NBC Sports

Tomase: Red Sox' thrilling wins vs. Yankees may have long-term benefits

NBC Sports
Alex Verdugo

The Yankees are running away with the American League and could easily win 110 games. They should be overwhelming World Series favorites come October.

And yet, let there be a tiny sliver of a doubt creasing their minds this morning, even if it's only firing between two synapses, because here's what it's whispering: What about those Red Sox?

Very rarely will a split count as a season-defining series, but what they did this weekend has that potential. Outclassed halfway to a demoralizing sweep, the Red Sox dug deep behind their JV squad on Saturday and Sunday to do unto the Bombers as they've been doing to everyone else.

Twice the Red Sox rallied against baseball's most imposing bullpen, riding the kind of guys who might not even be on a postseason roster, from Yankees castoff Rob Refsnyder to Yankees minor league rule 5 pick Kaleb Ort to Yankee-in-name-only Jeter Downs.

Twice they sent their crowd into a frenzy, silencing the invaders chanting, "Let's Go Yankees!" who made Fenway Park feel like that fortress in the Bronx on Thursday and Friday.

And twice they reminded themselves that they're back in this thing for a reason, and it's not because they give up without Rafael Devers or four-fifths of their starting rotation.

Let the Yankees chew on that for a while.

"It feels good to split the series with that team," said catcher Christian Vazquez after Sunday's 11-6 victory. "They need to feel that pressure from us, that we have a great team, too."

 

Though the Red Sox still haven't won a series vs. the American League East, for the first time in nine tries, they finally didn't lose one, either. This meeting had all the makings of a bloodbath, and the first two games followed that script, with New York coasting to a 6-5 victory on Thursday that never felt that close, and then romping to a 12-5 win on Friday that ended with Jackie Bradley Jr. on the mound.

With seven losses in their previous 10 games, the Red Sox risked a full-blown tailspin before the All-Star break, and no one could've blamed them for just trying to survive before reinforcements arrive in the form of pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and Garrett Whitlock.

How Nathan Eovaldi fared in rehab start for Triple-A WooSox

But on Saturday, they overcame deficits of 3-2 in the eighth and 5-3 in the 10th to walk off with an improbable 6-5 win. And then on Sunday, they didn't let a 6-2 hole break their will, pounding on starter Jameson Taillon and the vaunted Yankees bullpen with nine unanswered runs in a rousing victory that sends them on their final road trip of the first half -- to Tampa and New York -- feeling like they've weathered the storm.

"With the guys we have on the injured list, the at-bats we put together today, the defensive plays we made, it was all-around team positive coming out of this series two versus two. I think that's extraordinary," said starter Nick Pivetta. "They're a really good lineup and we came back and we won this game. It was really, really fun to watch and I loved every part of it."

Sunday's victory might be their game of the year, simply because of the way the Red Sox showed fight on a night when Pivetta, their only starter who opened the season in the big leagues, got lit up.

He allowed six runs and two homers in just 3.1 innings, departing with the Red Sox in a 6-2 hole. Little did anyone know, but the bullpen would slam the door from there, starting with Ort, a burly 30-year-old right-hander plucked from the Yankees in 2020.

He allowed just one hit in 1.2 innings before Hirokazu Sawamura (2 IP), Matt Strahm, and Ryan Brasier carried the Red Sox home.

The Yankees may be the best team in baseball, but for two days in Fenway Park, they met their match against a team that just wanted it more. May that doubt linger until October.

John Tomase

"To come back the way we did to salvage the game is huge, especially since we've had most of our guys hurt with the starters," said J.D. Martinez, who launched his first home run in nearly a month. "The guys they brought up did a good job and our 'pen did unbelievable shutting them down."

What made the weekend memorable wasn't just that the Red Sox won, but that they showed incredible fight without many of their star players. On Saturday, Refsnyder drilled a key home run against his former team, and then Downs pulled the Sox within a run on his first big-league hit before winning the game with his first run.

 

Alex Cora managed Sunday's game like the proverbial Game 7, emptying his bench in the sixth inning against erratic left-hander Aroldis Chapman and being rewarded with the go-ahead run before the Sox piled on an inning later.

"We saw the window there," Cora said. "Chapman, he just came out from the I.L. We had to go for it there."

And now, at the very least, they have planted the seed. The Yankees may be the best team in baseball, but for two days in Fenway Park, they met their match against a team that just wanted it more. May that doubt linger until October.