How the Red Sox Beat the Yankees in the A.L. Wild-Card Game

Bucky Dent was in the stadium, the calendar said October, and each team needed to win to keep its season alive. It had been 43 years since Dent’s famous home run helped the Yankees win the last elimination game between these storied rivals at Fenway Park, and nearly a half-century later, Boston finally got a small measure of revenge for that particular game.

This time Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber hit home runs off Gerrit Cole, as the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 6-2, in the American League wild-card game. Boston advances to an A.L. division series against the Tampa Bay Rays, the best team in the A.L. during the regular season.

Cole, the Yankees’ nominal ace who had an uneven season, did not make it out of the third inning and will probably hear plenty about it into next year. He signed a nine-year, $324 million contract before the 2020 season, in part because he was expected to win this kind of game. But he gave up a two-run home run to Bogaerts in the first inning and a sky-scraping solo shot to Schwarber in the third.

Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

Two batters later, Cole walked Rafael Devers, and Aaron Boone, the Yankees’ manager, walked from the dugout and took him out. As Cole watched nervously from the bench, the right-handed reliever Clay Holmes escaped the jam. But the Yankees never recovered.

Tuesday night marked the fifth time the Yankees and Red Sox had played an elimination game, in which the winner advanced and the loser’s season ended. The first was in 1949 when the Yankees won a regular-season tiebreaker. Then came the 1978 tiebreaker in game No. 163. In Game 7 of the 2003 A.L. Championship Series, Boone, then the Yankees’ third baseman, hit a game-winning homer in the 11th inning off Tim Wakefield.

But in 2004, the Red Sox drastically changed the script, coming back from an 0-3 deficit to win that series in seven games. Since then, the nature of the rivalry has changed, and Boston has won four World Series titles, while the Yankees have claimed one, in 2009.

Here’s how the Red Sox beat the Yankees:

Former Yankees farmhand Garrett Whitlock came into the game to start the ninth and he ended his old club’s season.

It wasn’t entirely clean. With one out, Giancarlo Stanton wrapped a fly ball around the Pesky Pole in right field to make the game 6-2. But that wasn’t nearly enough, as Whitlock got both Joey Gallo and Gleyber Torres to fly out to right to end the game. The Red Sox will advance to a division series matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Yankees’ season, which once held so much promise, is over.

Giancarlo Stanton uses the Pesky Pole to make it 6-2.

For a second time in one night, the Yankees took advantage of Fenway’s odd dimensions for a homer.

Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

Chad Green was back out to start the eighth, and he started things off with a quick strikeout of Hunter Renfroe. Christian Vazquez, making his first plate appearance of the game, also struck out. That left things up to Bobby Dalbec, who grounded out to third.

It all comes down to the top of the ninth, with the Yankees’ season on the brink of devastating collapse.

Needless to say … former Yankees farmhand Garrett Whitlock, lost in the Rule 5 draft, is the reliever coming in to close out the Yanks.

The Yankees did not do much with outs 22, 23 or 24.

Gary Sanchez came in as a pinch-hitter for catcher Kyle Higashioka, but if you blinked you missed him, as he flied out to center on the first pitch he saw from the new Red Sox reliever, Hansel Robles. Rougned Odor followed his lead by flying out to left. And Anthony Rizzo closed out the half-inning by striking out on three pitches. The Yankees batters have three more outs to make up a five-run deficit or their season is over.

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Desperately needing to keep the Red Sox quiet, the Yankees could not.

Jonathan Loaisiga started the half-inning by getting Christian Arroyo to ground out to third. Empty bases didn’t last. Loaisiga walked Kyle Schwarber (not great, but better than letting Schwarber swing for the fences), and got to eight straight balls by walking Enrique Hernandez on four pitches.

Seeing trouble brewing, Manager Aaron Boone pulled Loaisiga in favor of Chad Green. The right-handed Green proceeded to get Rafael Devers to line out to center but then issued a four-pitch walk of his own to Xander Bogaerts, loading the bases. Alex Verdugo, who had doubled in a run in the sixth, drove a ball into center field that scored two runs. But Verdugo got a bit too aggressive trying to get to second base and was thrown out to end the inning.

The damage, as they say, was done. The Sox are leading, 6-1.

Bottom 7th

Verdugo does it again, putting the Sox up, 6-1.

A single drove in two runs, but Alex Verdugo was thrown out trying to reach second base.

