Boston led the Yankees, 4-0, by the end of the fourth inning in Game 4 of the AL Division Series and still led, 4-1, after the eighth. With seven-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel inheriting a three-run edge, it seemed like New York might go quietly into the night.
Instead, the ninth became a seat-of-your-pants thrill ride. The Yankees scored twice, got the potential tying run into scoring position and put the winning run on base. But ultimately, the Red Sox prevailed, 4-3, and advanced to face the Astros for the pennant.
Here are seven things that stood out about that crazy final frame:
1. Kimbrel was way wild Kimbrel began the inning by walking Aaron Judge on four pitches, and three batters later, he did the same to Luke Voit. To put that in context, it was the first time in the right-hander's career that he issued multiple four-pitch walks in the same game.
"I was just trying to work a good at-bat against Kimbrel," Judge said. "He's got nasty stuff. Any way I could touch first base, that's what I was trying to do. I was trying to get on and get things started. You never know what can happen."
2. Voit was at his most patient in the biggest spot The leadoff walk to Judge was one thing, since the highly dangerous slugger drew 43 four-pitch free passes from 2017-18, ranking in the top 10 in MLB. It was more surprising, following a Didi Gregorius single and a Giancarlo Stanton strikeout, when Voit walked on a 3-0 count to load the bases with only one out.
In 181 prior plate appearances in 2018, Voit had not drawn a single four-pitch walk. He had seen eight plate appearances go to a 3-0 count, and in each case, the next pitch was a strike.
3. The Yankees got a rare RBI After Voit's walk packed the bases, Kimbrel's first pitch to Neil Walker was an errant curveball that dove toward the dirt and hit the veteran on the right foot. In the Yankees' robust postseason history, it was only their fourth run-scoring hit-by-pitch. The first two happened in the World Series in 1927 (Earle Combs) and '28 (George Pipgras). The most recent, before Tuesday, occurred in Game 2 of the 1997 ALDS, when Cleveland's Jose Mesa drilled Mike Stanley with the bases loaded.
The last time a hit batter drove in a run in the ninth inning of any postseason game was in 1986. In that case it was also Boston that created an ill-timed HBP, with Calvin Schiraldi nailing the Angels' Brian Downing to bring in the tying run, as the Halos eventually won Game 4 of the ALCS in 11 innings.
4. Gary Sanchez came oh-so-close to history After Walker's painful RBI made it a two-run game, Sanchez worked the count full against Kimbrel, who piped in a 97.6-mph fastball. The Yankees catcher took a mighty cut -- and just got under the ball. His 107.1-mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™, gave him plenty of thump, but the 46-degree launch angle was simply too high, and the ball died on the warning track in left field (only 10 homers all season across MLB had a launch angle that high).
Had that fly ball carried a bit farther, Sanchez could have become the first player to hit a walk-off grand slam in the postseason with his team trailing. The only previous postseason walk-off slam, by the Rangers' Nelson Cruz in the 2011 ALCS, broke a tie.
"Definitely nerve-wracking," Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts said. "They've got the bases loaded, they've got a chance to win that game with a home run right there, in Yankee Stadium. I was definitely kind of nervous, but we've got the best closer in the world on the mound, he'll find a way to get it done."
5. Gleyber Torres gave it everything he had Sanchez's long out was still a sacrifice fly, making it a 4-3 game and giving rookie Torres a chance with runners at first and second and two outs. Torres topped a slow bouncer toward third, and Boston's Eduardo Nunez made a stellar play to charge it and whip a throw to first baseman Steve Pearce, whose nifty stretch saved the day. A brief replay review confirmed Torres was out by a tiny margin.
It wasn't for lack of effort. Torres' sprint speed, according to Statcast™, was 28.6 feet per second, well above his season average of 27.1 -- also roughly the MLB average. Torres' home-to-first time of 4.19 seconds was his third fastest of the year.
"I hope I'm safe, but it's out," Torres said. "It's tough. It's a really bad moment for right now, but I continue to pray and play for next year."
6. Boston's stifling of New York was almost unprecedented While the ninth-inning rally came up short, the Yankees still pushed across as many runs as they had scored in 17 previous innings at home in the series. It saved them from scoring no more than one run in consecutive home contests for only the second time in 2018 (Aug. 15-16 vs. Tampa Bay).
Still, Sanchez's drive falling short left the Yankees without a home run in back-to-back home games for the second time this year. New York, which set an MLB record with 267 big flies, last went homerless twice in a row in the Bronx from April 7-8 against the Orioles, to end the first homestand of 2018.
7. Kimbrel successfully walked a tightrope Including the postseason, this was Kimbrel's 336th career save. It was only the second of those in which he allowed multiple runs (Aug. 28, 2017, at Toronto). It was the first in which he allowed four batters to reach base safely. The last pitcher to allow two runs in a postseason save was Cleveland's Michael Jackson against Boston in Game 3 of the 1998 ALDS. Only two pitchers had surrendered four baserunners in a one-inning postseason save: the Tigers' Todd Jones in Game 2 of the 2006 World Series, and the Marlins' Ugueth Urbina in Game 4 of the 2003 NLDS.
"It got a little exciting there at the end," Kimbrel said. "We got [a three-run lead], and the goal is to come off the field with a win, and we were able to do it."