BOSTON – Wrapping up the 162-game regular season for six months with one night is heart-wrenching and nerve-wracking. But if the team is going to decide its year through a winner-takes-all contest, the best antidote is to get the ace, one of the elite junior baseball shooters, up the hill.
The Yankees made it happen at Gerrit Cole in their 2021 MLS wild card game Tuesday at hostile Fenway Park against their longtime archenemy. The Boston Red Sox responded with their best pitcher of the season, Nathan Evaldi, an All-Star like Cole.
In a meeting between the imperfect and complex teams of 92 wins, the Red Sox and Ivaldi crush yankees and cole, 6-2. Tuesday was the fifth time these storied competitors have played in a playoff elimination match, and the Red Sox have now won the past three.
“I know a lot of people have doubts about us and doubts about him and all of that,” Alex Cora, director of the Red Sox, said of Evaldi. “It was amazing,” he added.
The Red Sox now advances to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL series, which begins Thursday. It’s going to be a tough job: The Rays, the defending champions, have won 100 games this season, finishing eight games ahead of both the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East.
Despite equal records in the regular season, the Red Sox earned the right to host the wild card game because they won the season series with the Yankees, 10-9. And on Tuesday night, the Red Sox, the best home hitter in baseball this season, showed how much they helped in Boston in front of a sold-out 38,324 crowd.
“It was really noisy, especially in the early rounds,” said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogarts. “Especially when the Yankees were scoring in that first half, it was really loud. It was a huge advantage for us.”
As he jumped, Cole was repeatedly showered with chants of “Geerrett! Gerrit!” and as he sensed them in the first half, Cole surrendered the game’s first decisive blow: a 427-foot blast to Bogarts center.
Two rounds later, the Red Sox once again benefited from Cole’s continued leadership. He turned to bread and butter, a high speed ball, trying to hit Kyle Schwarber but it didn’t work. Schwarber hit it over the right field fence for a solo blast.
“The crowd was electric there, and it definitely got me to a point where I didn’t really know what I was doing running the bases,” Schwarber said.
Once and after that, Yankees manager Aaron Boone came out of the bunker to remove Cole from the game. It was a stunning exit for Cole, usually a strong post-season kicker that the Yankees signed a $324 million contract with ahead of the 2020 season. For moments like this. Cole walked toward the Yankees dug pitfalls in the third inning with his head down as Red Sox fans cheerfully waved goodbye. It was, by far, the shortest post-season start to Cole’s career.
“I’m sick of my stomach,” Cole said after the game, adding later, “It’s the worst feeling in the world, and it happens to 29 teams every year, they go home early and don’t reach your end goal.”
Much like the Yankees, Cole slipped to the finish line. He missed two weeks in August after contracting the Corona virus despite being vaccinated. He also picked up a hamstring injury in early September and came back just a week later, but insisted on heading to the wild card game that his leg was fine. In September, it had an ugly 5.13 running average profit.
Cole declined to point to any of those factors — or any of them, really — for his poor long-term performance or Tuesday. Evaldi, on the other hand, struggled against the Yankees in the final week of the season, coughing for seven games on September 24, but he and the Red Sox identified the problem with his bid and they corrected it.
“We had the right guy on the pile today,” Cora said.
Using a combination of ’90s high-speed balls and vicious breakout balls, Evaldi stunned the Yankees for five and three rounds. At some point, he retired 11 in a row. But as Evaldi was scheduled to face the Yankees’ squad for the third time, starting in the sixth inning, Cora took no chances and the match shifted to the Bulls’ center shortly after Evaldi surrendered a home singles match to Anthony Rizzo.
“It’s definitely frustrating but obviously I understand the situation and everything,” said Eovaldi, the 2018 Red Sox world champion who faced the Yankees for the seventh time this season.
Cora added, “They know him and he’s been great. When I went to the pile, he gave me this look, like, ‘What are you doing?”
Cora’s move succeeded but raised tension in the match. Facing the first blow, Red Sox loyalist Ryan Brasier coughed a missile from a blow to stunned Yankees player Giancarlo Stanton. But the ball hit the green monster in the center-left field, and a penalty kick was missed twice in the game just a few feet away, leaving Stanton furious.
Then the Yankees completely missed the opportunity. At the Stanton Blast, third base coach, Phil Nevin, waved his star player Aaron Judge against a Red Sox defense that excelled at eliminating core runners. Relay throws from Enrique Hernandez to Bogarts to catcher Kevin Blawicki were perfect, and the judge was easily caught on the home plate.
“That was one of the biggest moments in the game,” Bogarts said.
Then the Red Sox broke the revolving door for the Yankees’ dampers. Left Felder led Alex Verdugo Bogarts with a double in the sixth game. In the next frame, Verdugo led in two more rounds with one to give the Red Sox a 6-1 lead, enough cushion to withstand a single blast by Stanton in the ninth inning.
Inconsistent offensively all year, the Yankees led the major championships in walking during the regular season. But on Tuesday, they didn’t direct anything. Instead, they hit them 11 times. It was one of several baffling aspects about the Yankees this season.
Many difficult decisions await them this winter. What do you do with catcher Gary Sanchez, who struggled in so many ways and stayed one year before free agency? What do you do with Gleyber Torres, who crashed hard on the board and a short distance before being moved to second base in September?
Can they keep Judge, who is also a free agent after the 2022 season? “I want to be a Yankee for life,” he said after Tuesday’s loss.
Will Boone, who did not sign him in 2022, return? He said, “I’m getting out of here tonight proud of what so many have done since I’ve been here. Whatever happens, I’m at peace with him, and I know I can hold my head high.”
More importantly, though: How does the Yankees’ front desk improve on a roster that’s been talented and inconsistent, and hasn’t won a world championship since 2009?
Football player Brett Gardner, the tallest Yankee player who was still in his uniform, said more than an hour after the game ended.
After the final, the Yankees walked off the field as the Red Sox jumped with glee. One competitor is sent home – again – while the other continues.