BOSTON — After four days off before Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Friday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox did not need long to remind the world why they won 108 games in the 2018 regular season.
The Boston club scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning on a J.D. Martinez homer over the Green Monster in left field and chased New York Yankees starter J.A. Happ two batters into the third inning in a rally that would extend their advantage to five runs in Boston’s eventual 5-4 win.
Red Sox starter Chris Sale quieted concerns over his late-season shoulder issues and ensuing drop in velocity, flashing his typical mid-90s fastball, flummoxing hitters with his sweeping slider, and keeping the potent Yankees offensive off the board for the first five innings of the game.
Sale ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing a pair of singles to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton before leaving the game with one out in the frame.
The pitchers called upon to relieve Sale made the inning more interesting than it should have been, allowing both inherited runners to score but escaping further damage when Brandon Workman fanned Gleyber Torres on a 3-2 cutter just below the bottom of the strike zone. The Yankees rallied for another run against the Boston bullpen in the seventh.
The Fenway faithful had hardly found their seats when Martinez’s homer gave the Red Sox a lead they would never relinquish. The righty-swinging slugger led the majors in RBI and total bases on the regular season and finished second in homers with 43 in the first year of the five-year, $110 million free-agent deal he signed with Boston late in the offseason.
Man of the moment
Though the final line — two earned runs over 5 ⅓ innings — hardly does his effort justice, Sale showed why he ranks among the most dominant pitchers in the game when he’s healthy. Questions marks surrounding Sale loomed large entering play Friday, especially given No. 2 starter David Price’s history of postseason struggles. Sale’s Game 1 effort makes the Sox appear stronger than they did coming into the series.
State of the Red Sox
With a 1-0 lead in the series, Boston now turns to David Price for Game 2. Price was awful against the Yankees in the regular season, yielding a 10.34 ERA in four starts, and — despite some huge games in big spots in the past — has earned a reputation for struggling in the postseason. At his best, Price is one of the safest bets in the Majors to pitch deep into a game, and the Sox will hope for length after needing five relievers to get through Friday’s win.
State of the Yankees
The Yanks’ fortunes undoubtedly looked more promising by the late innings of Friday’s game than they did in the early ones, as their patient approach exposed a soft underbelly in the Red Sox’ bullpen. Their Game 2 starter, Masahiro Tanaka, was dominant for most of the second half until two shaky outings to finish off the season. Despite needing six innings from his bullpen, Aaron Boone managed to avoid using most of his best relievers — namely Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances — and will have options for keeping the Yankees in the game should Tanaka need a quick hook.