemed to make all the hitters around him more dangerous, starting with lead-off batter Mookie Betts, who had put up MVP-type numbers while fielding flawlessly in right field. In fact the Sox's outfield was probably the best in the majors defensively with Jackie Bradley in center and Andrew Benintendi in left. However, what some flashy numbers hid was that three spots in the line-up had been pretty unproductive: an injury to 2B Dustin Pedroia had left a hole never filled, while young 3B Rafael Devers, while supremely talented, had had an underwhelming first full season. At C, the tandem of Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez was outstanding defensively - but contributed next to nothing with the bat. The Sox had tried to address the issue by acquiring 2B Ian Kinsler at the trading deadline, but while he had played solid defense, he had not shown himself an offensive leader so far. Still, the top five hitters in the line-up - Betts, Benintendi, the 1B platoon of Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce, Martinez and SS Xander Bogaerts, struck fear into all opposing pitchers.
The Sox's starting rotation was solid at the top with Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello leading the way. They had a couple of solid options for the fourth spot in Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez. So far so good, and closer Craig Kimbrel, in spite of a few hiccups this season, was still one of the best in the business, but the big question was who would bridge the gap between the starters and Kimbrel. The rest of the bullpen had been terrible in September, and nobody seemed ready to step forward. Among the candidates to pitch were Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly, but all of them came with caveats. One of the possible sleepers was knuckleballer Steven Wright, nominally a candidate for long relief, but someone who could possibly take on a larger run if the above failed in their task. For now, though, Red Sox Nation was hoping for long outings from the starters that would not expose the bullpen too much.
Under rookie manager Aaron Boone, the New York Yankees had finished with 100 wins, but still behind their arch-rivals the Red Sox The first thing to know about the Yankees was that this was a team of sluggers. They had set a new major league mark by belting 267 homers, eclipsing the previous record of 264 set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners, and also had a record 12 players in double figures in the home run department. The leading contributor was DH Giancarlo Stanton with 38, but he was not considered to have had a particularly successful season: the true leaders on that team had been SS Didi Gregorius and CF Aaron Hicks, both with 27 long balls, who had been excellent on both sides of the ball. Two rookies had also made outsized contributions in 2B Gleyber Torres (.271, 24, 77) and 3B Miguel Andujar (.297, 27, 92). They were also the two leading contenders for the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year Award. Stanton, Torres and Andujar were all newcomers to the team, as was 1B Luke Voit, who had hit 14 homers and driven in 33 runs in just 39 games since his acquisition at the trading deadline. These were not the Yankees of old: they were young, athletic, built from within, and strong at every offensive position.
The only question was on the mound, as nominal ace Luis Severino had struggled a bit down the stretch in spite of a sparkling 19-8, 3.39 record; he had also also started the Wild Card Game, so that meant he would only been available for Game 3. Until then, two veterans, Masahiro Tanaka (12-6, 3.75) or J.A. Happ (7-0, 2.69 since joining the Yanks)were going to have to start at Fenway Park. If needed, another veteran, CC Sabathia was standing in the wings, while Lance Lynn had been moved to the bullpen for this Series, and Sonny Gray, who had started Game 1 a year ago, was left off the roster altogether after a very disappointing year. There was no question about the bullpen, though, as it was deep and talented, especially now that closer Aroldis Chapman appeared to be fully healthy. Supporting him were Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Zach Britton, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder, all of them solid options. The Yankees were hoping that the games would turn into bullpen battles, as they definitely held the edge if that were to be the case.
- Cory Blaser, Dan Bellino, Mike Winters (crew chief), Angel Hernandez, Fieldin Culbreth and D.J. Reyburn
|1||New York Yankees 4 Boston Red Sox 5||October 5||J.A. Happ (0-1) Chris Sale (1-0)||7:32 pm|
|2||New York Yankees 6 Boston Red Sox 2||October 6||Masahiro Tanaka (1-0) David Price (0-1)||8:15 pm|
|3||Boston Red Sox 16 New York Yankees 1||October 8||Nathan Eovaldi (1-0) Luis Severino (0-1)||7:40 pm|
|4||Boston Red Sox 4 New York Yankees 3||October 9||Rick Porcello (1-0) CC Sabathia (0-1)||8:07 pm|
Game 1 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Chris Sale (1-0); LP: J.A. Happ (0-1); SV: Craig Kimbrel (1)|
|Home Runs: BOS - J.D. Martinez (1); NY - Aaron Judge (1)|
- Attendance: 39,059
Chris Sale started the game for the Red Sox, with the main question being how deep he would be able to pitch into the game, given that manager Alex Cora had been very careful with his usage since his return from an injury in mid-September. He quickly demonstrated that there was nothing to worry about concerning his stuff, as he struck out the first two batters of the game, Andrew McCutchen and Aaron Judge, then after a walk to Aaron Hicks, completed the trifecta by fanning Giancarlo Stanton as well. For J.A. Happ, the mid-season acquisition who had been brilliant since putting on pinstripes, the 1st inning was a lot less pleasant. He also struck out the first batter he faced in Mookie Betts, but Andrew Benintendi followed with a single and stole second, and Steve Pearce, starting at first base in place of Mitch Moreland because of the presence of a lefthanded starter, drew a walk. Next up was J.D. Martinez who did something rarely seen at Fenway Park: a line drive homer over the Green Monster. Like that, the Yankees were in a 3-0 hole.
