The one thing above all others that you could have banked on last night was that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were going to beat midnight half to death. They had played against each other in 23 postseason games in their history, and the average game time was a gestational 3:41. They’ve played slowly in high scoring games, slowly in low scoring games, slowly in extra inning games … you name it, they dragged their way through it like a zombie marathon. Joe Torre and Terry Francona in particular made the relationship between a Yankees–Red Sox game and soil erosion a national math problem.
Thus, it came as a revelation that Game No. 24 of this ongoing series (if MLB has anything to do with it) officially ended at 11:24 p.m., a frantic 3:13, and ended in a more practical matter after only five outs and eight hitters. Xander Bogaerts turned with considerable vigor on an 89-mph changeup by Gerrit Cole and sent it into the center field night, scoring Rafael Devers ahead of him and crushing the evening before it really began. A Yankee-Red Sox game that promised the traditional next-level dilatory pace was done then and there.
True, there were other moments like the Kyle Schwarber leadoff homer in the third, the Giancarlo Stanton single that turned into an electrifying Kiké Hernandez-to-Bogaerts-to-Kevin-Plawecki relay to catch Aaron Judge at the plate in the sixth, and Alex Verdugo’s bases-loaded single in the eighth, and the Yankees got a useless Stanton homer in the ninth, but the Bogaerts homer ended the game after only 17 pitches. Cole was New York’s best starter until his final five outings of the regular season, when his ERA grew by a half-run and over which his WHIP was a very fourth-starterish 1.59, and he stalled out this night after six outs and 12 hitters, his shortest outing since June of 2016, in the darkest days of his Piratehood.
Of course, we were reminded of his failure all evening by the yappy-dog brigade in the crassest terms of all—by bringing up his $324 million contract as though he was getting paid all of it last night. He was pelted with his own wallet, to hear it explained, outdone by the more pedestrian Nathan Eovaldi and four relievers deployed by manager Alex Cora on his timetable rather than Yankee manager Aaron Boone’s.
But it might have also been the Yankees’ greater hubris that undid Cole, when they were asked by Major League Baseball who they would prefer as an opponent had America been gifted a four-way tie for the two wild card spots. At one point, Major League Baseball ran through the tiebreaker scenarios, and the Yankees had to choose whether they would want to play in Boston or Toronto to break a four-way tie. They chose Boston, and within nanoseconds word reached the Red Sox, with the predictable narrative result.
“We knew about it. We don’t really talk about it because we had some business to take care of ourselves,” Hernandez said before the game. “They wanted us and they got us now, so win or go home. That’s it.”
The Red Sox left the Yankees only Option B, and it happened in the stereotypical New York minute. And that was the one thing nobody imagined possible—that whatever happened would happen in a hurry.