Tommy Pham pointed to the Red Sox’ dugout late Friday evening.
In a game that went extra innings, it was Pham who delivered the decisive blow in the bottom of the 10th to a Yankee club that rolled into Fenway Park with 71 wins.
The Red Sox looked overmatched offensively for much of the night but Pham’s walkoff single skipped past the outstretched Josh Donaldson at third to seal a 3-2 victory, sending the Fenway crowd into total bedlam.
“I guess you can’t ask for anything else,” said a smiling Pham afterward.
It was everything the Sox had prepared for, too, despite having just five hits heading into the ninth trailing, 2-1.
The opposition on the mound was Clay Holmes, who is one of the best closers in baseball but had an 8.44 ERA in his last 11 appearances.
In the Sox’ 6-5 extra-inning win against the Yankees on July 9, it was Holmes who relinquished the tying hit to Alex Verdugo in the eighth.
So with Holmes gearing up for the ninth inning Friday, Alex Cora sent Garrett Whitlock out for the top half of that frame despite trailing by a run. The Red Sox manager wanted to hold the Yankees there, believing in the top of his order due up in the home half of the ninth. The Sox had not used Whitlock all year when trailing by a run.
“Nothing against their guy,” Cora said of Holmes, “but we know what’s been going on the last month.”
After Xander Bogaerts and Verdugo negotiated one-out walks, J.D. Martinez tied the game, 2-2, with his single up the middle.
Meanwhile, Whitlock worked two shutdown innings in the ninth and 10th. He worked a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, then followed that up with an electric 10th. Whitlock worked around a leadoff walk to Aaron Judge that put runners on first and second when he recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
That gave the Sox their chance in the 10th with Christian Arroyo the automatic runner at second and Jaylin Davis at the plate against Lou Trivino. Davis’s slow tapper for an out allowed Arroyo to move to third. Then Reese McGuire, pinch hitting for Kevin Plawecki, laid down a bunt single.
That brought up leadoff hitter Pham, who Cora has applauded in Pham’s short time with the Red Sox because of his professional at-bats.
“From the first two pitches, they were attacking me with the sinker,” Pham said. “So, that pretty much was their game plan right there. They wanted to hit into that double play. I got lucky. Barely kept the ball fair.”
Luck didn’t look as if it might play out in such a way early on.
In the first inning against Nate Eovaldi, Judge negotiated a walk with one out. Then Anthony Rizzo took a 96-mile-per-hour offering and laced it down the first-base line for an RBI double.
When Judge came to the plate in the third and cranked his 46th homer, and 100th RBI, of the year onto Lansdowne Street, it muddied the water even more at Fenway. It flexed the Yankees’ power. Similarly, it exploited the lack of power in Eovaldi’s pitching arm.
Since returning from the injured list last month, Eovaldi’s average fastball velocity is around 94 m.p.h., two miles off his yearly average. The pitch to Judge came up and in at 93 m.p.h. With Eovaldi’s usual high-powered stuff, the efficacy of that pitch induces a swing and miss or a high ground-ball rate. But when that pitch is in the low 90s, it isn’t a threat. And with Judge, that same fastball ends up parked 429 feet away.
Despite the lack of velocity, Eovaldi’s five-pitch mix gave him a bit of a buffer. It allowed him to grind out what seemed would be a tough outing. In the end, though, he gave the Red Sox just what they needed plus more, delivering six innings, working around two walks and eight hits. That Judge homer was New York’s only real highlight of the night.
“I was able to work around the traffic a bit and limit the damage out there,” said Eovaldi.
Martinez accounted for two of the Sox’ three RBIs with a three-hit night. Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier delivered scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth, setting up Pham for his moment and the optimism the team is holding dear to moving forward.
“There’s a winning streak somewhere,” Cora said.