The Yankees got only four hits on Saturday night at Fenway Park, and only one in the eighth inning. Giancarlo Stanton made sure it counted.
Batting with the bases loaded, two out, and New York down a run, Stanton obliterated a Darwinzon Hernandez fastball an estimated 452 feet onto Lansdowne Street.
The blast ultimately delivered a 5-3 Yankees win, their second straight in this series and fifth straight head-to-head pulling them even with the Red Sox for the first American League wild card spot.
“It’s a tough one, of course,” manager Alex Cora said. “We’re going to show up tomorrow. We know where we’re at. We’ll be ready to play.”
The road to get to that point, where the Fenway crowd let out its dour sigh of defeat, was all the Red Sox’ doing.
Pitching for the first time in a week, Tanner Houck issued back-to-back four-pitch walks to begin the seventh inning of a 2-1 game, but eluded trouble after he induced a Gleyber Torres double-play grounder and fanned Gary Sanchez. His two walks in the eighth, after he’d struck out Rougned Odor and Gio Urshela, put the Sox back in trouble.
Houck had Brett Gardner down 1-2 in the count, but lost him. He had Aaron Judge, the next hitter, even at 2-2 but lost him, too.
“I mean, four walks isn’t what you want on any stat line, no matter how long you’re in the game,” Houck said. “I made some pretty good adjustments there. I wish I would have made them a little bit earlier. I just got to finish the inning the next time out.”
Josh Taylor was unavailable due to a back issue which will result in him having an MRI, forcing Cora to go to the often-erratic Darwinzon Hernandez, who plunked Anthony Rizzo.
After a mound visit from Cora, Stanton, on the first pitch he saw, delivered the decisive blow.
“Stanton jumped us there with the first-pitch fastball,” said catcher Kevin Plawecki, on whom X-rays were negative after Aroldis Chapman hit him with a 99-m.p.h. fastball in the ninth. “That’s just part of the game sometimes. It’s unfortunate that it had to happen, but they put together good at-bats to get to that point.”
The rivals, tied at 88-67 heading into Sunday night’s showcase, are 2½ games ahead of both Seattle and Toronto, each of whom played later Saturday. After starting the season 7-0 vs. the Yankees, the Sox lead the season series just 10-8.
The game was generally light on offense, with the Red Sox only mustering seven hits and three at-bats with runners in scoring position. Down, 5-2, after Stanton’s 33rd home run, Boston brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after Bobby Dalbec homered into the Monster seats and Plawecki — who delivered Boston’s first hit and the game’s first run with a third-inning solo homer off Nestor Cortes — was hit.
The fireballer, however, struck out José Iglesias and got Kiké Hernández to ground out to third for his 29th save.
Nick Pivetta carved his way through a tough lineup for 5⅓ innings, registering seven strikeouts. Following a Stanton single in the second, Pivetta retired the next 13 hitters he faced.
“I commanded the strike zone really well,” Pivetta said. “I was able to move my heater around and use my offspeed effectively.”
That performance, though, was spoiled by a disastrous eighth inning. In defeat, the Sox see Saturday’s loss as part of the ebbs and flows of a season — even this late down the stretch, and with their rival even with them in the standings.
They know what’s at stake. They heard the crowd, hanging on to every pitch, every out. Saturday was a reminder of what the Sox have accomplished, for their fans to feel so attached. A difference from the previous two seasons. Dejection took over Fenway late into this game. Yet for the Red Sox, there’s baseball Sunday.
“We had a few of these throughout the season,” Cora said. “We should be fine.”