All season long, the New York Yankees lived or died by the home run. With its season on the line against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, the team that set the record for most home runs in a season couldn’t come up with one.
The Red Sox are headed to the American League Championship Series after beating the Yankees, 4-3, in Game 4 of their league division series on Tuesday.
Craig Kimbrel came in for the ninth and Boston’s ace reliever nearly gave away the game. He allowed a walk to Aaron Judge and a single to Didi Gregorius. After a strikeout, he walked Luke Voit to load the bases.
A run came in when Kimbrel hit Neil Walker with a pitch, and another on a sacrifice fly by Gary Sanchez, but the Yankees’ rally fell one run short when the rookie Gleyber Torres grounded out to third in a play that stood up to a replay review.
The out that sent the Red Sox to the ALCS! pic.twitter.com/03RCJhvW27
— ESPN (@espn) October 10, 2018
It was a far cry from the Red Sox’ Game 3 blowout, but thanks to dominant pitching by Rick Porcello and four relievers, along with a three-run third inning, Boston, which won a major league-best 108 games this season, eliminated its longtime rivals, celebrating an A.L.C.S. berth on the infield of Yankee Stadium.
Managers quickly going to the bullpen has been a trend that has largely defined these playoffs, but for five innings Porcello reminded everyone what a dominant starter can look like. The 2016 A.L. Cy Young Award winner allowed just four hits and one run, making easy work of the Yankees in four shutout innings before slowing down a bit in the fifth, allowing his lone run on a sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner.
That was not nearly enough for the Yankees after C.C. Sabathia faltered in the third inning, allowing three runs by hitting a batter, allowing a single, a sacrifice fly, a run-scoring double and a run-scoring single. The veteran left-hander got out of that inning, but his day was done after he had allowed five hits and two walks while striking out one.
Boston’s fourth run came in the fourth inning, when the No. 9 batter, Christian Vazquez, homered off Zach Britton.
With a three-run lead, and Porcello looking at least slightly human in the fifth inning, Manager Alex Cora went to his bullpen to start the sixth, and Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Chris Sale (Boston’s ace) were never challenged in the lead-up to Kimbrel’s troublesome ninth.
In an on-field interview after the game, Porcello credited throwing strikes and infield defense with the win, saying the Red Sox knew they had to avoid falling behind to the powerful Yankees lineup.
He joked about Sale’s relief appearance, saying, “Chris Sale can be our starter, our setup man, our closer, whatever he wants to be.”
The Red Sox will face the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in the A.L.C.S., with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday in Boston at 8:09 p.m. Eastern.
Here’s how the Red Sox eliminated the Yankees, inning by inning:
Bottom 9th: Yankees Make a Charge
The Yankees had never won a playoff game in which they trailed by three or more runs after eight innings. They gave it quite a go against Boston’s ace reliever, Craig Kimbrel, but a two-run rally wasn’t enough, and they lost when Gleyber Torres grounded out to end the game.
Kimbrel came in for the ninth to replace Chris Sale and allowed a walk to Aaron Judge and a single to Didi Gregorius. After a strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton, he walked Luke Voit to load the bases.
A run came in when Kimbrel hit Neil Walker with a pitch, and another on a sacrifice fly by Gary Sanchez, but that was all the Yankees could muster as Kimbrel, who could barely throw a strike, got a little help from a bang-bang play by his infield to retire Torres.
James Wagner: What a finish. Kimbrel, the star closer, did not help himself with his wayward command. The only strikes he was getting were those by overly aggressive Yankees hitters, like Stanton. Sanchez hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in left field. On his 28th pitch of the game, Kimbrel got Torres to ground out to Eduardo Nunez, who threw him out at first base. Replay review was a buzz kill to Boston’s celebration. And Nunez went to the ground after jumping up and down celebrating, then waiting for replay review, and then celebrating again.
Top 9th: Chapman Goes 1-2-3
Aroldis Chapman came in for the ninth, and the Yankees’ closer got a quick first out on a fly ball to right from Steve Pearce. He got rid of J.D. Martinez on a grounder to short and then struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the inning.
The Yankees have three more outs to try to save their season, with Craig Kimbrel coming in for Boston to try to close them out.
Bottom 8th: Cora Pulls Out an Ace
Taking no chances with a berth in the A.L.C.S. on the line, Alex Cora brought out his ace, Chris Sale, for the eighth inning. The left-hander got a little scare when Gleyber Torres crushed a ball to center, but it did not quite have the distance, settling safely into Jackie Bradley Jr.’s glove for the first out. Andrew McCutchen pinch-hit for Brett Gardner, and Sale erased him on a grounder to third. That left Aaron Hicks, who turned around to the right side against the left-hander, but might as well have left his bat in the dugout as Sale caught him looking at a slider for strike three, ending the inning.
Top 8th: Red Sox Leave the Bases Loaded
After Ian Kinsler struck out to start the inning, Eduardo Nunez doubled to left off Dellin Betances. Jackie Bradley Jr. reached base thanks to an error by Luke Voit, which sent Nunez to third, but Betances recovered to strike out Christian Vazquez. Betances intentionally walked Mookie Betts to load the bases for Andrew Benintendi, and the move paid off when Betances froze the left fielder with a called third strike to end the inning.
Bottom 7th: Yankees Running Out of Time
Despite Matt Barnes’s dominance in the sixth, Ryan Brasier replaced him to start the seventh. The 31-year-old had the difficult task of facing Luke Voit to start the inning and despite Voit fighting off several tough pitches, Brasier retired him on a fly ball to right. Neil Walker struck out and that brought up Gary Sanchez, who Brasier had confronted in Game 2, screaming for the catcher to get back in the box with two strikes and then promptly striking him out. This time around, Brasier again won the battle, retiring Sanchez on a pop-out to second.
James Wagner: If the Yankees could find any sliver of hope to save their season, it would be in any Red Sox relief pitcher not named Craig Kimbrel. Although they performed well over all during the regular season, Boston’s bullpen sputtered to the finish line, especially with the bridge from the starting pitcher to their star closer Kimbrel.
But the Yankees went meekly against Matt Barnes in the sixth inning and Ryan Brasier in the seventh, both of them pumping fastballs over 96 miles per hour. Kimbrel will at least get the ninth. But who gets the eighth? Well, Chris Sale, the Red Sox star starting pitcher, is warming in the bullpen. For Boston, no one beyond Sale or Kimbrel should take the mound to finish this game.
Top 7th: Robertson Gives Way to Betances
David Robertson was looking absolutely dominant, having retired five consecutive batters, but after he allowed his first base runner of the game, on a walk, he was pulled from the game in favor of Dellin Betances. The move worked as the Yankees got out of the inning without any further damage.
Robertson needed just three pitches to strike out Andrew Benintendi. He worked slightly harder to dispatch Steve Pearce, striking him out on eight pitches, the last of which was a knuckle-curve that Pearce tried to pull his bat back on but got rung up by first base umpire Fieldin Culbreth.
J.D Martinez battled his way to a walk on seven pitches, which prompted Aaron Boone to make the switch to Betances. A wild pitch from Betances sent Martinez to second but Betances got out number three on a grounder to short from Xander Bogaerts.
Bottom 6th: Red Sox Turn to Their Bullpen
The quick hooks for pitchers in the playoffs continue, as Rick Porcello was pulled from the game to start the sixth inning despite his having needed just 65 pitches to get through five innings of one-run ball.
Matt Barnes, a 28-year-old right-hander who appeared in 62 games for Boston during the regular season, replaced the former…