Luke Voit led off the 2nd with a single off Sale, but he was erased when Miguel Andujar grounded out into a double play. Happ bounced back with a perfect inning against the bottom of the Sox line-up, and Sale again pitched a goose egg in the 3rd. In the bottom of that inning, however, Boston was back at it as Betts led off with a double. Benintendi then surprised the Yankees by laying down a bunt, and it was a beauty, just out of the reach of Happ and 1B Voit, placing runners at the corners with no one out. Manager Aaron Boone then made a bold decision, replacing Happ with Chad Green in the hope of avoiding a big inning. The strategy almost worked, but only after Pearce singled in a first run. Martinez hit a ball to the wall in right; it was caught by Judge, but Benintendi advanced to third, and he then came it to score a fifth run when Xander Bogaerts lifted another fly ball to right.
It was now 5-0 after 3 innings, Sale was dealing and the Yankees would have to use their bullpen for a long stretch, so things were not looking particularly good for the New Yorkers at that point. However, they managed to make a game of it and to make the Red Sox work very hard to confirm their win. In the 4th, Hicks led off with a single off Sale, but then had to be replaced by Brett Gardner as he apparently tweaked a leg muscle. Didi Gregorius also singled with two outs, but Sale recorded three strikeouts in the inning to prevent any damage. The Sox also placed a couple of baserunners on in the bottom of the 4th, but Green forced Benintendi to hit a grounder to third for the final out, starting a stretch of scoreless innings by Yankee relievers. Lance Lynn followed with a couple of scoreless frames in the 5th and 6th. Meanwhile the Yankees had managed to get to Sale in the top of the 6th. Judge led off with a single but was forced by Gardner, with the Sox unable to complete a double play. Stanton then singled as well and Cora made a call to the bullpen. Unfortunately for him, his relievers that night were anything but shut-down. Ryan Brasier was greeted by a Voit single which scored a first run, then Gregorius hit a grounder to second, and once again the Sox were unable to turn two, allowing Stanton to score a second run. Brasier then uncorked a wild pitch for good measure and walked Andujar. Cora now called on Brandon Workman and he walked Gary Sanchez to load the bases. He got to a three ball count on Gleyber Torres as well, but managed to throw his best pitch of the evening when it counted most, striking him out on a curve ball in what was perhaps the key out of the game.
The Red Sox still had a 5-2 lead, but there were three innings left, and the 6th had exposed their Achilles' heel, the bullpen. More damage followed in the 7th when McCutchen and Judge led off with back-to-back singles against Workman, forcing Cora to bring in Matt Barnes. Brasier and Workman had faced 7 batters and allowed 5 to reach base, and it didn't get batter as Barnes also threw a wild pitch in walking Gardner to load the bases. But Barnes managed to strike out Stanton and almost got out of the inning when he forced Voit to hit a grounder to third. However, Gardner slid hard but legally into Ian Kinsler at second base, and the veteran was once again unable to turn two, allowing McCutchen to score a third run. But Barnes then struck out Gregorius, stranding two more runners as it was now 5-3 and the sell-out crowd was getting visibly nervous. Zach Britton then had little trouble in the bottom of the inning. In the 8th, Cora decided to forego his relievers and asked scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello to come and pitch. He got two outs, but Andujar hit a squibbler to third for a single, which prompted the entrance of closer Craig Kimbrel. He got McCutchen to fly out to end the inning, and it was all on his shoulders to close out the win in the 9th after David Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th. The first batter in the 9th was Judge, and on a 1-1 count he hit a homer to right. It was now 5-4. At that point, with New England on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Kimbrel found his groove and started throwing absolute heat mixed in with some nasty breaking stuff, and the Yankees' batters again looked mortal. Gardner struck out, then Kimbrel disposed of Stanton on three pitches as the big man looked completely overmatched, and he finished things off by striking out Voit. The Red Sox had sweated it out, but they had won the opener.
