By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Red Sox are moving on the American League Championship Series — once they stop celebrating at Yankee Stadium, that is.
The Red Sox looked to be in trouble after losing Game 2 at home on Saturday night, but they won both games in New York –including a 4-3 win in the clinching Game 4 on Tuesday — to end this series after four games.
Here’s how it happened.
–Craig Kimbrel entered to pitch the ninth inning. The man injected some drama. And then some. Of Kimbrel’s first 23 pitches on Tuesday night, just nine were strikes.
He walked Aaron Judge on four pitches, then allowed a single to Didi Gregorius. He was able to get Giancarlo Stanton to strike out swinging, but then walked Luke Voit and hit Neil Walker with a pitch.
That hit batter scored the Yankees’ second run, and the third run crossed the plate on a deep fly ball off the bat of Gary Sanchez. Andrew Benintendi caught that one at the warning track, setting the stage for Gleyber Torres.
Despite the massive struggles, Kimbrel was able to induce a weak tapper to third. Eduardo Nunez made a great charge and a strong throw, Steve Pearce made a ridiculous stretch at first base, and the Red Sox recorded the final out of the game by no more than a half-step.
That was more dramatic than it needed to be, but it was enough — just enough — to secure the win.
–CC Sabathia was not good. Not at all. He lasted just three innings, and he allowed three runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter. He couldn’t throw strikes (just 35 of his 59 pitches were strikes) and he probably should have been pulled even earlier than he was.
That may be Sabathia’s final performance in pinstripes, after a decade in the Bronx.
–Ian Kinsler left the bases loaded in the first inning. He made the most of his next opportunity. Kinsler rewarded Alex Cora’s trust by crushing a 2-1 offering from Sabathia deep to left field, over the head of a leaping Brett Gardner, to drive home two runs and turn a 1-0 lead into a 3-0 lead in the third inning.
The Sox had already gotten on the board that inning, after Andrew Benintendi got hit to lead off the frame. Steve Pearce singled him over to third, and J.D. Martinez hit a sacrifice fly to score Benintendi. The three-run third opened the scoring and shaped the game in a major way.
Credit yet another bold Cora move for helping that along.
–Christian Vazquez capitalized on the short porch in right. The Sox’ catcher, after showing bunt on one pitch, squared up a 2-1 offering from Zach Britton and dropped it right into the first row in right field.
It sure looked like the 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge could have made a play on the ball, but he never made his way back to the wall.
–Rick Porcello was incredibly efficient for four innings. The righty was pounding the strike zone, and the Yankees had no answers. Porcello made it through the first four innings in just 40 pitches, and 32 of those were strikes.
Porcello got into some trouble in the fifth. He gave up a run and he needed 25 pitches to escape without any further damage. That inning put an end to his night, but five innings of one-run ball wasn’t a bad outing for Porcello. It wasn’t great. But it was good.
–The Bridge To Kimbrel was strong. No, that was not a typo. It really happened.
Cora had a relatively quick hook for Porcello after the rocky fifth, tabbing Matt Barnes to face Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Giancarlo Stanton in the sixth inning. Barnes made his manager look smart, though, retiring the meat of the New York lineup in order, without a ball even leaving the infield.
Cora went with Ryan Brasier for the seventh, and he too mowed down the Yankees in order. Barnes needed just 14 pitches to get through the sixth, and Brasier likewise needed 14 pitches to make it through the seventh.
–And who pitched the eighth? None other than Chris Sale. Cora played it coy pregame when asked if Sale would pitch in relief, saying it would take a special circumstance. But based on the scenario — a 4-1 lead in the eighth — this situation didn’t seem special at all.
But Cora, having tried every pitcher in the eighth inning this season with little success, went with the trusted ace.
Sale made short work of the Yankees in the eighth, retiring Gleyber Torres, Andrew McCutchen (in a pinch-hitting role) and Aaron Hicks in order. The inning ended with Hicks staring at an 0-2 slider down and in, catching plenty of the plate.
–Everything Cora did ended up being right. Kinsler hit a critical two-run double. Vazwuez homered. Barnes and Brasier didn’t allow a base runner. Sale mowed down the Yankees in the eighth. The manager showed a Midas Touch in Game 3, and while it wasn’t necessarily as pronounced in Game 4, he did everything right.
He stuck with Vazquez, even though he didn’t catch Porcello once this year. Porcello had a great night, and Vazquez homered — scoring what proved to be the winning run of the game.
Kinsler over Brock Holt, after Holt had a four-hit night in Game 3, seemed crazy to some. But Kinsler drove in two big runs in the third, while playing solid defense.
Ditto on the latter part for Eduardo Nunez, who made a number of difficult plays, the most significant of which was the final out of the game.
Alex Cora had himself a good series.
–Eduardo Nunez appeared to have suffered an injury on the final play of the game. That bears watching, as it appeared to be his knee. That’s been a troublesome area for him.
–Game 1 of the ALCS will be Saturday night at Fenway Park. It ought to be pretty good.