By Terry Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
BRONX – Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora could’ve and should’ve made a statement tonight. Just as the Sox were gathered around the winner’s locker room with coolers of iced champagne awaiting, Cora should’ve pulled the plug on the celebration.
He could’ve looked closer Craig Kimbrel in the eye. He could’ve looked Game 2 starter David Price in the eye. He could’ve looked his MVP, Mookie Betts, in the eye and cited his .188 batting average. And, Cora could’ve simply stated, “You guys think you deserve champagne? You think you’re good? You think you can beat the Houston Astros?
“Well, go out and prove it and I’ll double the number of champagne bottles and we’ll celebrate when we clinch a World Series bid.”
Instead, Cora popped the corks and the Red Sox partied like it was 2004 or ’07 or 2013. They celebrated an American League Divisional Championship victory as though it mattered.
Yes, they won the best-of-five ALDS in four games. Yes, they defeated a formidable New York Yankees team, a longtime rival and a club that won 100 games in 2018. The Yanks did not go down easy, as Cora had to call upon his ace lefty starter Chris Sale to play fireman in the 8th. Then, the 9th inning theatrics kept all of New England on the cardiac control ward hotline, as Kimbrel walked Yankee slugger Aaron Judge on four pitches, coughed up a single to Didi Gregorius, walked Luke Voit and clipped Neil Walker’s toes with a knuckle-curve that broke far too early and forced in a run.
When Gary Sanchez hit a long fly ball to the left field warning track, Gregorius tagged and scored to make it 4-3 and New York was down to their last out against a struggling, laboring Kimbrel. It was only a video replay call of “out” on Eduardo Nunez’ strong defensive effort and nearly errant throw that caught Gleyber Torres by a thread to end the game and send Boston to the American League Championship Series against the Astros.
That series will start Saturday in Boston.
Boston spotted their starter Rick Porcello with a 4-0 lead. A sacrifice fly ball by Boston DH J.D. Martinez, scoring Andrew Benintendi, an RBI double by Ian Kinsler and an RBI single by Eduardo Nunez provided Boston with a 3-0 lead in the 3rd inning and a solo home run by catcher Christian Vazquez padded the lead by another run as the Red Sox staked an early 4-0 lead over New York. Vazquez HR traveled only 338-feet into Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch.
Porcello pitched very well over the course of 5.0 innings as he allowed only four hits and one run. Porcello escaped a jam in the Yankees’ half of the 5th inning but retired Aaron Hicks on a pop-up to short right field corralled by Kinsler, the second baseman.
The ball was passed from Porcello to Matt Barnes to Ryan Brasier to Sale to Kimbrel for the victory. Porcello was credited with the win and Kimbrel was allotted the save, albeit a shakey save at best (one IP, one hit, 2 earned runs, two walks, one strike-out and one hit batter).
The Game 3 dismantling of New York was impressive, especially the first 10 runs and the pitching effort by Nathan Eovaldi. As noted, the series clincher was far from impressive, if not an outright luck-out.
Boston knocked NY starter C.C. Sabathia out of the game after three innings, registering five hits and two walks along with the three early runs. Sabathia took the loss in what might’ve been his final game as a Yankee. The Yankees could only muster five hits in Game 4, and combined with their one run on five scattered hits in Game 3, the Bronx Bombers went flat at home.
“I think one of their goals in this series was to keep us in the ballpark, and then coming here where we’re so good at that, they were able to do it,” said New York manager Aaron Boone. “Credit to them for being able to hold us down and shut us down, but in the end, you don’t move on usually when you can’t get enough big hits in a series, and they just outplayed us a little bit.”