The Red Sox were on the brink of being no-hit. Through the first seven innings of play, the bats couldn’t figure out Yankee starter Domingo Germán, who had strung together 10 strikeouts to hold what was then a 4-0 Yankee lead.
Yet in the bottom of the eighth, somehow, as this team has done all season, they willed their way to a five-run inning, cementing what was ultimately a 5-4 victory on Sunday at Fenway Park.
Not only did it mark another series win for the Red Sox, but it ripped the heart out of their biggest rival in the Yankees, who absorbed yet another gut-wrenching loss after it looked as if they would escape Boston with a split.
“It’s a testament to who they are,” Sox manager Alex Cora said of his club. “They don’t get down on themselves. At the end, we just kept fighting. We believe in what we do. We believe in our players.”
Belief certainly was at the fulcrum of this win and this 2021 Red Sox season.
It began with Alex Verdugo, who broke up Germán’s no-hit bid with a double off the base of the wall in right. Yankees manager Aaron Boone then went to reliever Jonathan Loaisiga, and that’s when the Sox, who faltered Saturday after the Yankees rallied for four runs in the eighth inning, flipped script on their New York rivals, rallying for five runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Hunter Renfroe delivered an RBI double. Christian Vázquez submitted an RBI single. Franchy Cordero singled up the middle. Kiké Hernández stung an RBI double to left. Suddenly, the Red Sox were down just 4-3 with no outs.
The Fenway crowd of 32,009 that groaned its way through the first seven frames suddenly rose to its feet. Much like their team on the field, they felt the moment taking shape. Boone did, too, summoning Zack Britton from the Yankee bullpen.
Kevin Plawecki, who hit for Jarren Duran, negotiated an RBI on his groundout, scoring Cordero with the tying run.. Xander Bogaerts’s sacrifice fly to right scored Hernández with the go-ahead run
The Red Sox had 31 come-from-behind wins prior to this one. The 32nd one, however, felt a little different.
“It was a huge win,” said Hérnandez. “One of the biggest comebacks of the year, if not the biggest comeback.”
Said Verdugo: “That was one of the craziest wins I’ve been a part of.”
If you ask the Sox players and Cora, they won this contest in the top of the seventh when reliever Yacksel Rios loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batsman.
Cora replaced Rios with Josh Taylor and told his team that if it got out of the inning unscathed, it would win. Taylor responded. He struck out Giancarlo Stanton and then got Rougned Odor — who was 2 for 5 on the day with a solo shot off starter Martín Pérez in the sixth — to fly out to Renfroe in right field. The Yankees scored one more in the eighth, but Cora’s declaration remained true.
“If he says that we’re gonna win this game, it’s probably gonna happen,” Hernández said of Cora. “We’ve said it many times, we’re not ever out of a game till the game’s over and we proved that today.”
The Sox were lifeless and began to chase Germán out of the zone. Much like the crowd, they sensed a no-hitter. They began to press at the plate. Verdugo’s double offered not only a jolt of offense but also some relief for the Sox. They could turn their attention from the potential dour feeling of being no-hit to winning the game in front of them.
“You’re happy to break up the no-hitter, that’s the biggest thing,” Verdugo said. “You don’t want to be part of a no-hitter on the opposing side. Just getting that one hit makes a big difference. I was just fired up, man.”
One hit became a part of five straight which became a part of five runs. The Red Sox, staring down defeat, surrounded by clouds of uncertainty, somehow pulled this off.
“We really just had team at-bats, man,” Verdugo said regarding the eighth-inning rally. “It all worked.”
Indeed, it did. Hernández noted that the speech coming out of their clubhouse can sometimes sound repetitive. That the belief in themselves and each other can come off as cliché. Dating to spring training, the Sox were confident they had a good team on-hand.
During pregame Sunday, Cora stated his team had 60 wins at the time, adding not many teams in the league could say that.
Cora’s club now has 61, just one game ahead of the Rays in an American League East division that seems to have become a two-team race. And after each win, and each day they inch toward October, the Red Sox remind the baseball world how much of a formidable club they truly are.
“I don’t get caught up on losing one game or losing one series,” Cora said. “We have a good baseball team that has to work for everything they have.”