The Red Sox jumped on Yankees ace Gerrit Cole early and Nathan Eovaldi shut down New York's jumbo-package lineup to send Boston to the American League Division Series against the Rays.
From Xander Bogaerts's first-inning home run to his perfect relay to nail Aaron Judge at the plate, there were plenty of big moments in this win-or-go-home contest between baseball's two staunchest rivals. Emma Baccellieri and Matt Martell provided live updates, analysis and observations during the game. Relive the first game of the 2021 postseason with them as it unfolded.
All times listed are EST
EB (8:00 p.m.) - One thing I’m looking at with the Yankees’ lineup: It’s no surprise that Kyle Higashioka is behind the plate tonight. Gerrit Cole is almost always caught by Higashioka, instead of the team’s typical starting catcher, Gary Sánchez. But it’s worth considering the impact of that decision on the lineup for a do-or-die game like this one. While Higashioka is generally a better defender, in addition to being something of a personal catcher for Cole, his bat is markedly weaker than Sánchez’s. (Higashioka had a 71 OPS+ this year compared to Sánchez’s 99.) Will that matter tonight?
MM (8:02 p.m.) - Aaron Boone said Sánchez will be used as a pinch hitter tonight, and the Yankees activated Rob Brantly to use in emergency situations. Still, the Yankees’ back half of the lineup looks much thinner without Gary.
MM (8:08 p.m.) - You have a prediction for us Emma?
EB (8:10 p.m. ) - I’ll go Yankees, 6-4, time of game, five and a half hours (only slightly joking on that last part!)
MM (8:10 p.m.) - I’m going Yankees 7-4. I think Judge and Stanton will both go yard, and the Rafael Devers will hit at least one home run.
Time of game five hours, and I’m not joking.
MM (8:14 p.m.) - Wow, I thought part of my prediction was already coming true. Stanton JUST missed that.
MM (8:19 p.m.) - Eovaldi is doing what he always does: He’s pounding the zone early. But the Yankees are changing their season-long approach so far. They are swinging early. I think this combo will lead to some ambushed fastballs for HRs as well as some quick outs.
EB (8:20 p.m.) - Yes! Swings at 7 of his 11 pitches. Also, a slightly sappy note—what a great atmosphere this sounds like at Fenway. Even though stadiums were full for most of the summer, after last year’s (almost entirely) empty pandemic playoffs, it’s really lovely to be reminded of how incredible a crowd is for baseball in October.
MM (8:21 p.m.) - It’s a perfect way to start the postseason.
Also, I love Schwarber and Rizzo leading off for the Red Sox and Yankees in a win-or-go-home game. Really didn’t expect that when the season began.
MM (8:23 p.m.) - LOL Brett Gardner still playing CF for the Yankees in the Year of Our Lord 2021.
EB (8:29 p.m.) - Well, that is not how the Yankees wanted to see Cole’s first inning start tonight. What a rocket from Xander Bogaerts.
MM (8:31 p.m.) - Something tells me Cole didn’t wanna throw his changeup there.
He hit that one 427 feet to dead center. Red Sox lead 2–0 after the first inning.
MM (8:38 p.m.) - Gio Urshela is really banged up after that incredible catch from Sunday when he dived into the Rays dugout.
So naturally, he’s the one who had to beat out an infield single.
EB (8:39 p.m.) - It’s amazing to me that he was able to walk that one off in the first place
MM (8:39 p.m.) - Better than the Jeter play???
EB (8:40 p.m.) - Hey, the Jeter play didn’t have the drama that comes with Angel Hernandez eschewing the stairs to make a dramatic dive of his own.
MM (8:46 p.m.) - It’s really interesting that both teams are going with the personal catchers for their starting pitchers instead of their actual starting catchers.
EB (8:48 p.m.) - Man, that very nearly could have made it 3-0 by Plawecki
MM (8:50 p.m.) - In seven regular season games vs. the Yankees this year, Plawecki hit .318/.389/.563.
EB (8:56 p.m.) - Dalbec and Arroyo are the bottom of the lineup, but Cole has to be happy with how he finished with the back-to-back strikeouts there — some of those sliders were nice.
MM (8:59 p.m.) - Really cool breakdown on the Statcast broadcast, with the side-by-side videos of Eovaldi's different deliveries he has to throw off hitters' timing.
I love this broadcast team: Jason Benetti, Eduardo Pérez and Mike Petriello.
EB (9:00 p.m.) - They’re so good. Benetti is one of the best in the game, I think.
MM (9:00 p.m.) - I do too. I’ll watch White Sox games just to listen to him and Steve Stone.
