No J.D. Martinez? No problem. With their star slugger nursing an ankle sprain, the Red Sox took care of business against the Yankees on Tuesday night.
In the first-ever American League Wild Card Game to be played at Fenway Park, Boston held on for a 6-2 victory over New York to eliminate their division rivals from the postseason.
Matched up against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole to begin things on Tuesday, a Martinez-less Sox lineup got the scoring started right away — or with two outs in the bottom of the first inning to be more precise.
On the heels of a six-pitch walk drawn by Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts followed by taking Cole deep on a 2-1, 89 mph changeup that was grooved down the heart of the plate.
Bogaerts took that tantalizing pitch and crushed a two-run home run 427 feet to dead center field, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 2-0 on his third career postseason homer.
Kyle Schwarber tacked on another run to Boston’s early lead two innings later, as he led off the bottom of the third with a 435-foot solo blast that left his bat at a scorching 110.3 mph.
Schwarber’s first October home run in a Red Sox uniform put his side up 3-0, and it also marked the end of the line for Cole after the righty put two more runners on in the third inning without recording an out.
Unlike Cole, Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi was locked in on Tuesday night. In what was his first postseason start in nearly three years, Eovaldi limited his former team in the Yankees to just one run on four hits and zero walks to go along with eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 strong innings of work.
The veteran right-hander kicked off his outing by retiring 16 of the first batters he faced, taking a shutout bid into the top of the sixth before the New York lineup flipped over for a third time.
After getting Rougned Odor (pinch-hitting for No. 9 hitter Andrew Velazquez) to punch out for the first out of the frame, Eovaldi served up a solo shot that wrapped around Pesky’s Pole in right field to Yankees leadoff man Anthony Rizzo, thus making it a 3-1 game. He then yielded an infield single to Aaron Judge to bring the tying run to the plate.
Taking no chances with the dangerous Giancarlo Stanton looming in the on-deck circle, Red Sox manager Alex Cora went to his bullpen right then and there, as he gave Eovaldi the hook in favor of Ryan Brasier.
Brasier, in turn, gave up a hard-hit, 114.9 mph single to Stanton that bounced off the Green Monster and was corralled by Enrique Hernandez in center field. Judge attempted to score all the way from first base on the play, but was instead thrown out at the plate after Hernandez threw the ball in to Bogaerts and Bogaerts gunned him down to complete the relay.
So, instead of having runners at second and third with one out, the Yankees had just one runner at second (Stanton moved up from first) with two outs. Brasier, in the process of officially closing the book on Eovaldi’s night, capitalized on that by getting Joey Gallo to pop out to retire the side in the sixth.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 71 (54 strikes), Eovaldi turned to his four-seam fastball 49% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday. Of the 35 four-seamers the 31-year-old hurler threw, six induced a swing-and-miss.
A half-inning later, the Red Sox got the lone run Eovaldi surrendered right back while Luis Severino was pitching for the Yankees.
With one out and a runner on first following a Bogaerts walk, Alex Verdugo came through with his first of two clutch hits on the night. He first drove in Bogaerts all the way from first on a line-drive RBI double to right field that gave Boston a 4-1 lead.
Following a scoreless top of the seventh from Tanner Houck, Verdugo delivered once more, this time coming up to the plate with two outs, the bases full, and the opportunity to put this one away.
On the second pitch he saw from Yankees reliever Chad Green, Verdugo did just that by drilling a two-run single back up the middle that brought in both Schwarber and Hernandez to make it a 6-1 contest in favor of Boston.
From there, Hansel Robles tossed a perfect inning of relief on the eighth to make way for Garrett Whitlock in the ninth.
Whitlock, despite giving up a solo homer to Stanton, somewhat fittingly closed the door on the Yankees’ season. The righty recorded the final three outs of the ninth to preserve a 6-2 Wild Card victory for the Sox.
With the win, not only do the Red Sox eliminate the Yankees, but they also advance to the American League Division Series. Boston will open a best-of-five series with the Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)