Red Sox stave off Yankees to take 1-0 lead in ALDS

Chris Sale
AP Images
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There were no almost- no-hitters, no slugfests, no decisive victories during the Yankees-Red Sox’ first game of the ALDS on Friday night. Instead, J.A. Happ imploded within the first three innings, Boston’s bullpen staved off a near-disastrous rally in the sixth, and the Red Sox eventually edged past the Yankees with a 5-4 finish to take a 1-0 lead in the ALDS that felt anything but overpowering.

For the first five innings, everything appeared to go according to plan — at least when Chris Sale was on the mound. The Red Sox’ lefty dazzled in five scoreless frames, allowing just three hits and striking out eight batters while sitting on a comfortable 5-0 lead. The run support came courtesy of J.D. Martinez, who cleared the Green Monster with a two-run blast in the first inning, as well as an RBI single from Steve Pearce and Xander Bogaerts‘ sac fly in the third.

All five of those runs were credited to Yankees’ lefty J.A. Happ, who called it quits after posting five runs, a walk, and two strikeouts over the first two innings and allowing back-to-back hits to kick off the third. He was replaced by a carousel of relievers as manager Aaron Boone threw everyone from Chad Green to Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, and David Robertson at Boston’s lineup. They combined for six innings of four-hit, five-strikeout ball against their AL East rivals and prevented the Red Sox from gaining an even greater advantage as the Yankees’ offense tried to even the score.

After Sale stepped off the mound in the sixth, it looked like the Yankees’ time had finally come. Aaron Judge roped a line drive into center field, then was replaced on the basepaths as Brett Gardner ground into a force out in the next at-bat. Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit went back-to-back with a pair of singles, and Voit’s base hit knocked in the Yankees’ first run of the night off of right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier. Things didn’t get any easier for the Red Sox’ bullpen from there: Gregorius grounded into another force out to plate a second run, then advanced to second on a wild pitch; Miguel Andujar took a walk following a six-pitch at-bat; and Gary Sanchez drew another walk off of Brandon Workman to load the bases. With a tie-breaking opportunity in hand, Gleyber Torres stepped up to the plate… and brought the inning to a crushing end with a swinging strikeout.

The Yankees continued to edge closer in the final innings of the game, first with Voit’s run-scoring force out against Matt Barnes in the seventh, then with Aaron Judge’s second postseason home run, a 382-footer off of Craig Kimbrel in the top of the ninth. It was the only blemish on an otherwise-perfect pitching line from Kimbrel, however. Following nail-biting performances from Workman and Barnes (and a surprisingly mellow appearance from Game 3 starter Rick Porcello), he came through with three straight strikeouts to secure a four-out save and cap the Red Sox’ first win of the ALDS.

On Saturday, Boston will try for a second straight win as they head into Game 2 of the ALDS with lefty David Price, who’s scheduled to face off against Yankees’ right-hander Masahiro Tanaka at 8:15 PM EDT.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.