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.