BOSTON -- Steve Pearce is embracing the role of Yankees tormenter, and Red Sox Nation is loving every bit of it.Though not a lot went right for the Red Sox in Friday night's 11-6 loss to their rivals, Pearce was a bright spot, and a relevant one, considering these two
BOSTON -- Steve Pearce is embracing the role of Yankees tormenter, and Red Sox Nation is loving every bit of it.
Though not a lot went right for the Red Sox in Friday night's 11-6 loss to their rivals, Pearce was a bright spot, and a relevant one, considering these two teams could face off again in exactly one week for Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Fenway.
Pearce smashed a grand slam and added an RBI single, producing five of his team's six RBIs in the defeat.
"They're big games," said Pearce. "The crowd gets into it. Big rivalry. Both at the top of the division. They're fun games."
In the bottom of the ninth, Pearce had a chance for a second slam when he came up with the bases jacked and his team down by five against lefty Zach Britton, but he grounded out to third to end the game.
"Oh man, that would have been nice," Pearce said. "If I had a better pitch to hit on that 3-2, I would have had a shot. He's one of those guys when he's not finding the strike zone, he can still get outs because his ball moves a lot."
Pearce roped his grand slam over the Green Monster to cut an 8-0 lead in half in the sixth inning. It was Pearce's fifth home run in nine games against the Yankees since joining baseball's most storied rivalry at the end of June. In fact, it was against New York that Pearce made his debut for the Sox, going 2-for-4 with a double at Yankee Stadium.
Never was Pearce more impactful against the Yankees than on Aug. 2, when he crushed three homers to lead the Sox to a 15-7 win.
"Obviously, they have the lefties, but he's a good hitter," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Everybody gets caught up in the whole 'lefties against him' thing, but you look at his numbers, he's been putting good at-bats against righties, too. He's a guy that we feel comfortable with late in games facing relievers, right-handed relievers. I know he's been in the division his whole career. He knows everybody. He just matches up well against them."
This was a game that had no stakes for the Red Sox, who have long since wrapped up the American League East title and home field throughout the playoffs. But for the Yankees, it did have some meaning, as they wrapped up the top Wild Card spot, meaning they will host the Athletics in the Wild Card Game on Wednesday.
The winner of that game will come to Fenway Park to face the Red Sox.
And if that rivalry matchup takes place in the postseason for the first time since 2004, the Yankees' pitching staff will have more to worry about than the star quartet of Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi.
"We're ready for the challenge," said Pearce. "I know that. We'll play whoever draws our number."
There wasn't much to say for the Red Sox from a pitching standpoint in this one, as they didn't throw any of their high-leverage arms.
Christopher Johnson served as an "opener," giving up three hits and two runs. William Cuevas took the brunt of this beating, belted around for six hits and six runs in one-third of an inning.
The Yankees got home runs from Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Luke Voit. The four homers gave the Yankees 264 for the season, equaling the all-time mark set by the 1997 Mariners. That type of power serves as a reminder of what Boston's pitchers could be up against should the Yankees get past Oakland.
After not hitting a single grand slam in 2017, the Red Sox lead the Majors with 10 in 2018 -- four of them against the Yankees -- just the second season in club history they clubbed 10-plus. (The 2005 team had 11.) The only other Boston club to hit four grand slams off one opponent? The 1946 squad, which hit four against the St. Louis Browns.
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Rafael Devers is playing his best baseball of the season both at the plate and in the field down the stretch. In the sixth, he made a brilliant backhanded snare down the line and fired a bullet to first base to nail Andrew McCutchen.
"Great play at third base," said Cora. "That was good. We are very happy with the way he's playing. Reaction play, he dives, the ball comes up. He gets to his feet quick and makes a great throw. And we're very happy with the strides he's been taking with it."
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The Red Sox challenged a call in the top of the fourth, checking to see if Sanchez touched home plate on Gleyber Torres' two-run double. Torres' drive struck the Green Monster and ricocheted to center fielder Betts, who tossed to the infield. Bogaerts' relay throw arrived behind Sanchez, who scored standing up while planting his right foot on the plate. After a review, the call stood, giving New York a 4-0 lead.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (6-7, 3.88 ERA), who is trying to lock down a rotation spot for the postseason, makes the start on Saturday against the Yankees. Eovaldi has dominated his former team in his two starts since joining Boston, holding the Yankees scoreless over 14 innings. The Yankees counter with Lance Lynn (9-10, 4.80 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.