Improbable split has Red Sox flying high

July 11th, 2022

BOSTON -- As far as series splits go, they don’t get any more satisfying than the one the Red Sox pulled off on rivalry weekend.

Consider the way it started, with the Yankees tagging Boston’s injury-depleted starting rotation with losses on Thursday and Friday.

Consider the way it ended, with the Red Sox roaring back with two straight comebacks, capped by rallying from an early four-run deficit and turning the tables to down the 61-25 Yankees, 11-6, on Sunday Night Baseball at Fenway Park.

“I don’t think anyone would have bet that we would have split it after the first two,” said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. “They’d definitely be lying, especially after the first two games. We’re definitely happy with a split, especially by the way the first two games went. It felt like it got out of hand quick.”

If you remember, things had gotten so challenging for the Red Sox by late Friday night that outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. had to make his first career pitching appearance in a 12-5 loss.

That was the same night the Red Sox lost Rafael Devers and his huge bat in the middle of the series due to back woes. He sat the rest of the weekend and the Boston bats rallied for two straight impressive wins without him.

“With the guys we have on the injured list, and the at-bats we put together today, the defensive plays we made, it was an all-around team positive coming out of this series two versus two,” said Red Sox righty Nick Pivetta. “I think that’s extraordinary.”

In fact, Pivetta’s teammates lifted him up after he was shelled for six runs over the first three innings to put his team in a 6-2 hole.

“It was really, really fun to watch and I loved every part of it,” Pivetta said.

After going 0-8 in their first eight series against American League East teams, it was satisfying for the 47-39 Red Sox to finally split one, especially against the wagon known as the 2022 Yankees.

“I've been saying all along we have a good team but it has to keep working to get better,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We play in a tough division. We’ve been getting beat in the division. We know that. But we feel like we can play with anybody.”

Though the Red Sox, barring a miracle, aren’t going to make up the 14-game deficit they have with the Yankees in the division, these two wins were important for psychological reasons.

The teams will meet 12 more times this season, and the possibility exists they will face off in October.

You could feel the way the momentum changed in the series just by listening to the surge of the crowd (37,291 in the finale) as the Red Sox scored nine unanswered runs from the third inning to the seventh.

When J.D. Martinez smashed an equalizing, two-run shot to right to tie it at 6 in the fifth, Fenway got about as loud as it can get in July.

“It’s fun,” said Cora. “The last two nights, it was loud, they were intense. When you get in at 1 [for a 7 p.m. game] and there’s a lot of people outside [the park], it means a lot. It’s like, ‘Yeah, be ready, it should be a fun night.’”

And it was. Particularly for Martinez, who ended his home run drought at 25 games and 103 plate appearances. Considering the absence of Devers, Martinez’s timing was spot on.

“He’s a complete hitter,” said Cora. “Like I said before, they go through [tough] stretches. One thing about him, he’s going to keep working on his craft. For him to drive the ball to right-center, that’s a good sign.”

If Martinez’s mash was the signature moment, Trevor Story’s bases-clearing double high off the wall in center in the seventh was the hit that put it away.

Before Story's big hit, Christian Vázquez, subbing in the No. 2 spot for Devers, helped chip away at that deficit with a solo shot over the Monster in the third and an RBI double off the Monster in the fifth that made it a two-run game and set up Martinez.

“Everyone did their job, for the most part,” said Bogaerts.

After the game, the Sox took a happy flight to St. Petersburg as they prepared for the final road trip before the All-Star break. First, they have four against the Rays at Tropicana Field. And then three at Yankee Stadium. This, with what should be a healthier roster.

Chris Sale makes his season debut on Tuesday night. Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Whitlock could be back from their IL stints by the weekend.

“Nothing changes for us,” said Cora. “We’ve just got to keep playing and getting better.”

After a satisfying split, things suddenly look a little better for the Red Sox.