Alex Verdugo Powers Red Sox to 2021 AL Wild Card Game Win vs. Yankees
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
The latest bragging rights in the long and storied history between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox belong to the latter.
That is because the Red Sox defeated their rivals 6-2 in Tuesday’s win-or-go-home American League Wild Card Game at Fenway Park. Nathan Eovaldi, Kyle Schwarber, Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts led the way for the victors, who are looking for their fifth championship since 2004.
Gerrit Cole turned in a poor start for the Yankees, who have now fallen short of the World Series in all nine of their postseason appearances since winning the title in 2009.
Notable Player Stats
- Nathan Eovaldi, P, BOS: 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 8 K, 0 BB
- Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS: 1-for-2, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB
- Kyle Schwarber, DH, BOS: 1-for-3, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
- Alex Verdugo, LF, BOS: 2-for-4, 3 RBI
- Giancarlo Stanton, DH, NYY: 3-for-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, NYY: 1-for-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI
Red Sox Pitching Sets Tone in Win
Eovaldi was already a postseason hero in Boston before Tuesday’s game thanks to the six innings he gutted through during extra frames in Game 3 of the World Series to preserve the pitching staff in the eventual championship year.
Yet the chance to shut down the rival Yankees in front of a raucous Fenway Park crowd during a win-or-go-home game also represented a golden opportunity to further bolster that October reputation.
It looked like Eovaldi would miss that opportunity when Giancarlo Stanton launched what appeared to be a no-doubt home run in the first inning, but it hit the Green Monster for a long single. With that break in his back pocket, the right-hander settled in and mowed through New York’s lineup to the tune of 11 consecutive outs in the second through sixth innings.
He paired that stretch of dominance with eight strikeouts, which was fitting since he had a career-best 195 punchouts during the regular season.
While the streak of consecutive outs ended when Anthony Rizzo hit a solo homer in the top of the sixth just one batter before Eovaldi was pulled, he dazzled with movement on his fastballs while the bottom was dropping out from his breaking pitches.
He would have been tagged with another run in the sixth when Stanton drilled the wall again with an inherited runner on base, but a perfect relay throw from Bogaerts nailed Aaron Judge at the plate and kept all the momentum on Boston’s side. It felt cruel that Stanton would have had two home runs in a different stadium, but the Green Monster was on the home team’s side Tuesday.
Eovaldi deserves much of the credit, but the bullpen combination of Ryan Brasier, Tanner Houck, Hansel Robles and Garrett Whitlock closed the door. Stanton finally got his homer in the ninth, but it was the solo variety and didn’t ruin what was a brilliant overall pitching performance.
Gerrit Cole’s Poor Effort Dooms Yankees from the Start
The Yankees signed Cole to a massive nine-year, $324 million deal prior to the 2020 campaign so he could pitch in these games.
The four-time All-Star had a 2.95 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in three postseason starts last year, but facing the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland is slightly different than the Red Sox in October when it comes to building a legacy as a Yankees star.
Things didn’t go as planned Tuesday.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Xander Bogaerts gives the Red Sox an early lead with a 2-run shot 💥 <a href=”https://twitter.com/BRWalkoff?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BRWalkoff</a> <br><br>Fenway is ROCKING tonight <br><br>(via <a href=”https://twitter.com/RedSox?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@RedSox</a>) <br> <a href=”https://t.co/9AxdTt8BOq”>pic.twitter.com/9AxdTt8BOq</a>
Cole didn’t get a single out before he was pulled in the third inning and was charged with three runs thanks to homers from Bogaerts and Schwarber. It was clear the ace didn’t have his best stuff, and his final numbers would have been much worse if Clay Holmes didn’t strand the multiple runners he left on base in the third with a strikeout and double play.
As it turns out, asking the bullpen to go seven innings after Cole’s short start and keep the visitors within striking distance was a tall ask in a hostile environment.
Verdugo made sure of it by lacing an RBI double off Luis Severino in the sixth to extend the advantage to 4-1. He also pushed the lead to 6-1 in the seventh with a two-RBI single off Chad Green with the bases loaded to all but clinch the win.
The Yankees lineup couldn’t keep up and never accounted for the deficit Cole put it in from the start.
The Red Sox will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the best-of-five AL Division Series with Game 1 scheduled for Thursday.
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