The Boston Red Sox made relatively quick work of the New York Yankees in the 2018 American League Division Series, but it certainly didn’t come easy.
Sure, Boston drubbed the Bronx Bombers in Game 3, a 16-1 rout highlighted by Brock Holt becoming the first player in big league history to hit for the cycle. They then jumped out to what looked like a comfortable 4-0 lead in Game 4 looking to put the series away.
By now, of course, the Red Sox and their fans should know nothing comes easy when the Yankees are involved. But, after Craig Kimbrel once again walked the highwire, Boston found a way to hold on and eliminate the Yankees in the fourth game.
You can watch Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on NESN. Here are some things you might have forgotten about that game.
1. Slick Rick comes up big
Rick Porcello wasn’t especially impressive down the stretch in 2018. He won just two of his final eight starts, allowing 32 earned runs in just under 40 innings. But a gutsy bullpen performance in Game 1 appeared to give him confidence for the Game 4 start, as he looked to avenge a couple of poor playoff starts in 2016 and 2017. He did just that, giving the Red Sox five solid innings and allowing just one run. Porcello really breezed through the five frames, but Boston manager Alex Cora still elected to remove him from the game after just 65 pitches and turning things over to the bullpen.
2. Unsung contributors
Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts were largely neutralized, going a combined 2-for-11 in Game 4 (although Martinez did have a sacrifice fly). Most of the offense instead came from unlikely places, especially in the third inning when Boston did most of its damage. First, it was Ian Kinsler — acquired at the trade deadline — who pushed the Sox’s lead to 2-0 with a line-drive double down the left-field line. One pitch later, utilityman Eduardo Nunez followed with a searing single of his own to bring home Kinsler and give Boston the 3-0 lead.
3. Full Sale
Cora brilliantly managed his bullpen in Game 4, pushing all the right buttons. He called on Matt Barnes for the sixth, and Barnes sat down the Yankees’ ferocious heart of the order. Ryan Brasier breezed through the seventh inning. Then, in the eighth inning, Cora played his trump card: Chris Sale. The Red Sox ace came trotting out of the Boston bullpen to begin the eighth inning and made quick work of the Yankees. The left-hander got a groundout and a flyout before striking out Aaron Hicks on a devastating slider to end the inning.
“From the fifth inning on, I was ready,” Sale told reporters. “It was fun. I enjoyed it. (The bullpen) was my home to start my career. It was fun to get back in there.”
4. Another wild ride
The 2018 season was not Craig Kimbrel’s finest. The All-Star closer, who was historically dominant in 2017, never looked fully comfortable in 2018 despite finishing the season with 42 saves and a 2.74 ERA. Kimbrel’s issues, mostly stemming from a lack of command, continued into the playoffs, and the surest of sure things became a question mark every time he touched the ball. However, Cora was gonna roll with what got him there, so it really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to see Cora go away from Sale after the eighth and turn things over to Kimbrel.
It was excruciating for Red Sox fans from the beginning. With Boston holding a 4-1 lead, Kimbrel walked the leadoff man, Aaron Judge, on four straight pitches, which is never a good sign. Didi Gregorius followed with a single. Giancarlo Stanton struck out (of course), but then Kimbrel walked Luke Voit to load the bases with one out. The control issues continued; Kimbrel plunked Neil Walker to force in a run and make it a two-run game. Then, Gary Sanchez, a threat to go deep every time he stepped to the plate, came up with a chance to win the game. And he almost did. Sanchez hit a deep fly ball to left that Andrew Benintendi caught on the warning track, with the Yankees climbing within one.
Kimbrel, however, regained his command and control just in time, getting Gleyber Torres to chase a nasty slider and hit a slow dribbler to third base. Nunez made a tremendous play to corral it and throw it to first where Steve Pearce made an unbelievable stretch and pick. Replay upheld the call, and the Red Sox survived.
5. “Start spreading the news … “
The celebration continued into the visitors’ clubhouse where the Red Sox drank champagne as Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blared over the speakers, a not-so-subtle trolling of Judge, who just days earlier played the song while walking through the concourse at Fenway Park following the Yankees’ Game 2 win — their only victory of the series.
So much for “We want Boston,” too.