Eight straight balls put two batters on base with one out and that was it for Jonathan Loaisiga, who was relieved by Chad Green. The Yankees desperately need to keep the score where it is.

Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

Facing a new Boston reliever in Tanner Houck, Gleyber Torres went down quietly to start the inning, flying out to center field. That out made Yankees leadoff batters a woeful 0 for 7.

Brett Gardner followed Torres by striking out on three pitches, going down on strikes for the third time. And then Gio Urshela struck out to end the inning. Yankees batters have just six more outs to work with in this game, and Boston’s pitchers have a three-run cushion.

Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

After Rafael Devers struck out on seven pitches to start the half-inning, Xander Bogaerts drew a four-pitch walk. His presence on base seemed to spook Luis Severino a bit, as after a pickoff attempt the Yankees’ infield gathered at the mound to discuss strategy. Worrying about Bogaerts’s speed made sense, as when Alex Verdugo doubled to right, Bogaerts scored all the way from first — even after some confusion at third base led to a play at the plate that was a bit too close for Boston’s comfort.

Bogaerts did his best Jeremy Giambi impression, crossing home standing up as Kyle Higashioka reached to tag him. But unlike Giambi, he was safe.

Jonathan Loaisiga came on in relief of Severino, inheriting a runner on second with one out, and he proceeded to make things worse by walking Hunter Renfroe. But Loaisiga then kicked into gear, getting out of the inning by striking out pinch-hitter Travis Shaw and first baseman Bobby Dalbec. But Boston’s lead got larger, which is a problem for the Yankees.

Bottom 6th

Verdugo’s double puts the Sox up, 4-1.

A mixed-up signal at third resulted in an awkward play at the plate, but Xander Bogaerts was able to score.

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Hoping for some magic, Aaron Boone yanked Andrew Velazquez and sent Rougned Odor to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Nathan Eovaldi needed only three pitches against Odor to record his eighth strikeout. The magic Boone was hoping for came one batter later, when Anthony Rizzo put the Yankees on the board with a solo homer into the right field seats with just a bit of help from Fenway’s odd dimensions.

Aaron Judge reached base with an infield single and that was it for Eovaldi, who went from ridiculously dominant to out of the game in the span of two batters. The move looked horrific at first, as Giancarlo Stanton crushed a ball to center off Ryan Brasier, but Judge got greedy and tried to score. He was thrown out at home thanks to a beautiful relay from center fielder Enrique Hernandez to shortstop Xander Bogaerts to catcher Kevin Plawecki. Bogaerts’s throw in particular was comically perfect.

With a runner on second and two outs, Brasier got Joey Gallo to pop out to third to end the inning. The Yankees got a run, but it felt like they should have gotten at least two if not for a bad call to send Judge on Stanton’s hit.

The Red Sox had 43 outfield assists this year, the most in baseball. Not a good call to send Aaron Judge there by Phil Nevin, and the Red Sox made the Yankees pay for it as Enrique Hernandez throws to Bogaerts and on to Plawecki to get Judge sliding in hands first at home.

Nathan Eovaldi was cruising, retiring 11 Yankees in row before coughing up a solo blast to Anthony Rizzo with one out in the top of the sixth inning. After an Aaron Judge infield single, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora hooked Eovaldi, whose performance traditionally slips the third time he faces an opponent during a game. Still, it was an aggressive move by Cora.

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Anthony Rizzo gets the Yankees on the board, 3-1.

The mid-season acquisition squared up on a curveball and sent it into the right field seats.

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Luis Severino, the one-time ace of the Yankees who is still working his way back to full-strength after a series of injuries, came on in relief of Clay Holmes to start the fifth. He retired Christian Arroyo quickly on a groundout to second and fought through a six-pitch at-bat by Kyle Schwarber that ended in a groundout to first.

With two down and Enrique Hernandez at the plate, Severino got ahead in the count, 0-2, and then ended things by getting Hernandez to fly out to right. So far, the Yankees’ bullpen has done an excellent job of settling things down following Gerrit Cole’s rough start.

This is only Luis Severino’s fifth appearance of 2021. He returned to the major leagues in late September after undergoing Tommy John surgery in spring of 2020 and enduring setbacks. A two-time All Star as a starting pitcher, the Yankees have eased Severino back into action in the bullpen.

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Which one of tonight’s starters is the $324 million ace?