Game 2 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Masahiro Tanaka (1-0); LP: David Price (0-1)|
|Home Runs: NY - Aaron Judge (2), Gary Sanchez 2 (2); BOS - Xander Bogaerts (1)|
- Attendance: 39,151
Heading into Game 2, the Red Sox were concerned about the fact that their scheduled pitcher, David Price, had a rather terrible record as a postseason starter, in a game in which they would have liked not to rely too heavily on their bullpen following the rather frightful performance of the previous night. Keeping Price for a later game was not an option either, as his record at New Yankee Stadium was similarly awful and it was something Alex Cora did not want to risk. Before the game, the Sox had had to make a roster move, replacing Steven Wright with Heath Hembree because of a sore right knee, which cost them a potential long man out of the bullpen and replacing him with - yet another - short reliever with a checkered record this past season. For the Yankees, Aaron Hicks was unavailable after having had to leave the previous night's game with a leg injury, so veteran Brett Gardner started in center, batting ninth.
Praying for the best, Cora sent Price to face the Bronx Bombers, and he quickly received some feedback about how the big lefty was doing. After Andrew McCutchen had grounded out to start the game, Aaron Judge barreled into a 1-2 pitch and sent it 445 feet over the center field wall for his second homer of the series and a 1-0 lead. There was no more damage that inning, but in the 2nd, Gary Sanchez led off with a homer as well, and after two outs, Price issued back-to-back walks to Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner. McCutchen was back up, and he lined a single into left, making the score 3-0. Cora had seen enough; he took out Price as the Fenway Park crowd booed him loudly, and brought in Joe Kelly. Kelly had lost his job as the Sox's primary set-up man due to his inconsistency, but he also had some of the best raw stuff of anyone in the game, and on a good day, he could be unhittable. Luckily for Boston, it was a good day, as he got Judge to line out to right to end the inning.
While this early drama was going on, the Yankees' starter, Japanese veteran Masahiro Tanaka, cruised through the first two innings, allowing just a single in the 1st. Kelly then continued to settle things down for Boston, as he allowed just a single to Giancarlo Stanton over the next two innings. In the bottom of the 4th, the Red Sox's bats finally stirred as Xander Bogaerts homered with one out. For all the early drama, the score was just 3-1 with a lot of innings left to play. The next problem for Cora, however, was who to send to the mound, as Kelly was done, having accomplished his job masterfully. Ryan Brasier, who had not impressed the night before, was given another chance and got into quick trouble as Judge reached on a two-base error by 3B Eduardo Nunez and Luke Voit walked. However, Brasier managed to keep his cool and struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Sanchez to get out of the inning as the pattern of the Yankees placing a ton of runners on base against the Bosox relievers, but cashing few of them in, started to repeat. Meanwhile, Tanaka completed his night's work with a flawless 5th inning, having perfectly fulfilled his assignment by allowing just the one run in five solid innings of work.
The Yankees were always going to be favored if it came down to a battle of the bullpens, and with a two-run lead, it was even more the case. In the top of the 6th, Brandon Workman also put a couple of baserunners on after one out and Eduardo Rodriguez had to bail him out. For the Yankees, it was Dellin Betances who came in, and he made short work of Boston, inducing three ground balls. Rodriguez came back for the 7th, and this time he fell off the high wire which Boston's relievers had been walking for some time. He quickly got himself in trouble by allowing a single to Judge and walking Voit with nobody out. Stanton then hit a grounder to Nunez at third, whose high throw pulled 2B Ian Kinsler off the bag. The initial call was that Voit was safe, but Boston appealed for a video review and in spite of rather unconvincing evidence, the call was reversed. That break did not last long, though, as Sanchez followed with his second homer of the night, this one a three-run shot and a no-doubter, as it was measured at 479 feet to center. At 6-1, the game was basically over. The Red Sox did manage to claw back a run against Betances in the bottom of the 7th, on a single by Mitch Moreland and a double by Kinsler, but Betances struck out pinch-hitter Rafael Devers for the second out, and Jackie Bradley was unable to drive in Kinsler, who had stolen third base on the K, ending the inning on a ground out. The final two innings were uneventful; Hembree came in to pitch the top of the 8th and Zach Britton the bottom of the inning. After a couple of walks in the 9th, Hembree got Stanton to ground into a double play, avoiding further trouble. Aroldis Chapman was sent in by Aaron Boone to pitch the 9th even though it was not a save situation. He walked lead-off hitter Steve Pearce but then struck out Nunez and got Kinsler to ground into a game-ending double play. The two teams were now tied at one win apiece and headed to the Big Apple with the Yankees supremely confident, having outscored their opponents 10-2 since the 3rd inning of Game 1.
