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The only two loser-goes-home postseason meetings between the arch-rival Yankees and Red Sox, before Tuesday: Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.
Those nights are both etched in baseball lore. Aaron Boone, now the Yankees’ manager, hit a walk-off homer in 2003 to help New York advance to a World Series matchup against the then-Florida Marlins. Boston won 10-3 in the closeout tilt in 2004 to cap off a monumental Championship Series comeback before moving on to end the Curse of the Bambino with a Fall Classic sweep of the Cardinals.
Now add in the 2021 American League Wild Card Game to the dramatic recent history of baseball’s most-talked-about rivalry. It far more resembled the sudden-death game in ‘04 than the one in ‘03, with the host Red Sox grabbing a decisive 6-2 victory in front of a raucous home crowd at Fenway Park to oust the Yankees from this year’s postseason picture and advance to a best-of-five American League Division Series clash against the American League East-champion Rays.
Nathan Eovaldi touched 98.8 mph on his first pitch of the game and kept that same energy throughout, fanning eight batters across 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball while delivering 54 of his 71 pitches for strikes. He certainly could have worked deeper, but the 31-year-old right-hander does traditionally struggle the third time through an opponent’s batting order, like most starting pitchers around the sport. Ryan Brasier, Tanner Houck, Hansel Robles, and Garrett Whitlock came out of the bullpen for manager Alex Cora and combined to make the big lead stick.
Xander Bogaerts, Kyle Schwarber, and Alex Verdugo led the way offensively for the Red Sox, who had an 82-18 record when scoring four or more runs during the regular season. Bogaerts belted a two-run homer off a center-cut Gerrit Cole changeup to set the tone in the bottom of the first inning. Schwarber, manning the leadoff spot, slammed a high fastball way out to right field as the first batter to step to the plate in the bottom of the third inning. That long solo blast, which went a projected 435 feet with an exit velocity north of 110 mph, put the Red Sox ahead 3-0. Verdugo did the rest with an RBI double into the right field corner in the sixth inning and a two-run single to center in the seventh. He is the youngest Red Sox hitter -- at 25 years, 143 days old -- to record a three-RBI game in a winner-advances scenario since Dustin Pedroia in Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS.[[ad:athena]]
Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton both hooked solo home runs around Pesky’s Pole, but that’s all the meaningful offense that the Yankees could muster on a night they drew zero walks as a team. They swung at the first pitch 43.8 percent of the time in this one, the second-highest first-pitch swing rate they had for any game in the 2021 season. The offensive strategy was curious versus a Red Sox pitching staff that had been prone to messy innings in the second half of the year. As for Cole, he lasted just two-plus innings, tied for the second-shortest outing of his mostly illustrious career. The command was spotty across a good share of his 50 pitches, 20 of which were called balls.
Cole didn’t have it. But who did for New York? Rizzo, Stanton ... Clay Holmes?
A long offseason now awaits for the Yanks. It’s on to Game 1 at Tropicana Field for the Sox.
Rockies Lock Up Senzatela, Cron
Bill Schmidt was formally named the Rockies’ new general manager on Saturday -- the second-to-last day of the regular season -- after serving in that role in an interim capacity for much of the 2021 campaign following the resignation of Jeff Bridich in late April. And it didn’t take long for Schmidt to make his first round of official moves.
In a series of press releases on Tuesday afternoon, the Rockies announced that they had re-signed first baseman C.J. Cron to a two-year, $14.5 million contract and inked starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela to a five-year, $50.5 million extension.
Cron had to settle for a minor league pact from Colorado last winter but proved to be a fantastic fit, tallying 28 home runs and 92 RBI in 142 games with an overall .905 OPS. He slashed .326/.412/.661 in the thin air and spacious outfield surface area provided to hitters at Coors Field.
It’s a tough environment for pitchers, but Senzatela has handled it relatively well, showing a career 4.65 ERA in 61 outings in Denver compared to a 5.06 ERA in 63 appearances everywhere else. Between the 2020-2021 seasons, his combined ERA both home and away was 4.11. The strikeout rate still leaves a lot to be desired, but the 26-year-old right-hander could perhaps take strides in that department as he continues to develop.
The worry for some is that the Schmidt era will feature the same brand of decision-making that has led the Rockies down a path of losing baseball. After all, he’s been with the organization since 1999 and served as the lead man during the MLB Draft process for much of the last 21 years. But there’s not much to criticize with these two deals. It’s a fine enough start to his tenure. Now let’s see a little creativity.
Quick Hits: It was confirmed Tuesday that Clayton Kershaw (elbow) will not pitch in the 2021 postseason … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said there is a “glimmer of hope” that Max Muncy (elbow) will be available at some point late in the playoffs … Giants manager Gabe Kapler said the “dream scenario” is that Brandon Belt (thumb) will be ready for a potential return in the NLCS … Corbin Burnes will start for the Brewers in NLDS Game 1 on Friday versus the Braves, with Brandon Woodruff lined up for Game 2 … Shane McClanahan is scheduled to start for the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday; Shane Baz is on tap for Game 2 … Lance McCullers will start for the Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS against the White Sox on Thursday; it’ll be Framber Valdez in Game 2 … Devin Williams underwent surgery Friday for his fractured right hand … Jake McGee (oblique) threw live batting practice on Tuesday and is expected to be available for the Giants in the NLDS … White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that Carlos Rodon (arm) is “still under consideration” to pitch this postseason … Jose Siri (finger) took batting practice Tuesday and expects to be an option for the Astros in the ALDS … Pirates general manager Ben Cherington indicated Tuesday that the club would like to discuss a long-term contract extension with Bryan Reynolds … Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Gregory Soto is “our closer” going into the 2022 campaign … J.D. Davis underwent successful surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his left hand … Rangers parted ways with hitting coach Luis Ortiz and bench coach Don Wakamatsu … Nationals re-signed infielder Alcides Escobar to a one-year, $1 million contract.