It’s safe to say that there is a new world order in this ancient rivalry
NEW YORK — One week ago, Yankee Stadium fans were chanting, “We Want Boston!’’ while the Yanks were beating the Oakland A’s in the one-game wild-card playoff.
They got Boston.
With both barrels.
And full fury.
The relentless Sox beat the Yankees, 4-3, on Tuesday, winning their American League Division Series, 3-1. The Sox advance to the ALCS. They’ll have ace Chris Sale on the mound Saturday at Fenway for Game 1 against the world champion Houston Astros.
After finishing first in three straight seasons, the 108-win Red Sox won the franchise’s first playoff series since that championship season of 2013.
The final moments of the ALDS were frightening and downright weird. It was Clinchus Interruptus. The game ended on a ground out to third, but the Sox couldn’t celebrate until the play was reviewed back in New York. So the Sox stood around the infield, waited for the review, then tossed their gloves in the air. It was like pushing your out-of-gas car across the finish line to win the Indianapolis 500.
Boston led, 4-1 when the bottom of the ninth started. Craig Kimbrel, a Hall-of-Fame-bound closer came on to slam the door. Perfect, right? A clean inning. A three-run lead. All the momentum in the world.
And then it almost all unraveled. Walk. Single. Strikeout. Walk. Hit by pitch to force in a run. A high fly by Gary Sanchez that might have been out of Fenway but was a mere sac fly at Yankee Stadium that cut the lead to 4-3.
With the tying and winning runs aboard, rookie Gleyber Torres hit a weak chopper to third. Eduardo Nunez charged, pocketed the ball, and fired to first, barely beating Torres.
But it was not perfectly clear. As the Sox started to celebrate, the Yankees challenged the call. While this was going on, Nunez appeared to hurt himself while starting the celebration. A trainer came out to look at Nunez while the umps gathered to look at the play. Finally, the out signal was given and the Sox resumed their celebration. Weird.
It was like the end of the 2016 season when the Sox clinched the American League East while the Yankees were batting in the bottom of the ninth. The Sox clinched only because the Orioles beat the Blue Jays. After learning they had clinched, Kimbrel loaded the bases and Joe Kelly surrendered a walkoff grand slam to Mark Teixeira. So we saw both teams celebrating simultaneously at the end of the game. In the Sox clubhouse, manager John Farrell had to prod his players to pop the bubbly.
Tuesday was similarly awkward.
But who cares? The Sox are moving on in the quest of their fourth World Series championship of this century. They played Sinatra’s “New York, New York” while dousing one another with champagne in the visitors’ clubhouse.
There was an air of desperation on 161st Street in the moments before Game 4. Teetering on the brink of elimination after their own 100-win season, the Yankees rolled out Bucky Dent for the ceremonial first pitch.
Ha-ha. These guys never stop. It’s not enough that they’ve got Aaron Bleepin’ Boone in the dugout? They’ve got to summon Bucky Bleepin’ Dent for a first pitch? Why not introduce the great grandson of Harry Frazee?
The stunt didn’t work in 2004 when Dent was called in to stop the bleeding before Game 7 at the old Yankee Stadium. That was the same night that the Yanks assigned Sox ownership to the Babe Ruth suite. There was no Bucky/Bambino magic. The Sox scored six in the first two innings, won 10-3, and danced on the Yankee lawn, celebrating the greatest comeback in baseball history.
And now Boston has done it to New York again.
Coming into this series, the Yanks liked their chances at home. They had won seven consecutive playoff games at the new Yankee Stadium, including four elimination games in 2017. But the raging Red Sox pummeled the Yankees, 20-4, over 18 innings in the House of Steinbrenner.
Sweet. For all their success over the last three seasons, the Sox had been unable to win a playoff series, and there were doubts about their chances in this first-round matchup after they were beaten by the Yankees, 6-2, in Game 2 at Fenway on Saturday night. Boston’s bullpen was a mess, David Price was rendered useless, and Yankee slugger Aaron Judge was taunting the Sox with Sinatra’s “New York, New York.’’
It was then that rookie manager Alex Cora shifted into genius mode — making all the right moves as the Sox mowed down the Bronx Bombers on their own sacred sod. Dick Williams steered the Impossible Dream Red Sox to a World Series in 1967 and Tito Francona won two crowns in his eight seasons at Fenway, but it would hard to be find a Sox skipper with a hotter hand than Cora’s over the last 48 hours.
He went to four bench guys in Game 3 and they all produced (Brock Holt hit for the cycle). He predicted Nathan Eovaldi would throw seven innings and give up one run in Game 3 (Eovaldi threw seven innings and gave up one run.) He let Christian Vazquez catch Rick Porcello for the first time all season in Game 4 and Vazquez hit a homer while Porcello picked up his first career playoff win. In the eighth inning of Game 4, Cora went off the grid and summoned ace lefty Chris Sale for his first relief appearance since last year’s playoffs. Sale retired the side in order on 13 pitches.
“A lot of people gave up on us after losing Game 2,’’ said Cora. “We showed up last night and tonight had our plan mapped out. At the end, he wasn’t the usual Craig Kimbrel, but he got three outs.’’
It’s safe to say that there is a new world order in this ancient rivalry. After sucking exhaust for eight decades — an 86-year stretch in which the Yankees won 26 World Series to Boston’s zero — the Sox have become kings of the American League in this century, winning three World Series to New York’s one.
The tide turned in 2004 when Francona’s Red Sox shocked the world and beat the Yankees after trailing three games to none. Tuesday marked the fourth time the Sox have sipped champagne here since ’04.
Finally, the Sox are the Yankees’ daddies.
Feels good, doesn’t it?