EB (9:06 p.m.) - Sheesh. That one was clobbered. Kyle Schwarber crushed that. Solo HR. Red Sox lead 3–0 in the third.
In a win-or-go-home, I think you’ve got to start getting guys up in the bullpen.
MM (9:07 p.m.) - Who do they get up though? Nestor Cortes? Luis Severino?
Cole clearly doesn’t have it. But I really don’t know who they should go to here. What do you think?
EB (9:10 p.m.) - I’d probably go with Severino… but it’s interesting to me that they didn’t try to stretch him out in the handful of appearances he made in September. (All were one or two innings; his velocity improved over the course of the month, which is promising, but he doesn’t seem to be back at 100% yet in this recovery from Tommy John.)
Actually, I might go with Clay Holmes over Severino.
Either way — that is not the choice you want to be facing in the third inning!
MM (9:11 p.m.) - Holmes is up in the ’pen now.
EB (9:12 p.m.) - And here comes Aaron Boone to get Cole.
MM (9:12 p.m.) - Wow, that was unexpected. It’s the right call to pull Cole. I know he's struggled lately, but I didn’t think he would pitch as poorly as he did. Just wow. Clay Holmes is coming in to get out of this mess.
MM (9:18 p.m.) - They are punching out everybody who moves the bat anywhere near off their shoulders. Bogaerts did not swing at that.
EB (9:18 p.m.) - Yeah, there have been a few questionable calls here!
EB (9:20 p.m.) - With Holmes taking care of the two runners left on base in the third, I don’t think this is necessarily a doomsday scenario for the Yankees—yet. It’s obviously far from ideal, but their bullpen does have the depth to cover this, while Boston’s ’pen is notably volatile.
MM (9:20 p.m.) - That’s exactly why Holmes was the right guy to go to there. His sinker is perfect to get the double-play ball and get out of trouble.
Does Higashioka hit again or do the Yankees use Sánchez the next time Higgy’s due up now that Cole is out?
EB (9:25 p.m.) - I think they switch to Sánchez—they just don’t have a lot of wiggle room here, and I don’t see the benefit to keeping Higgy’s bat in this lineup now.
MM (9:36 p.m.) - Gleyber Torres looks so much more comfortable at second base.
I know that was a textbook play, but that turn was smooth.
MM: (9:38 p.m.) - Holmes has settled things down a bit for the Yankees. My guess is that’s all he’ll pitch tonight.
EB (9:39 p.m.) - Yes—sounds like Severino was getting ready in the ’pen behind him, and it seems like it would make sense to have him in to start the fifth.
EB (9:40 p.m.) - For the Red Sox, meanwhile, Eovaldi has been working pretty quickly here… The Yankees are clearly trying to be aggressive with as much as they’ve been swinging, but it hasn’t been working in their favor. Eovaldi was only at 53 pitches after the fourth.
MM (9:40 p.m.) - Should they start taking more, just to try and get the pitch count up and get into the shaky Red Sox bullpen?
EB (9:41 p.m.) - Yeah, I’d say so. Start working counts! Their best bet here, I think, is doing whatever possible to get to the bullpen as quickly as they can.
MM (9:43 p.m.) - Wow, I’m shocked they’re leaving Higgy in to hit.
EB (9:44 p.m.) - I would not have made that choice if I were Aaron Boone!
MM (9:44 p.m.) - Just an uncompetitive AB from Higgy. Sánchez also might’ve struck out, but he gives them a better chance to get a run back while they’re down 3–0.
MM (9:55 p.m.) - I’m interested to see how long Alex Cora sticks with Eovaldi if he gets into a bit of trouble. Managers are usually aggressive with going to the bullpen during the playoffs, but Eovaldi has been so dominant so far, his pitch count is low, and the Boston bullpen is not great.
EB (9:57 p.m.) - Yep. Now that Odor has gone down, the order is turning over for the third time, which would seem like a natural point to start considering lifting Eovaldi…
….and with Rizzo as the first hitter to see him a third time, there’s a home run.
MM (9:57 p.m) - You’re a wizard, Emma.
EB (9:58 p.m.) - I do think Cora will let him go a while longer! But that’s got to start making him a tiny bit nervous.
MM (9:59 p.m.) - Cora is pulling Eovaldi after Judge reaches on a single to shortstop. Quick hook after the HR and infield single.
EB (10:02 p.m.) - Hm. Going to Ryan Brasier! Tanner Houck or Garrett Whitlock also would have seemed like good options here, but, ah, welcome to the Red Sox Bullpen’s Wild Ride.
