Christian Vazquez

Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

Red Sox eliminate Yankees to move on to ALCS vs. defending champion Astros

John Tomase
October 09, 2018 - 10:37 pm

The Yankees won 100 games and in almost any other year would've coasted to homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. But not this year.

This year belongs to the Red Sox.

Boston didn't win 108 games to lose in the Division Series, and it definitely didn't win 108 and the American League East to lose to the Yankees.

On Tuesday night, the Red Sox took care of business with their second straight win in New York, claiming the series in four games and setting up a meeting in the American League Championship Series with the Astros, who are flying high and ready to defend their World Series title after sweeping the Indians.

There will be lots of time to discuss Houston between now and Saturday's Game 1, however. First the Red Sox needed to eliminate the Yankees, and they dispatched their longtime rivals with a 4-3 victory that seemed in control until closer Craig Kimbrel couldn't find the plate in the ninth.

The Red Sox were just a little better than the Yankees all year, a trend that continued in this series. The Red Sox won the division by eight games and the season series 10-9. They absorbed every blow the Yankees landed all year, including New York's 6-2 victory in Game 2 that sent the series back to the Bronx with a chance for the Yankees to clinch at home.

Instead, they watched the Red Sox celebrate after a 16-1 beatdown in Game 3 followed by a strong outing from Rick Porcello and enough offense to withstand a wild ninth from Kimbrel, who made things dicey in the ninth by loading the bases and allowing a pair of runs before retiring Gleyber Torres on a bang-bang grounder to third that was upheld on replay to end it.

The victory fit the selfless profile of so many that came before it. Manager Alex Cora opened himself to criticism by benching Game 3 hero Brock Holt, who had just hit for the first postseason cycle in history. But Holt's replacement, veteran Ian Kinsler, responded with an RBI double and run scored during the three-run third that won the game.

The Red Sox also received an unlikely homer from catcher Christian Vazquez, who snuck one out the other way to right field. The unheralded Steve Pearce, acquired in July to provide right-handed thump, delivered two hits and a run. Third baseman Eduardo Nunez recorded a pair of hits and an RBI himself.

Even the maligned Red Sox bullpen did its part, with Matt Barnes mowing down the heart of the order in the sixth before Ryan Brasier, Chris Sale and Kimbrel handled the final nine outs.

That's right, Chris Sale. The ace and potential Game 5 starter instead entered in relief and delivereda  1-2-3 frame.

Porcello put them in the position to win with five innings of one-run ball. He allowed four hits and kept the Yankees in the biggest parts of the park.

The challenge ahead is considerably more perilous, however. The Astros are the most complete team in baseball and their offense is once again rolling. The defending champs just swept the Indians and are itching for some national exposure, as star third baseman Alex Bregman made clear after beating the Indians in Game 3, wondering if Tiger Woods would be asked to tee off before noon or Floyd Mayweather to fight on an undercard.

Game times have already been released, and Red Sox-Astros will air in primetime on Saturday and Sunday from Boston.

The Yankees have been vanquished, and now it's on to the Astros.