It was at the London Series in late June that manager Alex Cora noticed the difference between his Red Sox team and the Yankees.
The Sox were swept in a two-game set as the Yankees posted a combined 29 runs.
The Red Sox racked up 21 runs, but it was the Yankees who controlled the tempo and pace of the series.
“That’s a good offensive team,” Cora said then. “Their attention to detail is phenomenal. It was eye-opening the last two days from top to bottom. It’s just stuff that the game will dictate and will scream at people and it’s right there. Right now they’re a lot better than us. So, we need to get better.”
Yet Tuesday, not even 24 hours after president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was fired by the Red Sox, the Yankees’ 5-0 win eliminated Boston from American League East contention.
The Sox were 5-14 against the Yankees this season. New York’s 14 wins over the Red Sox matched their most in one season against them since 1961.
After the game, Cora’s message was similar to the one he had in London: Nearly three months later, the Yankees were still better.
“They’re doing a lot of things better last year,” Cora said. “And we’re not playing at the same level as them. I do believe D.J. [LeMahieu] changed the complexion of their lineup. With two strikes, they put the ball in play.”
Eduardo Rodriguez, however, helped to keep that dominant lineup in check.
Rodriguez remained effective, just as he’s been all season.
He gave up just five hits and one run — an Austin Romine homer in the fifth — but fell to 17-6 on the season.
Rodriguez struck out nine and walked but one in his six innings, as his ERA fell to 3.73.
“I was doing well throwing every pitch,” Rodriguez said. “Especially the life on my cutter. I was able to throw it where I want it.”
Rodriguez commanded the zone from the start, striking out Aaron Judge for the second out of the first inning, and, later, fanned Edwin Encarnacion to end the frame.
He racked up two more strikeouts to begin the second inning on Luke Voit and Brett Gardner. Throughout the outing, he challenged the inner-thirds of the strike zone to lefties, something Judge mentioned recently as an area of improvement for the lefthander.
“That’s a great outing right there,” Cora said. “His stuff was good. This guy has been very consistent for us. You see him growing each outing.”
The Yankees made him work, though, as he threw 117 pitches. The Yankees finally broke through in the fifth when Romine, the No. 9 hitter, belted a solo shot to right field.
Darwinzon Hernandez took the ball from Rodriguez in the seventh and the Yankees didn’t waste any time piling on runs against the rookie.
Gio Urshela led off by homering over the Green Monster.
After a strikeout, Romine doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on LeMahieu single’s between shortstop and third.
Cora went deeper into his bullpen, summoning Trevor Kelley. A Judge double and Gleyber Torres sacrifice fly made the score, 4-0.
The Yankees tacked on an insurance run in the ninth against Mike Shawaryn.
Meanwhile, the Sox offense couldn’t get anything going against James Paxton (13-6).
The lefthander allowed four hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts in 6⅔ innings.
Zack Britton, Cory Gearrin, and Tyler Lyons finished the seven-hit shutout.
The Red Sox’ underwhelming play this season wasn’t in the plans. They are eight games out of a wild-card spot and it will take a miracle for them to make the postseason. Meanwhile, the Yankees will take the division, which will be their first since 2012.
How the tables have turned.
It was in 2018 that the Sox clinched the division at Yankee Stadium and spilled champagne on the rug in visitors’ clubhouse. They did it again when they beat the Yankees in the ALDS in New York. They dominated them when it mattered. In some ways this season, the Yankees have done the same.
“They didn’t let us [get back into it],” Cora said of the Yankees. “Last year we didn’t let them. This year they didn’t let us.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.