By Sam Bush
The Red Sox are going to the World Series again.
They beat the Yankees 4-3 that clinched this division series by three games to one.
The Red Sox victory sent them into the A.L. Championship Series against the defending champion Houston Astros, who vanquished them in a division series last season, when the current Red Sox manager, Alex Cora, was the Astros’ bench coach.
The ALCS will begin Saturday at Fenway Park.
The Yankees gave thw Yankee Stadium crowd hope in the bottom of the ninth when Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, with a 4-1 lead, walked Aaron Judge and gave up a single to Didi Gregorius. Giancarlo Stanton struck out, but Kimbrel walked Luke Voit on four pitches and hit Walker to force in a run, stoking the home fans’ anticipation.
Gary Sanchez, at the end of a seven-pitch at-bat, followed with a towering drive that left fielder Andrew Benintendi caught on the warning track, bringing home Gregorius, and suddenly the deficit was down to one run.
Kimbrel then got Gleyber Torres to hit a dribbler to third. Eduardo Nunez, a former Yankee, gathered it and threw slightly wide of first base, but another former Yankee, Steve Pearce, stretched to glove it an instant before Torres touched the bag.
But in a scene emblematic of the replay era, the Red Sox had to pause their celebration momentarily while the call was reviewed. After a delay of 1 minute 3 seconds, the crew chief Mike Winters signaled that Torres was out, and the celebration at the center of the diamond began in earnest.
As it did, the Yankees retreated from their dugout, down the stairs to their clubhouse, where they were left to mull a rally, and a season, that ultimately came up short.
“Five more feet with Gary’s ball, and we’re going to Boston,” reliever Zach Britton said.
“When push came to shove, I think they executed better than we did,” third baseman Neil Walker said. “I think it’s plain and simple.”
If this series carried the weight of history between these teams, it did not quite produce the same drama as the last two times they met — in 2003, when Boone’s Game 7 walk-off home run sent the Yankees to the World Series, and the next year, when the Red Sox staged a historic comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit en route to their first World Series title in 86 years.
In fact, one of the indelible moments of the series will be the pivotal Game 3, when the Red Sox pummeled the Yankees and Boone was pilloried for his reluctance to pull the struggling starter Luis Severino.
A new day, however, did little to solve the Yankees’ offensive problems.
Their inability to deliver productive, situational at-bats — something that plagued them in last year’s ALCS loss to the Astros — was once again apparent. They were 4 for 26 with runners in scoring position in this series and left 28 runners on base.
“In the end, you don’t move on when you don’t get enough big hits in a series,” Boone said.