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Expect The Unexpected When The Red Sox and Yankees Meet

Baseball is a unique sport.  In no other sport do pre-game predictions so often not come close to the final result on the field.  Factor in the Red Sox – Yankee dynamic into the equation, and all bets go out the window.

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Looking at the pitching match-ups heading into the Sox – Yanks four game appeared to heavily favor the Yankees.  Game 1 featured C.C. Sabathia, a man who has had the Red Sox over the past few seasons, going against Brian Johnson, making a spot start in place of Red Sox ace Chris Sale.  Game 2 tapped Yankee ace Luis Severino against up and down Rick Porcello.  Game 3 was thought to be the only advantage for the Sox coming into the series with newly acquired Nathan Eovaldi, who tossed a gem against the Twins in his Red Sox debut last Sunday, against unheralded Luis Cessa.  And the finale pits Masahiro Tanaka against Yankee puddle David Price.  Projection – Yankees take the series three games to one.

After the first two games, it’s been the exact opposite.  As they say, that’s why you play the game on the field.

If the Red Sox go on to win the AL East, Thursday night’s game will be looked upon as the game in which the Red Sox put the Yankees away.  The Yanks got off to a 3-0 lead before many people found their seats at Fenway, and then tacked on another run in the top of the second.  But this Red Sox team is indeed different, and showed it had no intention of rolling over against the Bombers.  The Red Sox, led by the unlikeliest of heroes in Steve Pearce, added solo runs in the second and third inning before blowing it open with eight runs in the fourth.

If this game does become the one that launches the Red Sox to a championship, that fourth inning will be focal point.  The Red Sox used power and speed, and it all started with a walk to number nine batter Jackie Bradley Jr.  Bradley’s dash to home plate when caught in a run down of third set the tone for the rest of the inning and the game.  The Yankees could not recover from losing what should have been a sure out, and they have been playing in a fog since that point. 

The Red Sox, to their credit, took full advantage of the Yankee malaise.  The Sox brought 12 men to the plate in the inning and racked up seven hits, including four doubles and a home run, and added two stolen bases.  That’s a good game for some teams. 

Despite the offensive barrage, it was the stolen bases which stand out to me in that inning.  The Red Sox had the Yankees on their heels, and like sharks smelling blood in the water, they went on the attack and continued to apply pressure.  That is the mark of a very good team.

In a total 180 from Game 1, Game 2 was all about the pitching.  Sure, the Red Sox latest folk hero Pearce chipped in with his fourth home run of the series, but the story was all Porcello.  He had everything working and kept the Yankee hitters off balance with his mix of pitches and excellent location.  Severino continued his recent struggles early on, and while he did eventually settle down and pitched well, the Sox took advantage of the opportunity and Porcello took care of the rest.

After taking the first two games and extending their lead to 7 1/2 games in the division, the Red Sox have a tremendous opportunity to deal the Yankees a death blow.  The Yankees needed to use Cessa for 3 2/3 innings on Thursday night to stop the bleeding, leaving them with no starter for Saturday’s Game 3.  The Yankees season now rides on the shoulders of Chance Adams making his major league debut at Fenway Park. 

Baseball being the game that it is, there is always the “chance” (couldn’t resist) that Adams comes up and throws the game of his life.  But the Red Sox have this Yankee team right where they want them.  The Yankees are floundering and playing like a team with no leadership and no heart.  It’s no time for the Red Sox to sit back and enjoy the first two wins.  There is still much work left to be done.

Kinsler – Nice While It Lasted

The move to acquire Ian Kinsler just before the deadline was looking like a good one.  In just a tick over two games Kinsler has already contributed his share of timely hits and defensive highlights at second base the Sox have been missing all season.  Kinlser also appeared to quickly get into the vaunted Sox – Yanks rivalry. 

Unfortunately, he was placed on the DL after Friday night’s game with hamstring tightness.  The Red Sox are reporting it is mild and should not be an issue for him to quickly return.  Let’s hope that is the case, because it looks like he still has enough left to make a difference on this team.

Porcello ≠ Pedro

Porcello’s one-hit complete game performance Friday night immediately brought comparisons to Pedro Martinez’ one-hit complete game win over the Yankees in 1999.  While they both came against the Yankees, and the one hit was a home run, all comparisons should end there. 

Pedro dominated a Yankee team that was in the midst of winning four World Series between 1996 and 2000.  Pedro struck out 17 batters that night, including blowing away Derek Jeter on a 97 MPH fastball to start the game, and then finishing the game with a 97 MPH heater past Chuck Knoblauch.  Of all of the dominant performances I had the pleasure to witness from Pedro, that game ranks at the top of the list, and it isn’t close.

Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT. 

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