Red Sox nab Judge at plate in key sequence

October 6th, 2021

BOSTON -- had a perfect view of the developing play, arriving on the second-base bag after banging another rocket off the Green Monster. A relay throw arrived at home plate ahead of , whose headfirst dive was met by a tag from Red Sox catcher .

Stanton pumped his fist and roared in apparent anger, sensing a missed opportunity. The sixth-inning sequence in Tuesday’s American League Wild Card Game short-circuited a budding rally for the Yankees, who fell 6-2 to the Red Sox in the winner-take-all matchup.

It was the second off-the-wall ball of the game for Stanton, who just barely missed the top of the Monster in his first at-bat against Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi. In the first inning, the Yanks’ designated hitter paused at the plate after swinging away at an 0-1 slider, but the near-homer wound up staying inside the park and Stanton was limited to a single after his delay out of the box.

“Yeah, I was upset,” Stanton said of his second ball off the wall. “That probably would have left most anywhere. So that would have, you know, that would have changed the course of the game, and not for my benefit. But he wouldn’t have been out at home and we would have been tied. Yeah, I was pretty upset about that.”

According to Statcast, Stanton’s sixth-inning single would have been a home run in 11 ballparks (not among those: Yankee Stadium).

As far as third-base coach Phil Nevin’s decision to wave Judge home on Stanton’s one-out hit, neither the DH nor Judge questioned the send.

“No. I mean, it was bang-bang.” Stanton said. “[There] had to be two relatively perfect throws to get them out, and so yeah, you can take the chance there.”

“I kind of just saw it had a bad bounce past [Alex] Verdugo … and, you know, my mindset as a runner is I’m going as hard as I can until I’m told not to,” Judge said. “Off the bat, I think I got a chance to score just based on how crazy that wall is and the ricochets you’ll get, and it’s gotta take a perfect relay, a perfect throw to even get me.

“Watching the replay I saw it was a perfect throw, right on the money. Nothing you can really do about that. You’ve got to take chances in the postseason, you gotta take opportunities. You can’t play scared, you can’t play afraid.”

The Yankees had 22 outs at home plate during the regular season, tying the Royals for the Major League lead. They ranked eighth in the Majors with 50 outs on the bases; the Tigers and A’s tied for first with 57.

The rally started with Anthony Rizzo putting New York on the board with a one-out homer to right field, trimming Boston’s lead to 3-1. Judge legged out an infield hit, prompting Boston to pull Eovaldi. Stanton greeted Ryan Brasier with a 114.9 mph missile that pelted the wall in left-center field, and as Judge rounded second and dug toward third base, Nevin pointed toward the plate.

Center fielder fed the relay throw to shortstop , who fired a strike to Plawecki from the lip of the infield grass beyond second base. Instead of runners at first and third with one out, the Yanks had Stanton at second with two outs, and he was turned aside when Joey Gallo popped out.

“That was better than the homer,” said Bogaerts, who opened the scoring with a two-run shot off Yankees starter Gerrit Cole in the first. “I mean, if that run scores, it’s 3-2, Stanton is at second base, the whole momentum is on their side.”

It was a momentum-shifting play in more ways than one. If Judge had stopped at third base, the Red Sox would have had a 70% chance of winning at that point in the game. If he managed to score, their winning probability would have dropped to 63%. But after he was thrown out, that number rose to 81% -- a tradeoff of 18 percentage points. From a cost-benefit standpoint, you’d have to believe Judge would be safe more than six times out of 10 (61%) to justify the send, according to a calculation by Tom Tango, MLB’s senior data architect. 

“It didn’t win or lose this game for us; there’s so many different things I can go through [in] the game that didn’t go right,” Judge said. “But yeah, I’m trying to score there, you know, and I just didn’t get the job done, didn’t get my hand there in time in the slide, and that’s it.”