EB (10:03 p.m.) - alsdkjaslkdj! Man, that was not a good send. Goodness.
MM (10:04 p.m.) - Why are they sending him?
EB (10:04 p.m.) - Credit to a great throw from Hernandez, too, but…. what was Phil Nevin thinking there?? Sheesh.
MM (10:06 p.m.) - Also, a great relay from Bogaerts, after not throwing Judge out at first on his infield single.
MM (10:07 p.m.) - Now that I look at it again, it’s not as bad of a send as I thought at first. That was just a great throw from Hernández and a perfect relay from Bogaerts.
EB (10:08 p.m.) - Yeah, I also changed my mind a little after seeing the replay there! The Red Sox just played that one perfectly.
MM (10:16 p.m.) - Shouts to the one random fan in a Cardinals jersey at this game. I respect it. I think I also saw a Green Bay Packers jersey earlier???
EB (10:19 p.m.) - Well, an Alex Verdugo RBI double was extremely not what the Yankees wanted there—say what you will about the Red Sox bullpen, but this is starting to feel a little nail-in-the-coffin-y.
Easy to say with hindsight, but I gotta wonder if they should have thought about pulling Severino after the walk to Bogaerts.
You just don’t have the luxury of time here and you have the bullpen depth to cover it!
MM (10:21 p.m.) - I agree. Jonathan Loaisiga has been their best reliever this season. He’s in now, and maybe he should’ve been in there to face Verdugo, too.
MM (10:31 p.m.) - LOL that Yankee fan with like 7 empty Bud Light cans in front of him.
EB (10:31 p.m.) - A mood.
MM (10:38 p.m.) - Tanner Houck started Sunday’s game for the Red Sox. He went five innings, didn’t allow a base runner and threw 53 pitches. He’s in now after a day of rest, pitching in relief.
He’s probably the best of the starters available in the Red Sox’ bullpen, at least against the Yankees. All those sliders match up well against the Yankees’ right-handed hitters.
EB (10:42 p.m.) - With an especially nasty one right there to end the inning against Urshela. Dang.
MM (10:51 p.m.) - Boone can’t stick with Loaisiga for much longer.
He probably should have Wandy Peralta ready for Devers.
MM (10:52 p.m.) - Looks like it’ll be Chad Green.
EB (10:52 p.m.) - Yep. After that four-pitch walk? I’d pull him now.
And so will Aaron Boone, apparently.
MM (10:57 p.m.) - When Chad Green gives up runs, they’re more often than not via the home run. I thought Devers took him deep there. He just missed it.
EB (11:01 p.m.) - Anddddd that’ll probably do it. Verdugo drives in two runs with a two-out single.
MM (11:02 p.m.) - Yup. Verdugo getting thrown out at 2B to end the inning bailed Boone out for not having someone else warming in the ’pen. Green got hit hard.
EB (11: 04 p.m.) - I… don’t know if I would go with Hansel Robles here.
MM (11:05 p.m.) - Gary Sánchez pinch hits for Higashioka and flies out on the first pitch he sees to lead off the inning. So much for that.
EB (11:06 p.m.) - A five-run lead is a lot to work with, Robles was been much better in September than he’d been earlier in the year, and I know there aren’t a lot of other great options here, but still!
MM (11:06 p.m.) - Command has been a problem for Robles this season. I’m surprised Sánchez hacked at the first pitch he saw. He hit it well, but not high or far enough.
MM (11:11 p.m.) - Robles just burned through that inning.
EB (11:12 p.m.) - Yep, he definitely did not leave any room to doubt that he was the guy to go with there, ha.
MM (11:19 p.m.) - Last chance for the Yankees. They’ve got Judge, Stanton and Gallo due up.
EB (11:22 p.m.) - Not over yet, apparently! Stanton going oppo.
MM (11:23 p.m.) - Stanton has three of the Yankees’ six hits tonight. He smoked that one. 6–2 game.
EB (11:25 p.m.) - And that’s a wrap. 6–2, Red Sox. I’ll leave you with this: Do you think we just saw Aaron Boone’s last game managing the Yankees?
MM (11:26 p.m.) - I think so, maybe. But he didn’t assemble this team, which did have plenty of flaws, and I’m not sure who they would possibly bring in to replace him. It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Yankees.
EB (11:27 p.m.) - Yeah. I’m not sure I think he necessarily deserves to lose his job, but I think there’s going to be pressure for change, and unfortunately for him, this is an easy move to make.
EB (11:28 p.m.) - On that note! See you back here tomorrow night, same time, for Cardinals-Dodgers. Thanks for hanging with us.
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