RECAP: Chris Sale Fans Eight and JD Martinez Homers in First at Bat as #RedSox Narrowly Take ALDS Opener from Yankees.

It certainly was far from easy, but by the time a hectic Friday night came to a close in Boston, the Red Sox had a 1-0 series lead over the New York Yankees in the ALDS. Let’s break down how we got there.

Taking a nice 0.69 ERA in two regular season starts against the Yankees this year, Chris Sale looked to rebound from a rough 2017 postseason campaign with a solid outing on Friday, and that he did.

Pitching into the sixth inning of this one, the left-hander ended up surrendering just two earned runs on five hits and two walks to go along with eight punch outs on the night as well.

Striking out three of the first four Yankee hitters he faced, the only real problems Sale ran into came with one out in the top half of the sixth, when Giancarlo Stanton ripped a single to left field to put runners at first second. That is how the ace’s night would come to a conclusion.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (61 strikes), which is the most he has thrown in a single outing dating back to July 27th, the Florida native threw 33 sliders, 31 four-seam fastballs, 16 changeups, and 13 two-seam fastballs.

With all the talk about how Sale’s fastball velocity took a significant dip over the course of September, an average velocity of 94.6 MPH does not seem all that bad. He also topped out at 96.6 MPH with that same four-seamer in the first inning.

As for when we see Sale take the mound next, it sounds like the 29-year-old hurler is ready to take on any pitching role, whether it be as a starter or out of the bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, boy, did Red Sox relievers have themselves a night to forget on Friday. Here’s a quality picture to sum it all up from the sixth inning on.

Ryan Brasier got the first call in relief of Sale, and in his first ever postseason appearance, allowed a pair of inherited runners to score while only recording one out.

That made way for Brandon Workman to enter this contest with runners on first and second and one more out to get in the sixth.

One of the only members left from the 2013 World Series team, Workman worked the bases loaded by walking Gary Sanchez on four straight balls, but escaped any further damage in the frame by fanning Gleyber Torres with a nasty knuckle curve for the third out.

In the seventh, the bases were loaded once again for New York thanks to the combined efforts of Workman and then Matt Barnes, but only one run came of it on a Luke Voit RBI force out. Other than that, Barnes too was able to manuever his away out of a stressful jam.

Surprisingly, Rick Porcello, who should still be able to start Game Three in New York on Monday, made an appearance out of the Boston bullpen for the beginning of the eighth inning, and got the first two outs of the frame in pretty quick order.

However, a cheap two out infield single off the bat of Gleyber Torres was the last action Porcello saw in this one, and that made way for a four-out save opportunity for Craig Kimbrel.

Having not pitched in an eighth inning in months, the Red Sox closer needed six pitches to end the top half of the inning, and he would have a two-run lead to work with in the ninth.

An inning that did not start all that swimmingly with Aaron Judge taking him deep to right field to cut the Red Sox lead to one run, Kimbrel rebounded by punching out the final three Yankee hitters he faced on 13 total pitches to wrap this dramatic series opening 5-4 win up.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Yankees left-hander JA Happ, who they just got to for four runs in his last regular season start at Fenway Park on September 28th.

Starting the scoring right away in this one, a one out single from Andrew Benintendi, followed by a four-pitch walk of Steve Pearce, set up JD Martinez in an opportune scoring spot early.

In his first postseason at bat in a Red Sox uniform, the team leader in home runs (43), squared up on a 2-0 94 MPH fastball on the inner half of the plate from Happ and sent it into the first row of Monster seats in left field.

Just like that, it was a 3-0 game thanks to a JD Martinez homer that had an exit velocity of exactly 107 MPH.

Two innings later, back-to-back base knocks from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi chased Happ out of his first postseason start in pinstripes, and that opened the doors for Steve Pearce to come through in another prime scoring chance with new reliever Chad Green on the bump for New York.

On the very first pitch he saw from the right-handed Green, Pearce, who slugged .757 against the Yankees over the regular season, lined an RBI single to left field to plate Betts from third and move Benintendi up to second. 4-0.

After JD Martinez advanced Benintendi to third on a fly ball out to right field, Xander Bogaerts took responsibility for the final Red Sox run of the night by driving in Benintendi on an RBI sac fly to right field. That put his team up 5-0, which somehow would be the only scoring they would need to pick up this very important victory.

Looking to go up 2-0 in the series headed into an off day on Sunday, David Price will get the ball for Boston on Saturday.

This season against New York, Price went 0-3 with a 10.44 ERA in four starts, but did look better in his last time out against them at Fenway Park on August 5th, an outing in which the left-hander surrendered just two earned runs on four hits and three walks over six quality innings of work.

