Alex Cora rules all. Barely.
For the second-straight game and, really, all series, the Red Sox manager pushed every single right button to help the Red Sox advance to the AL Championship Series against the Astros by virtue of Boston’s 4-3 win in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium.
It looked like the Sox were going to cruise 4-1, but the ninth was a circus after Craig Kimbrel allowed the first two runners to advance, walked the bases loaded, hit a batter to drive in one, and allowed a sac fly to get the Yankees to within one run. Kimbrel eventually got Gleybar Torres to ground out to third on a great play by Eduardo Nunez and stretch at first by Steve Pearce.
Until the ninth, it appeared Cora was going to be the hero again. He elected to have Christian Vazquez catch Rick Porcello for the first time all season and, not only did Vazquez help to guide Porcello to one run allowed in five innings of work, but Vazquez hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to make it 4-0.
Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Nunez, who both sat in Game 3, were back in the lineup and contributed RBIs.
And then there was the bullpen. Cora had the Midas touch there as well. First, he lifted Porcello at the right time, as Matt Barnes pitched a perfect sixth. Ryan Brasier pitched a one-two-three seventh.
Then, when it came to the bridge to Craig Kimbrel, Cora elected to go with Chris Sale, the presumed Game 5 starter. A risky move, to be sure, but Sale was perfect in the eighth.
It wasn’t easy in the ninth — Kimbrel walked Aaron Judge on four pitches, and Didi Gregorius singled to bring the tying run to the plate. Kimbrel whiffed Giancarlo Stanton easily, then walked Luke Voit on four pitches to load the bases before hitting Neil Walker. But the end result was another win, and another shot at the defending world champions.
GAME COVERAGE FROM BEDARD
Bottom of the ninth
- Four-pitch walk to Judge.
- Gregorius single. Now the tying run will come to the plate in Stanton. You knew this wasn't going to be easy.
- Struck out Stanton easily. Two outs to go.
- Voit walked on four pitches to bring winning run to the plate. Hechavarria pinch runs. Neil Walker, who has had some good swings tonight, is up as the winning run. Gulp.
- Hit him on first pitch. Tying run at second. RUN: Red Sox 4, Yankees 2.
- Sanchez just misses a full-count meatball. Sac fly. RUN: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3.
- Torres ground ball to third and he's called out ... being challenged. Looks like he's out. OUT. GAME OVER. SERIES OVER.
Top of the ninth