Game 3 @ New Yankee Stadium
|WP: Nathan Eovaldi (1-0); LP: Luis Severino (0-1)|
|Home Runs: BOS - Brock Holt (1)|
- Attendance: 48,657
Boston made a major statement in Game 3 after appearing shaky in the first two games of the series. The Red Sox came out playing solid fundamental baseball, putting constant pressure on starting pitcher Luis Severino and taking advantage of his difficulty throwing strikes. He gave up some early runs then completely cracked in the 4th inning and the Red Sox rushed into the breach, exploding for 7 runs in that frame as relievers Lance Lynn and Chad Green were incapable of stopping the bleeding. The game was basically over by the time that inning ended. In marked contrast, Nathan Eovaldi, a late replacement for Rick Porcello, had an outstanding game, throwing harder than he ever had (a number of his fastballs were timed at 100 mph) and giving manager Alex Cora 7 solid innings, obviating any need of using the bullpen in pressure situations. With a final score of 16-1 and back-up catcher Austin Romine being used as a mop-up reliever by Aaron Boone, it was one of the most stinging defeats in the Yankees' long postseason history. As a bonus, with a 9th-inning homer off Romine, Brock Holt, one of a number of players inserted into Boston's line-up for the game, became the first player to hit for cycle in postseason history.
The Red Sox opened the scoring when Rafael Devers led off the 2nd inning with a sharp single to right off Severino, stole second base, moved to third on a grounder and then scored on a single by Christian Vazquez that was just out of the pitcher's reach. In the 3rd, Mookie Betts hit a lead-off single, then Andrew Benintendi singled to move him to third. J.D. Martinez followed with a sacrifice fly, Xander Bogaerts singled and Devers hit into a ground out to score Benintendi. Boston was up 3-0 by playing good fundamental baseball, taking advantage of its hits and running the bases aggressively. Severino looked shaky, and in the 4th, he collapsed completely. Holt led off with a single, followed by another single by Vazquez, then a walk to Jackie Bradley to load the bases. Boone decided to call on Lynn to extinguish the rising blaze, but he walked Betts to force in a run and Benintendi followed with a double that cleared the bases. It was now 7-0. After one out, Bogaerts singled to chase Lynn, who was replaced by Green, but after a second out, he allowed a single to Steve Pearce which scored another run and then a triple to Holt which scored two more. It was now 10-0 and the game was basically over as New Yankee Stadium had fallen completely quiet.
The Yankees scored once in the bottom of the 4th, but it was anecdotal, as Eovaldi was dominant. The other person attracting attention during that span was first base umpire Angel Hernandez, who had four of his calls challenged - and three overturned - in just two innings! Things quieted down for a time, with Jonathan Holder replacing Green in the 6th, but he allowed another run in the 7th, and in the 8th Boston scored three more against rookie Stephen Tarpley, with Brock adding a double to his hit count in the inning. Heath Hembree replaced Eovaldi in the bottom of that inning with a 14-1 lead, so there was no pressure at all on him. In the 9th, Boone sent Romine to pitch, only the second position player ever to be asked to do so in a postseason game, and he allowed two more runs on Holt's homer which completed the cycle and made the final score 16-1. Eduardo Rodriguez then pitched the bottom of the 9th.
Game 4 @ New Yankee Stadium
|WP: Rick Porcello (1-0); LP: CC Sabathia (0-1); SV: Craig Kimbrel (2)|
|Home Runs: BOS - Christian Vazquez (1)|
- Attendance: 49,641
Game 4 once again turned on the performance of the starting pitchers. For Boston, Rick Porcello, who had pitched briefly in relief in Game 1, was brilliant through the first four innings, before showing signs of vulnerability in the 5th, but by then the Red Sox had managed to take advantage of a shaky start by veteran CC Sabathia to score 4 runs and chase him after just 3 innings. He was the third Yankees starter in four games to be chased before the 5th inning, and that was really what decided the series, as the Red Sox managed to hold on to that early lead in all three games, in spite of some iffy bullpen work, as was the case again in this game. For the Yankees, Aaron Hicks was back in center field after missing the previous two games with Andrew McCutchen sitting down, and 3B Miguel Andujar was benched in favor of veteran Neil Walker, while the Red Sox kept Christian Vazquez in the game, but benched Brock Holt and Rafael Devers in spite of their strong performance in Game 3.
