By Anthony L. Cuaycong
If the mood in the visitors’ locker room of Fenway Park was somber following Game One of the American League Division Series (ALDS), it wasn’t just because the Yankees lost. It was because they did so after wasting a couple of grand opportunities. It was bad enough that they fell into an early 0-5 hole against Red Sox Ace Chris Sale, who, having pitched a mere 17 innings since August, hitherto appeared ripe for the picking. Worse still was their inability to keep pressure on an otherwise-shaky bullpen.
Indeed, the Yankees managed to get the bases loaded on the sixth inning after finally knocking Sale and limiting replacement Ryan Brasier’s stint on the mound to a run-producing forced out and a walk. Unfortunately, Brandon Workman steadied himself after another walk to induce Gleyber Torres to a swing and a miss for strike three, ending the threat. And when they tried to rally anew in the seventh, all they could produce with their bases-loaded, no-out chance was a single run.
Reflecting on the outcome, Yankees cleanup batter Giancarlo Stanton lamented his failure to get the job done in crucial situations. Perhaps the four-time All-Star could be forgiven; after all, it was his first-ever postseason appearance in his eight-year major league career. Meanwhile, sophomore Aaron Judge saw fit to look at the bright side; the effort, he said, would manifest itself in coming games, what with Red Sox manager Alex Cora burning through pitchers — including potential Game Three starter Rick Porcello — just to claim the win.
As things turned out, Stanton and Judge were both right. Living up to expectations, the Yankees made quick work of noted playoff underachiever David Price, scoring three runs by the second inning and forcing the Red Sox to use six pitchers all told en route to a convincing triumph. Given how Game One unfolded, they could very well have been up 2-0 in a best-of-five affair heading into homer-friendly confines.
In any case, the prognosis is bright. The Yankees have the momentum and, slated to host Games Three and Four, could conceivably end the series in their own park, where they are seven of seven in the playoffs the last two years. In other words, they’re where they want to be after winning 100 regular-season games: in control of their destiny against their arch rivals.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.