Red Sox vs. Yankees: Ninth-inning rally was too little, too late for New York's stumbling offense
Aaron Judge didn't get enough help from his teammates in ALDS Games 3 and 4
NEW YORK -- After setting a new major-league record for home runs in a season, the New York Yankees are going home because their offense showed up too little, too late in Game 4 of the ALDS. The Boston Red Sox (box score) on Tuesday night and have advanced to the ALCS, where they'll take on the Houston Astros.
The Yankees scored four runs total -- four runs! -- in Games 3 and 4 at Yankee Stadium and were limited to 10 hits in the two games. They had two doubles and eight singles, and only two walks as well. For a team that thoroughly wrecked opponents at home during the regular season, the Yankees were mostly quiet in the Bronx to close out their year.
To their credit, the Yankees did not go out quietly in the ninth inning of Game 4. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel came out of the bullpen wild and walked leadoff man Aaron Judge on four pitches. Didi Gregorius then poked a ground-ball single through the right side to put two on with no outs. Giancarlo Stanton represented the tying run. He responded with a terrible at-bat.
It almost looked like Stanton was trying to strike out. Three swings and misses at breaking balls with one token elevated fastball mixed in to change Stanton's eye level. That strikeout capped off a 4-for-18 (.222) showing with zero extra-base hits in the ALDS.
"You've got to put the ball in play. You've got to get a pitch out over the plate," said Stanton, who was unable to do either of those things in that ninth inning.
Given the way Kimbrel was throwing, I'm pretty sure Stanton could've just stood there and drawn a walk. Thirteen of Kimbrel's first 16 pitches were outside the strike zone, and that includes a four-pitch walk to Luke Voit to load the bases with one out. Suddenly the Yankees had the tying run on base. Kimbrel's next pitch was again out of the zone, this time far enough to hit Neil Walker and force in a run.
At that point, 14 of Kimbrel's 17 pitches were outside the strike zone. The Yankees didn't so much click offensively that inning as they did let Kimbrel work himself into trouble. Two walks, a ground-ball single and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases and gave the Yankees a run. They scored their second run of the inning on a towering sacrifice fly. I thought Gary Sanchez hit the big one:
In Fenway Park, that's a no-doubt grand slam. It had plenty of height and distance. In Yankee Stadium, it's a long sacrifice fly. Sanchez had an excellent at-bat against Kimbrel. He fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it back full, and unloaded on a fastball in the zone. He just didn't unload on it enough. Story of Games 3 and 4 right there. The Red Sox punished mistakes for extra-base hits. The Yankees got productive outs at best.
Eduardo Nunez and Steve Pearce. Gleyber Torres poked Kimbrel's 28th pitch on the ground to third and Nunez fired across the diamond for the out, which was confirmed after replay. The play was this close:by Red Sox corner infielders
The ninth-inning rally, which did get the Yankees to within one run and brought the Yankee Stadium crowd to its feet, was largely a product of Kimbrel giving out free bases rather than the Yankees racking up hits. Again, they had 10 hits combined in Games 3 and 4, and only two were extra-base hits. Remember Sanchez's titanic three-run home run in Game 2? The Yankees never left the yard after that.
Stanton, Torres, Voit, and Miguel Andujar -- Andujar did not play in Game 4, curiously -- all finished the ALDS without an extra-base hit. The Yankees received little from Gregorius and the Brett Gardner/Andrew McCutchen tag team in the outfield. Judge was a terror throughout the series -- even when he made outs, it felt like the Red Sox got lucky -- but he turned into a one-man army by the end of the series.
"Definitely frustrating," manager Aaron Boone said when asked about his offense. "I think one of their goals in this series was to keep us in the ballpark, and coming here where we're so good at that, they were able to do that. Credit to them for being able to hold us down and shut us down, but in the end, you don't move on usually when you can't get enough big hits in the series, and they outplayed us a little bit."
Every year, without fail, teams get bounced from the postseason because their offense goes into a collective funk. Look at the Rockies and Indians this year. The Yankees, however, were shut down in their own ballpark, were they have one of the most devastating offensive attacks in baseball. The Red Sox deserve all the credit in the world for that. The Yankees also deserve some blame. Too many key players went silent in Games 3 and 4.
"Do we need to be better? Of course, obviously," Boone added. "We want to continue to get better, so we're chasing the perfect offense. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough, and we'll continue to work at getting to that point where we're as complete in every department as we can be -- offensively, pitching, defense. You're always chasing Utopia, you know? We're chasing that."
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