USA Today Sports

Two hints Yankees might be in trouble Monday night

Rob Bradford
October 09, 2018 - 9:26 am

NEW YORK -- They will show up in the box score as two innocuous first-inning outs.

They also were two at-bats that set the tone for a 16-1 Red Sox win in Monday night's Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

The initial instance came on the first pitch of the game. It came when Yankees starter Luis Severino reared back and fired a 95 mph fastball right down the middle of the plate to Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox' leadoff hitter duplicated what he had done on the first pitch of the season, hitting the offering 405 feet at 104 mph off the bat. (The one against Tampa Bay's Chris Archer was 408 feet at 104.5 mph.) It went for an out. No matter.

Betts' fly out kicked off a trend of hard-hit balls against Severino, something the Red Sox really couldn't claim many of throughout the first two games of the series.

"I think from Pitch 1, we let them know that we were here although it was a fly ball to center field, but it was a different approach by the fielder," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "He hasn't swung at the first pitch in a while, and he crushed that ball. It didn't go out, but it kind of let them know like, 'Hey, we're here. We're going to be fine.' It was a great game."

Then came the bottom of the first inning. That's where the Red Sox found another opportunity to stake their claim.

With the Red Sox having claimed a 1-0 lead in the first inning, up came Aaron Judge with one out in the bottom of the frame. As tests go, this was a good one for Red Sox' starter Nathan Eovaldi.

The Sox pitcher went to a 2-2 count on the Yankees slugger before coming at him with an impressive array of offerings. Two cutters, a 100 mph fastball and then another cutter resulted in four straight foul balls. Then Eovaldi mustered his hardest pitch of the night, a 101 mph heater that Judge placed into the glove of Betts in right field.

For the first time perhaps in the series it appeared as though Judge was the one being put on the defensive. And when it comes to how the Yankees operate, that's a big thing.

"I’m wondering, there’s a lot of things I’m wondering – multiple signs, what are we doing? He had good swings. He battled," said Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie of the at-bat. "But, in a sense, he battled like he was swinging in protect mode. He didn’t know what to look for, what to sit on. We won that at-bat and it carried through the rest of the game, which was really important. He battled really good, but he wasn’t swinging for homers. He was swinging in protect mode."