Opposite Price will be right-hander Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees, who finished the 2018 regular season with a 6.52 ERA over the span of two starts at Fenway Park. the Red Sox went 1-1 in those games.

A lot is on the line tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 8:15 PM ET on TBS.

 

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#RedSox Set 25-Man Roster for Upcoming ALDS.

There you have it. The ALDS roster is officially set. The Red Sox are going with 14 position players compared to just 11 pitchers.

Given the history of their starters in the postseason, mixed in with the struggles the bullpen has had THIS season, that may be a bold strategy. We’ll have to wait and see if it pays off for them.

Exactly one week ago, I gave my predictions for what I thought this ALDS roster was going to look like, and not to brag, but I got 24/25 correct.

The only player I did not have on my unofficial roster was Joe Kelly, who is seemingly taking the place of Bobby Poyner in this series’ Red Sox bullpen.

I find that particularly interesting. Not only did Kelly struggle in the month of September (8.31 ERA in 8.1 IP), but Poyner, who is in his rookie season, is probably the best situation left-handed reliever the Red Sox have to offer.

With that in mind, I’m curious to see how Alex Cora manages Eduardo Rodriguez out of the ‘pen. As the only southpaw who will not be starting a game in this series, will E-Rod be used in long relief, or will he be used to get one specific hitter out?

It is worth mentioning that the Yankee lineup is right-handed heavy, so maybe I just answered my own question as to why Poyner did not make this roster.

Any who, the rest of the roster is what you would expect from this Red Sox team. Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi make up the starting rotation.

Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and Craig Kimbrel make up the heart of the Red Sox bullpen.

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, and Blake Swihart make up the catchers, although Swihart will probably be primarily used as a pinch runner off the bench.

From left to right, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Ian Kinsler, and Steve Pearce represent the infield. While guys like Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, and Mitch Moreland should see their fair share of playing time as well.

And finally, one of the best position groups in the American League remains unchanged, as Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts will be manning the outfield, while JD Martinez will serve as the designated hitter.

It’s a lefty vs. lefty pitching matchup for Game One of the ALDS on Friday night at Fenway Park.

For New York, JA Happ gets the nod for his fourth career postseason start. And for Boston, it will be none other than Chris Sale, who is starting the ALDS opener for the second straight year.

First pitch of the first game of the series is scheduled for 7:32 PM ET on TBS later tonight. Time to do damage.

It’s Going to Be a #RedSox-Yankees ALDS.

For the first time since 2004, yes 2004, the Red Sox and Yankees will be meeting up in the postseason.

That’s right, the 100-62 New York Yankees ran away with a 7-2 victory over the 97-65 Oakland Athletics in Wednesday night’s American League Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees ace Luis Severino got the starting nod for the second consecutive year in this single elimination contest in his home ballpark, and he proved the haters and doubters wrong by tossing four-plus innings of quality, scoreless work to go along with seven strikeouts.

In relief of Severino, the Yankees bullpen held up their end of the bargain as well by allowing just two runs, both of which came on a Khris Davis two-run home run in the eighth, over the final five frames of this one.

Dellin Betances and David Robertson worked up until the middle of the seventh inning, when Zach Britton, making his first postseason appearance with New York, served up that opposite field shot to the league leader in home runs in Davis.

And in the ninth, looking to close this thing out, the flame throwing Aroldis Chapman came in for his 25th career postseason appearance, and he held the A’s in check to lock down the Wild Card win.

So, there you have it. It’s not for a trip to the World Series, but we are set for the first Yankees-Red Sox postseason series in nearly 14 years this coming Friday.

As you may recall, these two clubs just played each other to close out the regular season at Fenway Park, where New York took two out of three from the Red Sox to reach 100 wins on the year. On the year as a whole though, the Red Sox took 10 of 19 from the Yankees during the season series, with plenty of blowouts to go around during those games.

Chris Sale is expected to start game one of the best-of-five division series on Friday at Fenway Park. David Price should get the nod for the second game on Saturday.

First pitch of those two contests are scheduled for 7:32 PM ET and 8:15 PM ET respectively.

I should have a more in-depth playoff preview sometime before Friday, but until then…

RECAP: Mookie Betts Blasts Monumental Grand Slam in Tenth Straight Win for #RedSox.

Coming off a sweep of the Texas Rangers, the Red Sox welcomed the fourth place Toronto Blue Jays into town for one last series before reaching the All-Star Break. In search of their tenth consecutive victory, David Price got the nod in what was simply an important night for the left hander.

Making his 19th start of the season, and third of what has been a frustrating month of July, David Price looked for some retribution in his last appearance in this opening half of the season.

