Bullpen squanders slim lead as Red Sox quest for division title is put on hold
Image via Zimbio (Sept. 17, 2018 – Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)
On a day where a win meant a third straight division crown for the Red Sox, the Boston lineup seemed spare. Several starters were missing, including the injured Mookie Betts, and the offense certainly reflected that.
Yanks starter JA Happ held the Sox in check for a majority of the game. While his command was off (3 walks in six innings of work), Happ struck out 6 Sox batters, holding them to just one run on 4 hits. The strikeouts came early and often, but the Sox were able to get one across in the top of the third. With runners on second and third, J.D. Martinez drove in his 123rd RBI on the year with a sac fly to right.
Martinez still holds the league lead in RBI as his quest for a triple crown continues. As of Wednesday morning, he trails Oakland’s Khris Davis for the home run lead by two. As for average, he trails Mookie by .009 points. The triple crown is still very much in play, something to keep an eye on as the Red Sox wind down the regular season.
Going back to Happ, he squandered a few good Boston scoring chances. He closed out his start in the sixth, getting out of a first and third jam with the hot Brock Holt at the plate. Happ got Holt into an 0-2 count with two outs and proceeded to strike him out, stranding those two runners.
As good as Happ was, Nathan Eovaldi was even better. He went six innings as well, but he held the Yankees scoreless through those six. Eovaldi struck out 5 and walked two. His biggest stand came in the sixth, as well. With runners on the corners and that slim 1-0 lead still in tact, Giancarlo Stanton came to the plate with two outs. Eovaldi got him into a full count and blew a devastating 97 MPH fastball past Mike Stanton, closing out his excellent start.
Eovaldi has certainly earned himself a spot in the postseason rotation. While his record since coming to the Sox isn’t great (5-5 in 10 appearances), he has done everything a back end starter needs to. His ERA now stands at 3.64, holding his opponents to a cumulative .278 batting average. In two starts against the Yankees this year, Eovaldi hasn’t surrendered a run in 14 innings of work against the division rival.
Eovaldi kept the lead for the Sox through six, with the game being turned over to the bullpen. That’s where the game fell apart for the Sox. Alex Cora went with Brandon Workman in the seventh. Workman walked two and was able to only record one out before being pulled. Next came Ryan Brasier. With runners on first and second, he faced Neil Walker. He worked Walker into a full count and then proceeded to blow the lead on one pitch. Walker dropped an absolute tank to right, giving the Yankees a late 3-1 lead. As we get closer to the postseason, the bullpen woes show no signs of stopping. It seems that just as one reliever emerges as a trustworthy arm to turn to, something like Tuesday night’s blown lead completely diminishes that trust.
The Sox had one final chance to regain the lead in the ninth. With runners on the corners and one out, Sam Travis rolled a swinging bunt to Yankees closer Zach Britton. Britton turned to throw to second to get the force, but sent the ball into right center. Holt scored from third and the go-ahead run was on first. That hope was quickly dashed as Ian Kinsler grounded into a double play to end the game.
While the division title eludes the Sox for at least one more day, the ball will be in David Price‘s hand Wednesday night for another shot to close out the AL East.