Boston Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury scores at home plate as New York Yankees Austin Romine cannot hold the throw in their MLB game in New York

Red Sox best Mariano Rivera, beat Yankees in 10 innings


Call it “Deja Drew.”

After the Red Sox let a five-run lead slip away, things were going all according to plan for the Yankees on Thursday. David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth up 8-7, and Mariano Rivera retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth. That’s when things unraveled.

Mike Napoli, who was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts lifetime against Rivera, took a two-strike cutter into right-center for a single. September callup Quintin Berry pinch-ran, immediately took off for second and then kept right on going, reaching third when Austin Romine’s throw went into center field.

Stephen Drew, on the very next pitch, got a cutter left over the plate and drove it over Robinson Cano’s head, tying the game at 8.

It was eerily reminiscent of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, when the Red Sox used a Kevin Millar walk, a David Roberts steal and then a Bill Mueller single to tie the game off Rivera, kicking off the greatest comeback in MLB history (they were down three games to none and came back to win the series in seven).

The Red Sox went on to win this one off Joba Chamberlain in the 10th after Jacoby Ellsbury singles, stole second and came around to score on a Shane Victorino single. There was some controversy mixed in; Victorino appeared to strike out on the pitch prior to the single, but first-base ump Joe West ruled he checked his swing.

Koji Uehara followed with a flawless bottom of the 10th for his 18th save.

The blown save was Rivera’s sixth in 47 chances this year. That’s his high total since 2003, when he was 40-for-46. His career high for blown saves was nine, from his first year as a closer in 1997.

It wasn’t a particularly well-played four-hour game for the old rivals. The most notable example came in the bottom of the ninth, when Alfonso Soriano stole the Yankees’ sixth base of the game despite being picked off first, only to follow that with a caught stealing of third base when he was again picked off by Craig Breslow.

On the go-ahead run in the 10th, Romine appeared to have a play on Ellsbury at the plate, but he couldn’t handle the bounce throw from Ichiro Suzuki in right field.

Ivan Nova, the AL Pitcher of the Month for August, came out after throwing 96 pitches in four innings. He gave up three runs. Jake Peavy was better, but the Red Sox brought him back out for the seventh at 105 pitches and he allowed back-to-back batters to reach, kicking off a six-run inning that brought the Yankees back from a 7-2 deficit.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros

After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.