Pitching into the seventh inning of this one, the lefty surrendered three runs, all earned, on six hits while recording eight strikeouts on the night.

In what was an otherwise impressive start for Price, the only thing that truly bit him was, once again, the home run ball.

Starting in the top half of the first, he tried to sneak a 0-1 93 MPH fastball by Teoscar Hernandez with two outs in the inning. Hernandez, one of Toronto’s best power hitters, took that fastball and sent it 434 feet, the farthest hit ball of the night, to the center field bleachers, putting the Jays up 2-0 early.

After that blast, Price did settle down and retire 16 of the next 18 batters he faced going into the top half of the seventh.

To leadoff that seventh inning, Kendrys Morales greeted Price by launching another home run, this one cutting the Red Sox lead to two runs.

Again, Price bounced back by retiring the next two batters he faced before Alex Cora came to get him with a 2/2 Devon Travis due up next for the Blue Jays.

In total, the Tennessee native pitched 6.2 innings, the deepest he has gone into a game since June 26th, and did not walk, or hit, a single batter in what turned out to be his 10th winning decision of the season.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 103 (76 strikes), the 32 year-old hurler relied on his changeup the most on Thursday, as he went to it 34% of the time resulting in nine swinging strikes. He only went to his four-seam fastball a total of 12 times, and actually topped out at 93.5 MPH with his two-seamer in the third inning of his start.

Overall, putting David Price’s first half of the season into words is no easy task. We’ve seen how great he can be at times, and we have also seen how nonexistent on the mound he can be at times. For the remaining 64 games left on the schedule following the break, hopefully we see a David Price that is ready to positively contribute to a team heading towards postseason contention.

In relief of Price, Brandon Workman got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and after giving up a single to the aforementioned Devon Travis, retired the side in the top half of the seventh by getting Yangervis Solarte to line out to Mookie Betts in right field.

Over the final two innings of last night’s contest, Matt Barnes got hit decently hard by the top of the Jays lineup, as he allowed them to creep a little closer by making it a 6-4 game, but rallied with two huge strikeouts to retire the side and prevent any additional damage.

And in the ninth, on the day after recording a four-out save against the Rangers, Craig Kimbrel shut the door on Toronto in a clean frame of work, with none other than Mookie Betts, who we’ll get to momentarily, catching the final out to ensure Kimbrel’s 29th save and his team’s 66th win of the season in 6-4 fashion.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against an All-Star pitcher in the Blue Jays’ JA Happ.

Similar to Bartolo Colon, Happ, 35 has been doing this pitching thing for a while, and he proved why he is an All-Star this season by shutting down Boston’s bats over the first three innings on Thursday night.

The bottom of the fourth inning, though, well, that is where things started to drastically change for the better.

With one out in the frame and Xander Bogaerts at first following a line drive single, it appeared as if Brock Holt had grounded into a force out at second base on a failed double play by the Blue Jays. After further review however, it was determined that Toronto’s second baseman, Devon Travis, never applied the force at second, meaning Bogaerts was actually safe.

So, the Red Sox video room saw that from their vantage point, contacted the dugout, and Alex Cora ended up with a winning challenge, meaning both Bogaerts and Holt were safe with only one out in the inning.

Following that bit of craziness, an infield single from Eduardo Nunez loaded the bases for the Red Sox, and Sandy Leon came through first with an RBI force out that allowed Bogaerts to score from third.

After Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a six pitch walk to reload the bases, Mookie Betts went ahead and had one of the more dramatic at bats these eyes have seen.

Lasting 13 pitches total, Betts fouled off SEVEN pitches from Happ and watched three go for balls to eventually fill the count at 3-2.

On the 13th pitch of the endeavor, the Red Sox outfielder must have had enough, because he took a 95 MPH fastball from Happ and pulverized it 407 feet over the Green Monster for his second grand slam of the season.

Just Betts’ reaction alone is something else.

Never mind the fact that he just capped off one of, if not the best at bat of the season with a GRAND SLAM, good for his 23rd homer of the season, too.

That is how All-Stars are made, and that is how JA Happ’s night would end for Toronto in an inning he needed 46 pitches to record two outs in.

Fast forward to the seventh inning now, and it was Betts coming up big again, as he delivered what turned out to be a very important insurance run by driving in Jackie Bradley Jr. on an RBI single off the Monster, making it a 6-3 game to pretty much put this thing out of reach.

Some notes from this win:

Injury related: Steve Pearce had to exit from Thursday night’s contest after taking a 94 MPH fastball of his left shin in the first inning. He’s been diagnosed with a left shin contusion and is day-to-day.

