In an exciting game that had just about everything a baseball fan could ask for on Thursday night, it was the Red Sox, despite a rather slow start, who had their way with the New York Yankees in the first game of a four-game weekend series.
Yes, the early performances from Brian Johnson and Boston’s lineup would lead you to believe the Red Sox would have to fight their way to a potential win last night, but an eight run fourth inning really turned this game on its head.
Speaking of Johnson, the lefty made his first career start against the Yankees on Thursday, as he filled in for Chris Sale, who is currently on the 10-day disabled list.
Pitching five full innings, Johnson was certainly not at his best in his seventh start of the season, but he didn’t need to be.
Starting right away in the top of the first, the Florida native allowed the first three batters he faced, including a three-run blast off the bat of Didi Gregorius to put the Yankees up 3-0 early.
An inning later, another home run, this one coming from Aaron Hicks with two outs in the second, tacked on another run to New York’s lead, and the Red Sox found themselves trailing by four before they even took their second set of at bats.
Fortunately, Johnson settled down a bit from that point up until the middle of the fifth when he served up another homer to Gregorius to lead off the inning. By the time that happened though, the Red Sox had already jumped up to a 10-4 lead, so it’s not like it had that big of an impact on the final result.
Able to pick up his first winning decision since April 2nd, the 27 year-old hurler ended his so-so night by striking out the final three batters he faced to up his total to 11 on the night, setting a new career-high with that mark.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 104 (65 strikes), Johnson relied on his four-seam fastball 45 times last night, and topped out at 91.4 MPH with it on his 87th pitch of the game.
If Sale is able to make his next start in Toronto next week, I can’t imagine there would be a reason to keep Johnson in the rotation. We’ll have to wait and see on that.
Anyway, in relief of Johnson, the Red Sox bullpen began their night with a six run lead to protect in the sixth.
Brandon Workman made his first appearance with the big league club since being recalled from Triple A Pawtucket on Tuesday, and he surrendered a Giancarlo Stanton mammoth shot of a solo home run in what was an otherwise clean two innings of work. He also received some help from Ian Kinsler with two fantastic plays at second in the seventh.
Joe Kelly was next up in the eighth, and although his old friend Tyler Austin was nowhere to be found, the righty reliever looked decently dominant in an eight pitch 1-2-3 frame of work.
Finally, Ryan Brasier came on to close this thing out, and despite trimming the Yankees deficit to eight runs, managed to hold on to record the final out of the night and secure his team’s 76th win of the season.
On the other side of things, where do I even begin? Holy moly, what a night it was for just about everyone who swung a bat for the Red Sox on Thursday.
Facing off against an opponent they usually struggle against in the Yankees’ CC Sabathia, Mookie Betts, who entered last night in a 10/48 skid since the All-Star break, got the scoring started for Boston by drawing a two out bases loaded walk in the second to cut New York’s lead down to three.
In the third, Steve Pearce pulled his team a little closer by blasting his first of three home runs on the night in what would end up being Sabathia’s final frame after he had already walked four batters in a rather short period of time.
Big mistake there by Aaron Boone and the Yankees, because my god, did the Red Sox lineup go off in the fourth.
Before an out could even be recorded by Yanks reliever Jonathan Holder, Boston sent seven men to the plate, which resulted in a brand new 8-4 lead and one hell of a play at home courtesy of Jackie Bradley Jr. on an Andrew Benintendi fielder’s choice.
Steve Pearce’s second home run of the night, a three-run shot, was part of this barrage as well.
Once Chad Green came in for Holder, who, again, failed to record a single out, more RBI knocks from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi scored the seventh and eighth runs in what will more than likely go down as the most exciting inning of the season.
Over the next two innings, an RBI double from Ian Kinsler in the fifth put the Red Sox up 11-5, and in the sixth, another RBI two bagger off the bat of Andrew Benintendi increased the Red Sox lead to 12-5.
One batter later, Steve Pearce put the exclamation point on his incredible night by mashing his third big fly of the game off of Luis Cessa to complete the hat trick and put his team’s 14th and final run of the contest on the board. Here are all three homers in one convenient video.
In total, Red Sox hitters reached base 25 times on Thursday, which resulted in a season-high tying 15 runs crossing the plate. The team also hit .375 (9/24) with runners in scoring position.
Some other notes from this win:
Injury related: Blake Swihart would have to leave this game with right hamstring tightness in the sixth inning. He has been ruled day-to-day.
Mookie Betts broke out of his little slump in a big way last night, as he reached base SIX times by himself in six tries.
In his first taste of the rivalry, Ian Kinsler went 3/6 with two RBI and two defensive gems at second base.
Steve Pearce, in 59 career games against the Yankees, is slashing .294/.385/.586 with 13 HR and 29 RBI, which are the most he has against any individual team.
From @SoxNotes: Steve Pearce is the 3rd Red Sox player ever to hit 3 HR in a game against the Yankees, joining Kevin Millar (7/23/2004) and Mo Vaughn (5/30/1997).
Another one from @SoxNotes: The Red Sox are 6.5 games ahead of the Yankees, their largest lead in the AL East since September 2013.
The Sox are 20-5 in their last 25 games. They lead the majors in win % (.691, 76-34), runs per game (5.34), stolen bases (86), AVG (.270), and OPS (.796).
Having won the series opener in convincing fashion, the Yankees and Red Sox will be back it at later tonight in a pitching matchup featuring two different types of right-handers.
For the Yankees, it will be Luis Severino, a power arm, and for the Red Sox, Rick Porcello, who relies less on his velocity, gets the nod for game two.
Despite the ace status, Severino has had his fair share of struggles lately, as he owns a 8.84 ERA in his last four outings for New York.
Rick Porcello, who has posted a 3.31 ERA in 20 career starts against the Yankees, is coming off an appearance in which he surrendered four earned runs in less than six innings pitched against the Minnesota Twins on July 28th.
Not expecting another blowout in this one, but it should still be an entertaining night regardless. First pitch of the second game is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET Friday.