Three quick thoughts from the Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS at Fenway Park on Friday night:
1. Chris Sale topped out at nearly 97 mph and was every bit the ace he was not in Game 1 a year ago. He sat at 94-95, struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings and walked only two. Both runs he was charged with came home after he left. He wasn’t in midseason form in terms of velocity, but he backed up everything he said going into the start: that he would be effective no matter what the radar gun said. He didn’t overthrow in the first inning only to see his velocity dip later on, either. The Yankees worked hard (and smartly) to build his pitch count, and he ended the day at 93 with a pair of runners on base. Sale did everything the Red Sox could have asked, earning his first postseason win along the way.
2. The Red Sox bullpen is in deep, deep trouble if they keep missing the zone this badly. You knew it, and now you saw it. Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman embarked along the most frightening of tightropes in the sixth inning. Brasier let in two inherited runners to cut the lead to 5-2. Workman threw a nasty curveball away to strike out Gleyber Torres on a full count with the bases loaded after walking a pair to load ‘em up. Workman’s K of Torres ended the inning but Workman got into trouble again in the seventh. On came Matt Barnes, who, after a walk, got a huge strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton with the bases loaded and none out. One run came in during the frame. Rick Porcello, the scheduled Game 3 starter, had the bottom of the order in the eighth inning, and looked more confident than anyone. Kimbrel handled the four-out save.
3. The big-ticket signing of last winter took the stage immediately. The situation reeked of a three-run home run and that’s exactly what happened, which speaks to the unbelievable consistency J.D. Martinez has played with since he joined the Red Sox. Between Sale and Martinez, the narrative of Boston eating up players in their first year in town is on shakier ground than it used to be. J.A. Happ fell behind 2-0 and Martinez crushed one 107 mph off the bat, a laser into the Green Monster seats. Martinez smoked a fly out to right field later on that would have been a home run easily at Yankee Stadium, with a 97 percent hit probability. He added a single in the seventh inning for good measure. If the Yankees are going to beat the Red Sox, they’re going to have to find a way to contain Mookie Betts (he had a double) and Martinez. They didn’t do that well enough on Friday, but maybe the lesson is what we saw all year is true: that duo cannot be contained, at least not for long.