There’s no hiding, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora. He and his team know just how much this Yankees series means and how it could sway what the team decides to do once the trade deadline rolls around at the end of the month.
The Yankees have dominated the AL East — and baseball — this season. The Sox, meanwhile, stand on the outskirts of the postseason picture.
But on Thursday night at Fenway Park, the Sox showed part of what made them so dominant last season in their 19-3 beatdown of the Yankees. It marked the most runs the Sox have ever scored against the Yankees.
They got to Yankee starter Masahiro Tanaka for seven runs in the first and five runs in the fourth. Tanaka pitched just 3⅓ innings. His earned-run total on the evening was 12. Tanaka is the first Yankees pitcher since Carl Mays in 1923 to allow 12-plus earned runs in a start against the Red Sox. It started with a Xander Bogaerts three-run homer to left in the first and ended with a Mitch Moreland two-run double in the fourth.
“We did a good job controlling the zone,” Cora said after the game. “That’s what you have to do against Tanaka. This is a guy who never gives in. He’s relentless pitching to the edges of the strike zone and we did an outstanding job of getting him to the middle of the zone.”
In short, the Red Sox didn’t hide.
For a moment, it appeared Rick Porcello might suffer the same fate. Gleyber Torres tallied an RBI single and Porcello walked D.J. LeMahieu with the bases loaded to trim the lead to 7-2 in the second inning. Porcello couldn’t put away hitters, which his stats have indicated.
Of the 106 pitchers to make 15-plus starts, Porcello had the worst OPS after getting to an 0-and-2 count. Opponents had a .702 OPS in those situations.
After two innings, Porcello was up to 60 pitches. He settled in, though, and worked six innings, finishing at 112 pitches, allowing three earned runs. For the pitching staff, it was the first time all five starters worked six-plus innings one time through the rotation. By the end of the eighth inning, the Red Sox made some team history.
“I was just mixing pitches better,” said Porcello, referencing what changed for him after the second. “I felt good today as far as command and overall stuff. Seven-run lead it’s a combination of being aggressive and throwing strikes and not giving up that big inning. It was nice to only let up two there [in the second]. We’ll take it. When our offense is swinging the bats the way they are, that’s kind of your job as a pitcher.”
A job that’s been laborious for Red Sox pitchers, because, truthfully, the Sox have been swinging the bats like this for a while.
“Don’t we lead the league in runs scored?” asked Jackie Bradley Jr. seated at his locker afterward. The Red Sox actually entered the game second in the league in runs scored. Their 582 runs scored was behind just the Yankees’ 588 for most in the majors. But their 19 runs Thursday raised their total to 601, and indeed, leads the majors. The Red Sox entered Thursday with the second-highest OPS .838, again, behind just the Yankees since June 1. The Sox were also tied for first in batting average with the Pittsburgh Pirates (.287).
“Those three guys on top [Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, and Bogaerts] especially the No. 2 hitter [Devers, who also homered] and third hitter [Bogaerts], they’re doing damage,” Cora said. “We feel good offensively, and we’ve done a better job the last month and a half to put together good at-bats with men in scoring position. I think that was the difference early on.”
To save their bullpen, in a 16-3 game, the Yankees brought in catcher Austin Romine to pitch. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled and Sandy León homered. Bogaerts would hit his second homer of the game, too. Bogaerts finished the evening 4 for 6.
“It’s just understanding how important the games are,” Bogaerts said regarding what has him locked in. “I think it’s just been a lot more paying attention to small details and a lot more focused.”
Cora has talked about the team having to turn the page, no matter if they win or lose. He reiterated that again as the club looks ahead to Friday’s matchup followed by two more games this weekend. The Red Sox know what the standings say and know despite this win, they are still treading in the deep water of survival. Their bats on Thursday and for most of the season, have kept them afloat.
“This next week, two weeks is huge for us,” Porcello said. “To be able to get this win tonight and square off and swing the bats sets us up for the rest of the series.”