And the Red Sox get a huge performance from the bullpen.
The Red Sox came into Friday’s game at Fenway riding high, coming off a massive walk-off win the night before in a wild night of baseball. But that momentum appeared to go away quickly on Friday when Eduardo Rodriguez had to leave with nobody out in the second due to migraine symptoms. Fortunately, the bullpen stepped up in a big way. Phillips Valdez and Yacksel Ríos in particular were huge, combining for five scoreless innings to get into the seventh. That was more than enough time for Rafael Devers to do his thing on the other side, smashing two homers to lead the way in the win.
Earlier on Friday, we talked about how important this second half was for Eduardo Rodriguez, not just for himself as he heads to free agency this winter, but also for the team. After a first half in which the results just continued to lag way behind the peripherals, there was hope he could turn things around after the break. And indeed, he looked good in his first start of the second half against the Yankees, and was facing them again on Friday looking for similar results.
In the first inning, it sure looked like he was ready to pick up where he left off, retiring all three batters he faced including a strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton on three pitches. But the second got off to a much different kind of start, as he walked the leadoff man then gave up a base hit. With two men on, Brett Gardner stepped to the dish and he gapped one the other way for a double, bringing one run home with two still in scoring position and no outs on the board.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, with the Yankees taking an early 1-0 lead and their ace on the mound, Rodriguez had to be removed from the game. At the time, it wasn’t really clear what was going on. He grabbed at his back a little, so there was some thinking that could be the problem. We’d learn later he left the game with migraine symptoms, and if you’ve ever dealt with bad migraines you know how bad that can be. Hopefully this is not a long-term issue, but given the speculation that it could be an arm or a back, not to mention something with his heart again, the explanation came as something of a relief.
So with Rodriguez out of the game, the Red Sox suddenly found themselves in real trouble. They were down a run, with their starter out of the game, and the Yankees still had a pair in scoring position and no outs. Phillips Valdez, who was just called up from Worcester prior to this game, got the pleasure of coming into that situation. He was phenomenal.
The righty somehow managed to get out of that second inning without allowing a single run, hitting one batter but striking out the other three he faced to keep the deficit at just a run. Valdez didn’t stop there, either. He faced only three batters in the third thanks to Christian Vázquez getting a runner stealing, and he’d strike out three more in the fourth for another scoreless inning. It was an absolutely massive performance from the righty when the Red Sox could have been in a major jam, coming in for three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
The bad news is, as I mentioned above, the Yankees had their ace on the mound, and Gerrit Cole was keeping runs off the board in the early going. The Red Sox were making him work a bit, though, getting him up around 20 pitches almost every inning early on. Still, they wanted to get at least one on the board to tie the game, but through four they had still failed to break through for any real damage.
After Yacksel Ríos came on for the fifth and kept the deficit at one, the Red Sox bats finally started to wake up. With one down, Kiké Hernández swung at the first pitch he saw and hit a rocket out to left field. It would have been out of just about any other park, but it caught the top of the Monster, limiting him to a single. Jarren Duran came up next, and hit a rocket of his own, this one out to right-center. Again, it could have been a homer elsewhere, but instead fell in the triangle and bounced into the stands for a ground rule double.
Two possible home runs off the bat, and nobody had come in to score yet. It seemed like a spot where bad luck would just catch up to them and Cole would be able to escape. But they broke through. Xander Bogaerts hit a fly ball out to right field, and while it wasn’t all that deep the Red Sox again challenged the Yankees outfield, as they did on Thursday, and again it worked with Hernández sliding in before the throw to tie the game.
That brought Rafael Devers to the plate, and he made Fenway erupt. On a 1-1 pitch, Cole threw a fastball that just stayed right over the middle of the plate. Devers jumped all over it, shooting a solo homer into the Monster seats to give the Red Sox their first lead of the night.
With his team now up 3-1, Ríos somewhat surprisingly came back out for the sixth. The righty, who was suddenly touching triple digits in this game, did issue a walk in the inning but that was all, making it five scoreless innings from him and Valdez. It’s hard to overstate how big that kind of production from the bottom rung of the bullpen is.
It was still a two-run game heading into the seventh, and Garrett Whitlock, a former Yankees prospect, came in out of the bullpen. He started off well with a strikeout, but then hit the next batter before giving up a base hit, and suddenly the Yankees had the tying run on base. Whitlock got a ground ball after that, but the weak ball to shortstop only resulted in an out at first, putting the runners each into scoring position with two down. Rougned Odor came up for the big spot, but he swung at the first pitch and popped it up to center field, getting the Red Sox out of the jam.
In the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox started to pull away a bit. It started once again at the top of the lineup, with Hernández grabbing a more conventional one-out single, which was followed by another base hit from Duran. After Bogaerts went down looking, it was up to Devers with two on and two out. And he did the same thing again. This time he went out to straightaway center field, but it was his second homer of the game — and the 100th of his career — bringing home three and giving the Red Sox a five-run lead.
Now it was just about the bullpen continuing to roll and take care of business. Darwinzon Hernandez got the eighth, and while he did hit one batter and walk another, he escaped the inning without any runs. That just left the ninth, which was given to Brandon Workman. He did allow one run, but that was it. Ultimately, the Red Sox did get eight strong innings for the pen en route to the win.
With the victory, the Red Sox pushed their record to 60-38. The Rays also picked up a win on Friday, so the Red Sox keep their lead in the division at just a single game.
The Red Sox will look to lock up a series win on Saturday afternoon, with Nathan Eovaldi taking on Jameson Taillon. First pitch is set for 4:05 PM ET.