Sabathia retired the first two batters of the game relatively easily, but was in trouble without cease after that. In the 1st, he allowed singles to Steve Pearce and J.D. Martinez and then walked Xander Bogaerts before Ian Kinsler flew out to the deepest reach of the left field corner. 47,000 fans held their breath for a moment until Brett Gardner managed to make a running catch. In the 2nd, Vazquez drew a two-out walk from Sabathia after Jackie Bradley had managed a full count against him, but the big lefthander got Mookie Betts to fly out to end the inning. In the 3rd however, he wasn't so lucky. He hit Andrew Benintendi with a pitch, then Pearce followed with a single with Benintendi taking third. Martinez followed with a sacrifice fly to open the scoring, then after a ground out, Sabathia threw a wild pitch and Kinsler doubled for a second run. Eduardo Nunez followed with a single and it was 3-0. It was obvious that Sabathia was not on a good day, and when the 4th inning started, Zach Britton had replaced him on the mound. He was greeted by Vazquez who homered just into the first row of seats in right field, taking advantage of New Yankee Stadium's cozy configuration. The Red Sox led 4-0, and even though they were unable to produce anything offensively after that, it was enough of a lead to win the game.
Porcello was having a terrific day for Boston, as he was throwing almost exclusively strikes, and the Yankees were unable to make solid contact on his pitches. He gave up a pair of hits and no walks through the first four innings and stranded both runners. Then he suddenly lost his mojo in the 5th, as he had to labor to escape with just one run allowed. Gary Sanchez hit an automatic double with one out and Gleyber Torres hit a soft grounder down the third base line. 3B Nunez, who had no chance of throwing out Torres at first, hovered over it hoping it would roll foul, but it stayed fair for a single. Gardner then hit a sacrifice fly to left to cut the lead to 4-1. Matt Barnes came out to pitch the bottom of the 6th and retired the Yankees in order, then Ryan Brasier did the same in the 7th. Meanwhile, Britton, David Robertson and Dellin Betances had given up nothing since Vazquez's homer to lead off the 4th, save for a two-out walk in the top of the 7th. In the 8th, Nunez hit a one-out double then Bradley reached on an error by 1B Luke Voit and stole second base. Betances struck out Vazquez for out number two, then issued an intentional walk to Betts to load the bases. However, Benintendi struck out as well, and the score remained at 4-1.
Alex Cora then made a bold move by bringing in Game 1 starter Chris Sale to pitch the 8th. It worked as he retired all three Yankees batters in order. After Aroldis Chapman had also gone 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th, the Yankees were down to their final chance. Closer Craig Kimbrel came out and immediately walked Aaron Judge. Didi Gregorius followed with a single, but Giancarlo Stanton, who was almost a non-factor the entire series, struck out. Kimbrel then walked Voit to load the bases and was replaced by pinch-runner Adeiny Hechavarria, who represented the potential tying run. Kimbrel now hit Walker with a pitch to force in a run and Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly. Torres was up next, and he hit another grounder to Nunez at third, but this time the third baseman had enough time to throw him out at first. The play was very close and required a video review, but the decision was upheld, confirming Boston's 4-3 win.
- Ian Browne: "Red Sox top rival Yanks, to host Astros in ALCS", mlb.com, October 10, 2018. 
- Mark Feinsand: "ALDS proves a learning experience for Boone: Slow hook on CC puts bullpen management in spotlight again", mlb.com, October 10, 2018. 
- Bryan Hoch and Ian Browne: "Yankees-Red Sox: Lineups, matchups, FAQs", mlb.com, October 5, 2018. 
- Mike Lupica: "Cora aced first postseason test with Red Sox: Rookie manager pushed all the right buttons during intense ALDS", mlb.com, October 10, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Red Sox punish Yankees at home to advance to ALCS: 'We’ll get the last laugh'", USA Today, October 10, 2018. 
- Mike Petriello: "Who has edge? Yanks-Sox position by position", mlb.com, October 4, 2018. 
- Chad Thornburg: "Yanks-Sox rivalry goes up a notch for playoffs: Longtime foes set for fourth postseason series, first in ALDS", mlb.com, October 4, 2018. 
- Jesse Yomtov: "4 things that will decide the Red Sox-Yankees ALDS", USA Today, October 5, 2018. 
|Major League Baseball American League Division Series