With Wild Card in the books, flawed Boston team move on to ALDS

BOSTON – The American League Wild Card game that few fans wanted turned out to be… well, not quite everything anyone could have asked for. There were some great plays and drama in the sixth round, but it was by no means considered a Red Sox-Yankees classic. As much as anything, it was a team led by Alex Cora showing they deserve a place in the playoffs despite the skepticism that accompanied a checkered second half. In front of 38,324 fans at Fenway Park, Boston beat New York 6-2 on Tuesday night.

The tone was set very early on.

Giancarlo Stanton entered the game with a .389 / .451 / .689 slash line and 208 wRC + in 102 career appearances at Fenway Park. He’d gone deep six times, and two outs in the first inning, it looked like that number would become seven. Stanton certainly seemed to think so; standing in the box, he briefly admired what ended up being a 345-foot single – 94.8 mph bike ride – from the Green Monster. Joey Gallo then fanned out to end the round.

The top half served as an omen. Instead of an early New York lead, the game went scoreless. But not for long. With a runner in the bottom half, Xander Bogaerts detonated a Gerrit Cole offering 427 feet into the central field bleachers, a bomb that was preceded by some mano-a-mano electricity. Rafael Devers slipped out of his shoes early in the count on his attack at bat, and the veteran right-hander responded by buzzing him with a fastball on the next pitch. Intrepid, the young slugger kept his cool and worked the Yankees ace for what turned out to be a successful march.

When meeting with the media on Monday, Cole called the opportunity to play in the playoffs “kind of carrot at the end of the road.” Three batters in his second inning of work, he reached the end of his. Before Clay Holmes came out of the pen to put out more shots – Boston ended up blocking a pair of runners – Kyle Schwarber hit a moon strike deep in Fenway’s night. Hit at 110.3 mph, the ball traveled 435 feet to the right.

Another quote from Cole came to mind at this point: “At the end of the day, you can’t control the quality of a swing they’re taking; you can only control the quality of a pitch you are making.

Schwarber provided his own quality quotes in Monday’s press. When asked about handling the pressure of a high-stakes game, the playoff-tested veteran said, “As the game continues to roll, the battle is to keep the voices out of your head and take it round by. handle, step by step. You can’t look too far in these games.

It goes without saying that a 3-0 third inning game is far from over. This is especially true at Fenway, and when you factor in the nerve-inducing unreliability of the Red Sox relief pen, the lead was anything but sure. Koji Uehara was there, but as a member of the Japanese TV media, not as the stop reliever that Alex Cora sorely misses.

Despite these concerns, Nathan Eovaldi got a hook faster than expected. Just 71 shots in what had been a flawless outing (he recorded eight strikeouts against no march, with his fastball averaging 98 mph), Boston’s top starter was called out after relinquishing a solo shot. in the sixth round to Anthony Rizzo followed by an infield from Aaron Judge Single. With the penalty for the third time in sequence clearly in mind, Cora went to Ryan Brasier to take on Stanton.

This time, the result was not an omen, but rather a game on the plate. Yankees Goliath pushed a ball high off the wall to center left – this one a laser beam at 114.9 mph – and New York third base coach Phil Nevin twisted his arm as second potential round was approaching the third. Thanks to a perfectly executed relay, Judge was a dead duck at home.

The Red Sox responded in the lower half. Alex Verdugo followed a Bogaerts walk with a wide shot, and this time it was Boston third baseman Carlos Febles tweaking his arms. The relay was clean, but not quite on time. It was now 4-1. Just over a week after the Yankees swept away a three-game streak, seriously jeopardizing their rival’s playoff hopes, the Red Sox were now nine out of an ALDS meeting with the Rays. of Tampa Bay.

Aaron Boone was asked on Monday what impact the late September sweep might have on tonight’s winner’s affair.

“Whenever I was asked about momentum in baseball, I never knew what to answer until 2003,” the Yankees manager told reporters, referring to the up-and-down. comes ALCS which he won with an epic home run in Game 7. “Being on this team and playing against a great Red Sox team, I heard that all the time. We would win a game and “grab the momentum”. Then they beat us the shit the next day. It was, ‘OK, I don’t know what all of this means.’ “

A trio of Red Sox relievers kept the fort going for the last three frames. Despite the dangerous – albeit incredibly inconsistent – formation of the Yankees, no drama has remained. A two-run single, loaded by Verdugo in the seventh inning, essentially sealed the deal, making Stanton’s ninth-inning home and away player against Garrett Whitlock a 2020 Rule 5 draft pick selected in the system. New York, a simple footnote.

Again, this was a Red Sox team that many, including Boston fans, didn’t deserve a trip to the playoffs. Not after falling from first place and playing a 0.500 ball in the second half. Cora saw it differently. In the end, he was right.

“We are who we are,” Cora said on Monday. “We are not perfect. But we haven’t met [92] wins by being lucky. We have a great baseball team… We’re not going to change who we are overnight, but one thing we can do is win a game, like we’ve done 92 times.

That number is now 93. As imperfect as they are, the Red Sox are moving towards the ALDS.

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