The Real McCoy

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy shares his thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds
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McCoy: Red Sox hold off Yankees to advance to ALCS

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATION from The Man Cave, doing pre-game research on Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello. He is a grandson of former major league infielder Sam Dente, a name I remember because he was a utility infielder in 1954 with the Cleveland Indians, a team that won 111 games then lost four straight in the World Series to the New York Giants. It seems as if the Tribe is always getting swept.

—Yankees manager Aaron Boone before Tuesday’s game and after Monday’s 16-1 embarassment: “Obviously we have to turn the page because it is do-or-die.”

It was die time for the Yankees. The Red Sox scored three runs in the third and one in the fourth and made them stand up for a 4-3 victory that clinched the American League Division Series three games to one. And the Yankees, who won 100 games during the regular season, were sent home.

The Yankees had only four hits and didn’t have a base runner over a three-inning span heading into the ninth inning. Then they staged an earth-rattling rally in the ninth against closer Craig Kimbrell. They scored two runs and had the potential tying and winning runs on base before it ended on a slow roller that needed a replay/review to confirm the game’s final out and a Boston victory.

Boston moves on to the American League Championship Series, a best-of-seven affair against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.

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—Boone, a first-year manager, was matched against Boston’s first-year manager, Alex Cora. It was the first postseason series in history when both teams were managed by first-year skippers.

—The pitching was two Cy Young award winners, Boston’s Rick Porcello against New York’s 39-year-old CC (Carsten Charles) Sabathia. Porcello was 0-and-3 for his postseason career and Sabathia was 10-and-6. It didn’t last long. Sabathia survived three tumultuous innings and gave up three runs, five hits, two walks and a hit batsman.

—With two outs and nobody on in the first, Boston filled the bases before Ian Kinsley flied deep to the left field corner and Brett Gardner chased it down. There was a collective Big Sigh in Yankee Stadium.

—Porcello pitched a one-hitter against the Yankees during the regular season. In the bottom of the first, Aaron Hicks drilled Porcello’s first pitch to deep center but Jackie Bradley Jr. nonchalantly caught it with his butt against the wall. And Porcello pitched a 1-2-3 first, striking out former Reds shortstop Didi Gregorius to end it.

—Porcello retired the first five Yankees until Neil Walker singled with two outs in the second. Walker was 0 for 27 in the post-season before that hit.

—Sabathia hit Cincinnati native Andrew Benintendi with a pitch to open the third and it cost him three runs. Steve Pearce blooped a single to right, sending Benintendi to third. J.D. Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to center, his sixth RBI in the first four games. Xander Bogaerts singled and Ian Kinsler doubled over Gardner’s head in left to make it 2-0. Eduardo Nunez singled to left and the Yankees were in a deep 3-0 hole.

—Porcello was 1-and-4 with a 5.12 earned run average in his previous starts in Yankee Stadium. But he was as comfortable as cat in an Afghan through three innings — 28 pitches, 24 strikes, one base runner.

—Nothing was working for the Yankees and everything was for the Red Sox. Sabathia was replaced in the fourth inning by Zach Britton. The first batter he faced, catcher Christian Vazquez, homered into the right field seats. Vazquez was catching Porcello for the first time this season.

—Vazquez’s home run gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead. In the four games the Red Sox jumped to leads of 5-0, 6-0, 10-0 and 4-0. Playing from behind in this series was not a New York virtue.

—In 15 postseason games so far, the team that scored first won 13 of the games. The only team to lose after scoring first was the Cleveland Indians, who twice scored first against Houston and lost both games.

—The Yankees finally broke through for a run in the fifth, but it could have been more productive. With one out, Gary Sanchez doubled. Gleyber Torres topped a slow roller up the third base line that stayed fair for a hit and the Yankees had two runners on base for the first time. Before the Torres infield hit, the Yankees were 1 for 19 with runners on base. That’s not with runners in scoring position, that’s 1 for 19 with runners on any base.

Brett Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to left to make it 4-1 and brought up Aaron Hicks, who was 0 for his last 19 against Porcello. He hit a foul ball that missed being a home run by 10 feet. Porcello went to 3-and-2 then popped him up on the at bat’s ninth pitch.

—Relief pitchers Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier each pitched a perfect inning and then Bosox manager Cora went for the jugular. He brought in his No. 1 starting pitcher, Chris Sale, to pitch the eighth. He retired the first batter and the Yankees were 0 for 8 with their leadoff batters in the first eight innings.

Sale retired Greyber Torres on a deep fly ball, went to a full count on pinch-hitter Andrew McCutchen and got a ground ball to third and he struck out Aaron Hicks on three pitches. That was nine straight retired by the Boston bullpen, setting it up for closer Craig Kimbrell in the ninth.

—Kimbrell’s assignment was to do away with the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 batters in the Yankee order after he ducked a flying beer can as he walked in from the bullpen. He nearly blew it all.

He walked Aaron Judge on four pitches.
Didi Gregorius singled to right field with two strikes and suddenly the Yankees had the potential tying run at the plate with no outs. Kimbrell struck out Giancarlo Stanton with three breaking pitches. Kimbrell walked Luke Voit to load the bases with one out.

Kimbrell then hit Neil Walker to force in a run and it was 4-2 and Kimbrell looked panic-stricken. He threw two quick fast balls for strikes past Sanchez, then went to 3-and-2 and Sanchez flied to the left field warning track, a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3. But the Yankees were down to their last out and it was up to Torres, who hit seven three-run home runs during the season.

On 1-and-2, he hit a slow roller to third baseman Eduardo Nunez and Torres was called out at first on a great flop on his belly catch at first base by Steve Pearce. A quick review-replay confirmed the call and the dramatic conclusion finished the Yankees season.

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