Eovaldi struck out Brett Gardner on six pitches, ending his second at-bat with a 97-m.p.h. fastball. He got Gio Urshela to fly out to left on the first pitch he saw. He then struck out Kyle Higashioka on four pitches to end the inning. That is 10 straight batters retired by Eovaldi, who is up to seven strikeouts.

With Clay Holmes back on the mound after his third inning heroics, the Yankees tried to get strategic against Hunter Renfroe by utilizing a shift. Boston’s right fielder made them pay for that strategy (temporarily) by poking a single into right. But just as he had done the previous inning, Holmes calmly induced a double-play, with Kevin Plawecki and Renfroe being retired 4-6-3.

With the bases empty for Bobby Dalbec, Boston’s first baseman ended things quietly by flying out to right field on the second pitch he saw.

The Red Sox signed Jose Iglesias in September and he hit .356 for them and was a very useful second baseman. But because he joined the team after Aug. 31, he was not eligible for the postseason. Alex Cora said that Iglesias would remain with the club as long as they remain alive, even though he cannot play, so there was some question about what he would do. So far he is pushing the home run hitters through the dugout in Boston’s laundry-hamper celebrations

Nathan Eovaldi got his fifth strikeout of the night by hurling a 100-m.p.h. four-seamer past Giancarlo Stanton’s mighty bat. He then retired Joey Gallo and Gleyber Torres on fly balls to center field. He has now retired seven straight batters.

This is not looking like it was a good night for the Yankees to hand Eovaldi an early 3-0 lead.

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We told the Yankees to watch out for Kyle Schwarber! Boston’s designated hitter absolutely demolished a 97-m.p.h. fastball from Gerrit Cole to lead off the half-inning, giving Boston a 3-0 lead. It just so happens that Schwarber had done the same thing the last time he had faced Cole in a wild-card game, back in the 2015 National League game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs.

A single by Enrique Hernandez and a walk to Rafael Devers was all Manager Aaron Boone needed to see, and he pulled his ace out of the game after 50 pitches and two-plus innings.

Clay Holmes came on in relief of Cole, with two men on base and no outs, and he bailed out the team’s ace in a big way, striking out Xander Bogaerts and then getting Alex Verdugo to ground into a double-play to end the inning.

Correction: 

An earlier version of a headline with this article misstated the number of runs Gerrit Cole surrendered in the bottom of the third inning. He gave up a solo home run, not a two-run homer. 

Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ ace and $324 million man, is out of the game, a stunning turn of events for the Yankees. He allowed three runs on two home runs, including a third-inning solo blast by Kyle Schwarber, who admired his handiwork as it sailed past the right field fence. Cole then coughed up a single and a walk, and was hooked by Manager Aaron Boone. He strolled to the Yankees’ dugout with his head down. Clay Holmes is now in the game, and the Yankees are in a bind.

Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

A lot is made of Gerrit Cole’s transformation to an ace in Houston and New York, but he was excellent for Pittsburgh in 2015: 19-8 with a 2.60 E.R.A. The Pirates handed him the ball for their wild-card game … and it turned out a lot like this start, so far. Facing the Cubs that night, Cole gave up a third-inning homer to Kyle Schwarber, just like he did tonight. But Cole worked 5 innings that night, and now he’s gone with nobody out in the third.

Bottom 3rd

Kyle Schwarber’s homer has Boston up, 3-0.

Boston’s leadoff batter crushed a ball off Gerrit Cole, something he’s been known to do.

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Andrew Velazquez’s first postseason at-bat lasted all of one pitch when he flied out to left on a 98-m.p.h. fastball. Anthony Rizzo managed to get Nathan Eovaldi to throw him nine pitches, but struck out on a four-seam fastball that he was woefully late on.

That brought up Aaron Judge, who mimicked Velazquez by flying out to center on the first pitch he saw, giving Eovaldi the unusual 1-9-1 11-pitch inning.

Big pitchers get big strikeouts. Gerrit Cole recorded his first of the game by throwing a knuckle-curve past Hunter Renfroe for strike three to start the half-inning. That good feeling was briefly set aside when Kevin Plawecki (a guy in the game for his defense behind the plate) smacked a 2-2 fastball into center for a double that just nicked the bottom of the wall.

Bobby Dalbec, who came up to chants of his name from the crowd at Fenway, managed to draw six pitches out of Cole before watching the seventh, a slider, sail past him for strike three. Cole then got his third strikeout of the inning by throwing a 99-m.p.h. fastball past a swinging Christian Arroyo.

So he may be an inning late, but the Yankees’ ace has arrived.

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