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By Ted Gay – @TedG63

Not since Curt Schilling and his bloody sock toed the hill in the Bronx with the weight of Red Sox nation on his shoulder has a start been more critical to Boston fans. Both Chris Sale’s shoulder and mechanics were in doubt, and there was no training room operation that could fix what ailed him.

Andrew McCutchen, seemingly always destined to be a Yankee, stepped in the box to start the game. Strike one, strike two, a chaser for a ball, and then strike three. A nervous nation exhaled. But baseball playoffs leave little room for relaxation. An Aaron Judge strikeout was excellent, an Aaron Hicks walk not so much, a Giancarlo Stanton strikeout was fantastic, and 22 first inning pitches meant a possible underwhelming five innings for Sale and dependence on a shaky bullpen.

J..A. Happ countered with the first inning the Sox fans feared Chris Sale would provide After a Mookie Betts strikeout, Andrew Benintendi singled, then Happ, the latest Yankee Big Bad whose numbers don’t prove he is either, threw seven straight pitches out of the strike zone, the last lasered to left field by JD Martinez for an early 3-0 lead (like the 3-0 lead the Sox had over the Reds in game seven of the 1975 World Series, and the lead the Sox had over the Mets in game seven of the 1986 World Series. Sorry, early 3-0 leads have proven disastrous. The mind whirls.)

Sale settled into close to mid-season form while Happ became the latest playoff ace to be told by his manager “give me the ball, your cap, your glove and get off the mound.” Steve Pierce, the man the uneducated Sox fan still refers to as “the guy playing instead of poor Hanley,” validated Alex Cora’s faith with a single plating Betts, and Benintendi scored on a Xander Boegarts sacrifice fly which was followed by the Yankees complaining their dugout phone wasn’t working. One could hear Bill Belichick’s whispering to Cora: “Sometimes phones, they go out, what ‘ch gonna do? Things happen. Capice?”

For five innings life was good. But Sale’s pitch count rose, and he surrendered the hill to Ryan Brasier, who gave up a run-scoring single to the Living Legend Luck Volt, retired Didi Gregorius on a fielder’s choice forcing in another run and then walked, Miguel Andujar. Awesome job Ryan. Now get in the dugout and make sure you get your “I Participated in A Red Sox vs. Yankee playoff game,” before you leave the park He turned to Brandon “That Shit Don’t Workman” who walked Gary Sanchez before striking out Gleyber Torres on the best pitch a Sox reliever has thrown in two months.

In the bottom of the sixth the powerful Sox lineup folded before “Why Didn’t the Yankees Start Lance Lynn?” HIs Shit Don’t Work was handed the ball in the top of the seventh, and, after considering just intentionally walking McCutchen and Judge, pitched to them, giving up a single to the former and walking the latter. Terrific job Brandon. He gave way to Bad New Matt Barnes. Bad News advanced the runners on a wild pitch and then walked Brett Gardner, playing without a jock because he didn’t think he would get in a game. Bases loaded, nobody out, Alex Cora sitting in the dugout, holding his knees, and rocking back and forth like Matt Damon at the end of “Saving Private Ryan,” while he randomly screamed out names to warm in the bullpen. And then the Yankees chocked. Stanton struck out just a Tony Maz was climaxing, the Man, the Legend, Luke Volt brought home another run on a fielder’s choice, and Didi Gregorius, also known as the Yankees’ Pedroia dragged his broken body down the line when he grounded out to second.

Zach Britton took over in the eighth, just to rub Dave Dombrowski’s nose in it and retired the Sox and then some guy who looks like Rick Porcello came in to pitch. Wait, that is Rick Porcello. All right! We only have four guys who can pitch so let’s see how far we can ride them. It took Craig Kimbrell to come in and retire Andrew McCutchen to complete the inning but somehow the Sox limped into the ninth with the lead.

Kimbrell had his problems late in the season but he has straightened that out, no, wait, forget it, Judge just went yard. Gardner comes up, representing the tying run, Stanton the winning run, and Tony Mazz subtly reaches for a tissue. Then Kimbrell strikes out No Jock, Mazz Crush and the Living Legend to close out a Yankee team that has to be wondering how they lost this game and me angry that Terry didn’t go with my name for this site: “Kimbrell in the Wind.”

Tomorrow David Price will take the mound in the second most important start a Red Sox pitcher has made in a playoff game since Curt Schilling in 2004.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to kick Xanax.




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