The weekend showdown is thus far historic. It’s the New York Massacre.
You remember those other ones, perhaps? The bad ones? Boston Massacre I came in 1978 when the Yankees blew into Fenway in September, took four straight, and got themselves back into a pennant race that they would win in a dramatic one-game playoff.
Boston Massacre II came in August of 2006 when the Yanks came to town and beat the Red Sox five straight times, effectively taking the Sox out of the playoffs.
And now this: three games of utter perfection from the muscle-flexing Red Sox vs. the Yankees.
Saturday afternoon/evening it was Nathan Eovaldi’s turn to stuff the Yankees into a locker. Dave Dombrowski’s deadline pickup smothered the Yanks on three hits over eight innings en route to a 4-1 victory. In two starts since his rescue from Tampa, Eovaldi is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 15 innings.
The Sox have outscored the Yankees, 23-9, over three games. Boston’s AL East lead is at 8½ games. A Sunday series finale that once loomed as a major event for David Price has been reduced to a mere playoff tuneup for the runaway train from the Back Bay. With all the pressure taken off Price, maybe the Sox can complete the sweep.
The AL East race is over. The Sox are going to be home against the AL’s one-game wild-card winner on Friday, Oct. 5. The Yankees are going to have to win the one-game playoff to earn a ticket to Fenway for the ALDS.
Until this weekend, beating the best teams was the one thing the 2018 Red Sox had not done consistently. The Yankees came to Boston with the second-best record in baseball.
Not anymore. The Sox have scraped the Yankees off the soles of their cleats without much effort.
“Look, there’s no question. They’ve established themselves right now as the best team in this league,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “That’s indicative of their record and how consistent they’ve been. Obviously, they do a lot of things really well.
“That said, I think if you walk through our room out there, to a man, we know we can absolutely play with them. We know when we’re at our best, we can beat them. We acknowledge who they are right now. There’s no denying the season that they’re having. But we have a lot of confidence in our group and a lot of fight. Hopefully tomorrow starts the digging out.”
Before Saturday’s beating, Boone repeated an oft-told story regarding his introduction to this rivalry back in 2003.
“I considered myself pretty aware of things, growing up around the game like I did,’’ said the rookie manager. “But when I went to the Yankees Tim Naehring told me, ‘You have no idea what you are walking into,’ and then I came here to Fenway with the Yankees in August and after the series I said, ‘He’s right!’ It’s a special thing to be a part of.’’
It has not been very special for the New Yorkers this weekend. On Thursday, CC Sabathia could not hold a 4-0 lead. Sparked by the wild dash home of Jackie Bradley Jr., the Sox erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning of a 15-7 beatdown. Steve Pearce, another Dombrowski July pickup, hit three homers.
Friday we saw Rick Porcello throw a one-hitter in a 4-1 win. For the second straight night, the Yankees looked lethargic, sometimes downright lazy. The evening’s fireworks were supplied when Alex Cora was ejected for arguing after Mookie Betts was knocked down by a Luis Severino purpose pitch in the first.
Cora was still hot about it hours later and went out of his way to take a final shot at Severino at the end of his postgame presser.
“We scored four runs in less than six innings. Is that a quality start?’’ the Sox manager snapped.
In Eck-speak, that comment had some hair on it.
Cora has enjoyed a close relationship with Boone through the years and seemed generally contrite before Saturday’s game.
“Actually, I don’t know why I said the last thing I said,’’ Cora offered. “ . . . We get caught up. But there’s stuff more important than just Red Sox-Yankee baseball. I don’t think all the madness is gonna mess up our relationship.’’
Saturday’s game was over before the Sox cleanup man batted in the first.
The Yankees had planned to start newly acquired J.A. Happ, but Happ was scratched when he came down with a case of hand, foot, and mouth disease. This led to the announcement that Triple A Chance Adams would be making his major league debut at Fenway in a nationally televised showdown.
This triggered memories of Don Zimmer’s infamous decision to start scared rookie Bobby Sprowl in the final game of the ’78 Massacre. Carl Yastrzemski was among those who begged Zim to pitch Yankee killer Bill Lee in the finale, but Zim wouldn’t listen. “He opened his desk and showed me a bunch of clippings where Lee had insulted him, calling him ‘The Gerbil’, ’’ Yaz said years later.
Boston’s paranoid skipper insisted that Sprowl “has ice water in his veins,’’ but the young lefty turned into a puddle, surrendering a single and four walks before he was pulled in the first inning. Sprowl never won a game in the big leagues.
Adams was much better than Sprowl, but not good enough to beat the indomitable Red Sox. He gave up a two-run homer to Mitch Moreland in the first and a solo shot to J. D. Martinez in the fourth. It was more than enough for Eovaldi.
This weekend’s finale was supposed to be about Price’s Yankee “problem.’’ Since joining the Sox, Price is 2-6 with an 8.43 ERA against the Bombers. On July 1, Price gave up five homers in 3⅓ innings of an 11-1 loss in New York.
It was only 2½ fortnights ago, but it feels like a lifetime. Since that night, when the Sox and Yanks were in a virtual tie, the Yankees are 14-14 while the Sox are 22-5.
Boston is on a pace to win 113 games.
The East is won. Since the expansion era (1961), these Sox are only the fifth team to win at least 78 of their first 112 games (1969 Orioles, 1998 Yankees, 2001 Mariners, 2017 Dodgers).
But don’t get too cocky, Sox fans. Of those five juggernauts, only the 1998 Yankees went on to win the World Series.