2021 American League Wild Card Game
|2021 American League Wild Card Game|
|Boston Red Sox
92 - 70 in the AL
|1 - 0
|New York Yankees|
92 - 70 in the AL
The 2021 American League Wild Card Game featured the two bitterest rivals in the league, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, in a replay of their periodic titanic fight for control of the universe. The two had finished with exactly the same record in the regular season, although the Yankees had to finish strong to catch the Red Sox, and both of them were in danger of having to play a one-game playoff against the Toronto Blue Jays if they had lost theior final regular season game. As it turns out, they both scored the winning run in the 9th inning to set up this encounter.
The last time the two teams had met in the postseason was in the 2018 Division Series, but this game, being a winner-take-all affair, was more akin to the famous one-game playoff that decided the AL East race in 1978, a game that also took place at Fenway Park and was decided by Bucky Dent's unlikely three-run homer over the Green Monster.
|1||New York Yankees 2 Boston Red Sox ?||October 5||Gerrit Cole (0-1) Nathan Eovaldi (1-0)||8:08 pm|
Game 1 @ Fenway Park
|WP: Nathan Eovaldi (1-0); LP: Gerrit Cole (0-1)|
|Home Runs: BOS - Xander Bogaerts (1), Kyle Schwarber (1); NY - Anthony Rizzo (1), Giancarlo Stanton (1)|
- Attendance: 38,324
The Red Sox won the Wild Card Game by taking an early lead against Gerrit Cole and never letting the Yankees come back, thanks in part to one brilliant defensive play in the 6th. Fenway Park was packed for the game and the atmosphere was intense from the first pitch, with Boston's best pitcher during the season, Nathan Eovaldi, facing off against the most expensive pitcher in baseball in Cole. Both teams were missing key players, with IF D.J. LeMahieu having gone on the injured list in the last week of the season, forcing New York to start Andrew Velazquez at shortstop, while Boston was without DH J.D. Martinez, who had suffered a freak injury on the final day. Red Sox broadcasters Dennis Eckersley and Jerry Remy, who had both been members of the 1978 Red Sox team that had lost the infamous one-game playoff to the Yankees, threw the ceremonial first pitch, with the much-beloved Remy fighting a recurrence of cancer.
Eovaldi started off the 1st with two quick outs, before Giancarlo Stanton hit one of his pitches high and deep. Broadcasters both on ESPN (Matt Vasgersian) and the Yankees radio network (John Sterling) were convinced it was a homer and called it that way; Stanton was also convinced the ball had left the park and stood at home to admire its flight. And it would have gone out of just about any other ballpark, but in the quirky configuration of Fenway Park, it slammed against the top half of the Green Monster and stayed inside, while Stanton had to content himself with a single, since he had not been running. The Red Sox felt a scare, but Eovaldi settled down to strike out Joey Gallo and the inning was over. In the bottom of the inning, however, it was apparent almost from the first pitch that Cole was out of sorts. Kyle Schwarber hit a ball solidly but flew out to center and Kiké Hernandez popped out, but Rafael Devers drew a walk and Xander Bogaerts followed by tagging a hanging breaking ball to deep center field for a two-run homer. Both pitchers had a scoreless 2nd inning, although Kevin Plawecki hit a solid double for Boston. In the 3rd, Eovaldi was now clearly on a roll as he sandwiched a strikeout of Anthony Rizzo around a pair of harmless fly balls. Schwarber then led off the bottom of the 3rd with a very long homer to right field to make it 3-0 for Boston. He was followed by Hernandez, who singled with a slow roller down the third base line, and Devers, who drew another walk. With the game threatening to get out of hand, Aaron Boone made a bold move, removing his ace in favor of Clay Holmes, who had been one of his more reliable relievers down the stretch. He explained after the inning that he absolutely wanted to prevent the Red Sox from having a big inning, and that a sinker-ball pitcher was his best option. It worked, as Holmes struck out Bogaerts and got Alex Verdugo to ground into a double play, but the Yankees were down, 3-0, and would have to use relievers the rest of the way.
Eovaldi breezed through the top of the 4th, while Hunter Renfroe led off with a single for the Red Sox. However, Holmes induced another double play ball, by Plawecki, and got out of the inning. Eovaldi picked up a couple more strikeouts in a perfect 5th, and Luis Severino followed with a 1-2-3 inning of his own. The Yankees seemed to have stabilized the sinking boat at this point and began to see the light when Rizzo hit a solo homer in the 6th, after Eovaldi had struck out pinch-hitter Rougned Odor to start the inning, recording his 11th straight out. Aaron Judge followed with an infield single on a ground ball to Bogaerts at SS and it was now Alex Cora's turn to replace his ace early, even though he was only at 71 pitches. In came Ryan Brasier and Stanton greeted him with another long blast to left that was still rising when it banged against the wall with a loud metallic clang. However, the ball fell right at the feet of CF Hernandez, who quickly relayed to Bogaerts, who in turn launched a bullet to C Plawecki, and Judge was tagged out at home in what was clearly the biggest play of the game. Yankees fans will probably forever blame third base coach Phil Nevin for sending Judge home, but really, it was perfect defensive work by Boston that managed to retire Judge. After that scare, Brasier got Gallo to pop out to third base to end the inning.
It was clear that the Red Sox would be better off with a few more insurance runs, and they immediately set about doing so, as Bogaerts drew a one-out walk from Severino, then Verdugo hit a ball into the right field corner. In almost a repeat of the play in the top of the inning, the runner tried to make it home, and while coach Carlos Febles had some last-minute doubts and tried - too late - to hold up Bogaerts at third base, the runner made it safely, crossing the plate without sliding as C Kyle Higashioka's tag was late. That made it 4-1, and Severino gave way to Jonathan Loaisiga who walked Renfroe but then recorded two strikeouts to end the inning. Young Tanner Houck, fresh off pitching five perfect inning in his final start of the season, retired the Yankees in order in the top of the 7th, adding a pair of strikeouts to Boston's growing total (Eovaldi had picked up 9 in his 5 1/3 innings). The Red Sox then sealed the game against Loaisiga, as Schwarber and Hernandez drew back-to-back walks after one out to bring in Chad Green. He got Devers to line out to center for out number two, but then walked Bogaerts to load the bases. On Green's second pitch to Verdugo, the left-fielder lined a ball into left-center field, scoring two more runs, before he was caught at second base in an attempt to ensure the Yankees did not throw home. With the score now 6-1 and the Yankees down to their last six outs, Boston was in complete control. Hansel Robles pitched a perfect 8th inning for Boston, then rookie Garrett Whitlock, stolen from the Yankees in the 2020 Rule V Draft, came on to close out the win. After one out, Stanton finally got the home run he thought he had hit twice already, this time sending the ball into the right field stands where there was no Green Monster to keep it from leaving the yard, but the solo homer was just incidental. Whitlock got Gallo and Gleyber Torres to fly out for the final two outs, and the Yankees were eliminated.
- Ian Browne: "'It's fun': Sox send rivals packing; ALDS next", mlb.com, October 6, 2021. 
- Anthony Castrovince: "Breaking down Yankees-Red Sox by position", mlb.com, October 5, 2021. 
- Mike Lupica: "Feels like '78 all over again with Yanks-Sox", mlb.com, October 5, 2021. 
|Major League Baseball Wild Card Game|