So now there’s one series left standing. What has always been the main event of baseball’s 2018 four-ring, division-round hoopla is now the only event. Which means, baseball fans, you have your afternoons back. Which means you know just what you’ll be doing Tuesday night, 8:07 Eastern.
It all fell apart for the Yankees in Game 3, of course. Boston was up a footbally 10–0 after the top of the fourth inning, which was not a result anyone expected, but one that does have some precedence. The last time the Red Sox played a postseason game in Yankee Stadium was in the American League Championship Series, October of 2004. Boston won that one 10–3.
You can always, if you’re inclined this way, look at these Yankees-Red Sox games through the well-smudged lens of history. How it was four score and 19 years ago that the trade of all trades happened (Ruth to the Yankees, cash back to Boston); and that it was 40 years ago when Bucky Dent hit that ball of Mike Torrez in Game 163; and that it’s been 15 years since Dave Roberts stole second base in the ninth; and ... Or you can just look at it this way: In the autumn of 2018 two of the best three teams in baseball (the other one is already bound for the ALCS) still have nine innings, or 18 perhaps, in which to decide their seasons. The Yankees and Red Sox won 209 regular season games between them this year.
CC Sabathia will start for the Yankees in Game 4. He is 38 years old and he wants to come back and pitch again next year for a 19th season. Not quite a lefthanded Bartolo Colón but not quite not a lefthanded Bartolo Colón, either. Evaluating Boston’s offense, Sabathia said: “They’ve got speed, they’ve got power. They take a lot of pitches. It’s a good lineup—bad lineup for me in the fact they take a lot of pitches.” Indeed that batter patience means we’re not likely to see CC for long in Game 4—even if he does okay at getting ’em out. And he very well might do okay. The Red Sox’s OPS is about 100 points less against lefthanders than against righthanders this year (that’s a lot). If I’m Yankees manager Aaron Boone I have every one of my five lefties available to pitch on Tuesday night. That means J.A. Happ too. There’s no Game 5 without Game 4.
Even a game as forgettable as Game 3 has its moments: like Mookie Betts picking up a fan’s phone in right field and giving it back to him with a high-five to boot. (This was Manny being Manny, only Mookie). Or New York’s, Lance Lynn, coming in as a reliever and throwing three straight balls to Betts and then start stomping and scratching at the dirt at the front of the mound, rather like a cat in his litter box trying to cover up what he’d just done. It never really works.
Or Brock Holt making that play at second base off Brett Gardner in the third when the game was still a game. Or, oh yes, Brock Holt hitting a single, a double, a triple and then a home run in the ninth! He being the one Boston batter who really got to Yankees closer Austin Romine.
Then there was Angel Hernandez, who was the umpire at first base, and who had four of his calls go to replay review in the first four innings. He was wrong on three of them. A couple of them weren’t really that close. Of course this human error doesn’t really matter to the outcome, beyond prolonging the Yankees agony. All the calls were set right under review. It’s not like when Jim Joyce could miss a call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Now we just moan indignantly about Hernandez and ponder what he might do in Game 4—when he will be the umpire behind home plate.
Yes, Game 4 of the last division series left standing, in the Bronx on an October night, where so much has happened, and so much might happen. The Yankees and the Red Sox all over again. As Boston starter Rick Porcello, said, wielding a cliché as expertly as one of his go-to sliders: “This is what it’s all about.”