The Red Sox have now won 10 games in a row, marking their longest such streak this season. Here are some nuggets from @SoxNotes pertaining to that streak:

At 66-29 (.695), the Red Sox are 37 games over .500 for the first time since 1949.

They are 38-15 (.717) in their last 53 games, including 17-3 (.850) in their last 20.

Boston’s 10-game winning streak is the club’s longest since September 2016 (11 games).

Just saying, but that is pretty good.

In the month of July, Mookie Betts is slashing .409/.490/.705 with three home runs and eight RBI. He is currently in the midst of a 10 game hitting streak.

Going for their 11th straight win later tonight, it will be Rick Porcello getting the ball for the Red Sox. Following a so-so outing against the Kansas City Royals this past Sunday, I’m sure Porcello will be wanting to end his first half on a positive note against a team he has pitched well against this season.

He’ll be matched up against lefty Ryan Borucki, who in his rookie year with the Blue Jays, owns a 2.25 ERA in his first three career starts.

First pitch of the second game is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.

RECAP: #RedSox Drop Third Straight as Curtis Granderson Launches a Walk off Home Run for Blue Jays in Series Opener.

I must say, the Red Sox have spoiled us to begin this season. In 22 games, they’ve already had two winning streaks of at least eight games, and have been one of the best all around teams in baseball in terms of run production and pitching. That’s all nice, but things have kind of halted since that no-hitter on Saturday night. Since the start of that game, the pitching has still ben great for the most part, but the Red Sox have scored a grand total of four runs in three games, and three of those runs were scored in Toronto last night.

Speaking of Toronto, the Red Sox kicked off the last third of their road trip up north last night. Rick Porcello, looking for his fifth win of the season, was on the mound for Boston while it was lefty JA Happ making the start for the Blue Jays.

Porcello looked great once again, as he surrendered three runs over seven innings, allowing three hits, three walks, and striking out a season high of nine along the way. The walks were a bit unusual, since before last night he had given up a total of one all season, but I really have nothing else to complain about from Porcello’s start. Those three runs the Jays scored in the second weren’t all on him, that was a pretty weird inning. I mean, Rafael Devers could have made a better throw, that could have limited what the Blue Jays did. At the end of the day though, I’ll take seven quality innings from Porcello anytime I can get them. He finished his night at 103 pitches, 65 of which went for strikes. And since he got hit with the no decision, he’ll look for that fifth win of the season once again this weekend, back home against the Tampa Bay Rays.

In relief of Porcello, Joe Kelly was first up and he too had a quality outing. In two innings pitched, the righty allowed one hit and struck out one batter as he held the Blue Jays scoreless in a crucial situation, since they had the chance to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, a walk off was apparently inevitable because Curtis Granderson put a stamp on this contest an inning later.

No doubt that this is a bad look for Craig Kimbrel. An elite closer like himself should be able to keep thing tied going into the eleventh. But, that was the first time in nearly a week the Red Sox flamethrower had seen any in-game action. Regardless, he got hit with his first loss of the season.

Offensively, the Red Sox lineup never stood much of a chance against JA Happ last night. The veteran starter held the Red Sox to just one run on four hits, while striking out 10, in the seven innings he pitched.

That one run was important though, as it cut into the Blue Jays lead in the top of the sixth.

Hanley Ramirez collected his 16th RBI of the season, and the Red Sox were now down by only two runs.

Fast forward to the ninth, and it looked like the Red Sox were done for with Roberto Osuna on the mound. The young Jays closer had been perfect in save opportunities before last night, but the bottom of the order rallied.

After Hanley Ramirez and Rafael Devers both singled with one out in the inning, Eduardo Nunez picked up his seventh RBI of the year by ripping a single to right field that scored Ramirez from second and moved Devers up to third. One strikeout and one lucky walk from Christian Vazquez later, and Brock Holt came through with the clutchest hit of the night for the Red Sox.

On the second pitch of the at bat, Holt took a 97 MPH fastball from Osuna and laced it into left field. That allowed Devers to score from third and should have kept the inning going with Mookie Betts due up next. Instead, Eduardo Nunez was tagged out trying to score from second on what was one of the most aggressive sends from third base coach Carlos Febles that I have seen.

That disaster of a play ended the top half of the ninth, and the rally the Red Sox had going as well. With one last chance in the tenth, Tyler Clippard walked one while also facing the minimum as he got Hanley Ramirez to ground into a game-ending double play.

That makes three straight losses for the Red Sox now. No need to panic yet, it’s still way too early for that. Eduardo Rodriguez will look to end this little skid, as he faces off against Jays righty Aaron Sanchez later tonight. First pitch is at 7:05 PM ET.