By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Nathan Eovaldi was living up to his Nasty Nate nickname through five innings of the Red Sox’ Wild Card playoff game vs. the Yankees. Then, he made one slip-up. Then, he was gone.READ MORE: Astros Have To Hope Zack Greinke Can Pull Off A Miracle Vs. Red Sox In Game 4
Red Sox manager Alex Cora quickly pulled the team’s ace in the top of the sixth inning, a curious decision considering how dominant Eovaldi had been to that point.
The right-hander had struck out seven Yankees while allowing just two hits and no walks. After striking out Rougned Odor to begin the sixth, Eovaldi had retired 11 straight batters.
Yet Eovaldi hung a curveball to Anthony Rizzo, and the Yankees’ first baseman made him pay. Rizzo sent a towering fly ball curling around the Pesky Pole for a solo homer, cutting Boston’s lead to 3-1.
With one out, Aaron Judge then stepped in and sent a slow chopper toward Xander Bogaerts at the shortstop position. The ball took too long to get to Bogaerts, allowing Judge to leg out an infield single off the bad contact.
At that point, Cora could be seen gesturing toward the bullpen, where Ryan Brasier was warming up. Cora then wasted no time in walking to the mound and taking the ball from his starter.READ MORE: Rowdy Red Sox Fans Disrupt FS1 Postgame Show With A-Rod, David Ortiz At Fenway Park
It was a move that seemed a bit perplexing, with Eovaldi dominant for so much of the do-or-die game, and with Boston’s bullpen being such a major issue over the final two months of the season.
And for a moment, it appeared to be catastrophic.
Brasier entered the game to face Giancarlo Stanton. On a 2-1 count, Brasier threw a high fastball to Stanton, and the 6-foot-6 Stanton barreled it up and sent it screaming into left-center field. The ball clanked high off the Green Monster and bounced away from left fielder Alex Verdugo. The Yankees appeared to have two runners in scoring position, with the tying run on second base, with one out.
But Boston caught a bit of a break, as Yankees third base coach waved Judge home. The relay throw from center fielder Kiké Hernandez to Bogaerts to Kevin Plawecki arrived at home plate long before Judge did, gifting the Red Sox a critical out in a huge spot.
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The Red Sox avoided damage — Joey Gallo popped out to end the inning — and Cora avoided facing some major scrutiny had that ball either been hit a few feet higher or if Nevin hadn’t made the ill-advised decision to send Judge to the plate.MORE NEWS: History Now Strongly Favors Red Sox To Beat Astros, Advance To World Series
Boston got that Rizzo run back in the bottom of the inning, when Bogaerts scored from first base on a double to deep right field by Verdugo, restoring a three-run lead for Boston in the bottom of the sixth. Tanner Houck and Hansel Robles combined to pitch clean innings, before Verdugo’s two-RBI single extended Boston’s lead to 6-1 through seven innings. Garrett Whitlock allowed a solo home run to Stanton in the ninth, but closed out the 6-2 victory.