By Sam Bush
The Boston Red Sox rode an early three-run homer from J.D. Martinez (above), plus a stout performance by Chris Sale, and then survived their usual bullpen jitters for a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS.
“I thought we did a really good job of pecking away, a good job of giving ourselves opportunities, and just ran out of time,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said. “We just couldn’t get that backbreaking hit.”
This is the first time these historic rivals have met in the playoffs since their back-to-back American League Championship Series classics in 2003 and 2004: Boone, then a Yankees player, hit a walk-off Game 7 homer in the first of those showdowns, and the Red Sox rallied from a three-games-to-none deficit the following year, on the way to their first World Series title in 86 years.
The loss in this best-of-five series should do little to rattle the Yankees, who will send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound for Game 2 against the Red Sox left-hander David Price. The Yankees lost the first two games of their 2017 division series, in Cleveland, before rebounding to win the next three.
Of more immediate concern for New York is the condition of center fielder Aaron Hicks, who left in the fourth inning on Friday with right hamstring tightness. A similar injury sidelined him for three games last week.
When Hicks departed, the Yankees were already down by five runs. But they had their chances once Sale left in the sixth inning. Hurting their comeback efforts were: a strikeout by Gleyber Torres with the bases loaded to end the top of the sixth, a groundout by Didi Gregorius with two runners aboard to end the top of the seventh and a harmless fly ball by Andrew McCutchen — who represented the tying run — to end the top of the eighth. Stanton, their cleanup hitter, struck out four times, including once with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh.
“I had pitches to hit, in the zone, that were fouled off and didn’t get to them,” Stanton said.
Stanton’s partner in the middle of the order, Judge, homered to lead off the ninth against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, narrowing the deficit to 5-4, but Kimbrel fired a fastball past Brett Gardner for one strikeout, buckled Stanton’s knees with a curve for another and then blew a fastball past Luke Voit for the final out.
In all, the Yankees went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners. As a result, a comeback that seemed within their grasp fell short.