I’m just gonna say it.
What the hell, guys.
After a stretch of seven straight wins, this team did not show up to play in the defining series of the year, dropping three straight games at home to their all-time rival to not only wrap up their home schedule, but drop from two games up in the first Wild Card spot to one game back, barely clinging to the second spot with the dangerous Toronto Blue Jays looming behind.
I have never, ever seen a team lose a series due to two players. If you take away runs caused by Nathan Eovaldi and Darwinzon Hernandez in their combined 3.0 innings pitched (including players Tanner Houck left for Hernandez), the Yankees would have scored two runs total in the first two games. That is horrendous. If there was halfway competent pitching in place of those two, the Sox take the series before the third game even rolls around.
Eovaldi was slated to start the Wild Card game for Boston, but that looks highly unlikely following his seven run outing. If the Sox are looking to save ace Chris Sale for a potential Game 1 of the ALDS against the Rays, Nick Pivetta looks like a viable option, going 5.1 innings deep on Saturday with one earned run on three hits. He would have carried the team to a win had Houck and Hernandez not come in.
While Houck had some trouble early on, walking two guys on eight straight balls in the seventh, he easily turned it around with a quick double play and a strikeout. He came out and dealt in the eighth, striking out two Yankees batters to start out the inning. Houck got the count to 1-2 on Brett Gardner, meaning with nobody on base, Boston was leading 2-1 in the eighth and needed one pitch to end the inning and feel great going into the ninth.
Things didn’t go as planned.
After walking Gardner, then Aaron Judge, manager Alex Cora rightfully took out Houck for Hernandez, who proceeded to hit Anthony Rizzo, then gave up an absolute moonshot to series MVP Giancarlo Stanton to not only give up the lead, but any hope at winning the game as well.
That wasn’t the only mistake made this past weekend by any means. First baseman Bobby Dalbec, for all of his offensive contributions in the second half, needs to be better defensively. In Saturday’s contest, he dropped a much needed foul pop up that was admittedly in the stands, but could’ve easily landed in his glove had he taken the last half-step to the wall. An almost identical play happened in Sunday’s game as well, which led to Dalbec looking afraid of getting anywhere close to the wall. These two botched plays came during pitching jams, when outs come at a premium. Boston cannot let New York hang around, because players like Stanton will capitalize on blunders like that.
Speaking of mistakes, what was Rafael Devers doing on Sunday, swinging at a 3-0 pitch? The Sox were down 2-1, had two outs in the fifth, and got a couple baserunners off of singles. Devers found himself in a 3-0 count, yet still sat on a fastball, hoping to take it deep. He hit the warning track, as a routine fly out ended the inning. While the pitch was a strike, you cannot be swinging at 3-0 pitches unless there is absolute certainty that the ball will go out. Take the rest of the at-bat, draw a walk, and allow All-Star Xander Bogaerts to do what he normally does with runners in scoring position: drive them in.
Obviously, umpires don’t make-or-break who wins the game. But the crew on Sunday certainly didn’t help Boston’s efforts. In the eighth inning, the Red Sox were up 3-2, and had two men on base for Aaron Judge. A foul tip for strike three found its way into the glove of catcher Christian Vasquez, but a quick transfer to his throwing hand caused the ball to slip out, giving the impression of a dropped pitch despite temporary possession of the ball. This call cannot be challenged, even though a transfer/drop call can be challenged for every other position on the field (turning double plays, tagging up on fly outs). Unlucky. Judge took full advantage, hitting a two-run double.
Want some good news? The Red Sox are still in sole possession of one of the two Wild Card spots, and have a remaining schedule that sees two last place teams in their respective divisions. Meanwhile, the Yankees play the AL East Division winners in the Rays, as well as the dangerous Blue Jays. New York definitely propelled themselves to a Wild Card appearance after this weekend, giving themselves ample breathing room between themselves and the Blue Jays. Their problem is they are in danger of falling back to the second slot, not having home field advantage. So in a way, this series meant absolutely nothing for the Red Sox.
From a completely other perspective, this series meant everything for the Red Sox. To maintain possession of home field, all that was needed was to win one game, at home, against a team that had struggled as of late. Meanwhile, Boston was on a seven game winning streak. These are their all-time rivals, and haven’t beaten them since July 25. Worst of all, they had all three games at home, with a chance to bury the Yankees out of playoff contention. Is this a team you trust to be victorious in a winner-take-all, one game playoff against New York, at home or away? It absolutely can be done, but Boston has to show up to play, something they clearly didn’t do in this frustrating weekend for Red Sox Nation.