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Yankees 8, Red Sox 1: A maddening night at Yankee Stadium

Rob Bradford
June 29, 2018 - 9:51 pm

NEW YORK -- The largest source of frustration for the Red Sox Friday night? Take your pick.

A case could be made for what they weren't able to do against CC Sabathia, a pitcher who is three weeks shy of his 38th birthday yet still manages to befuddle his team's rival at almost every turn. This time Sabathia allowed the Red Sox an average exit velocity of a meager 86.4 mph, while limiting Alex Cora's team to a single run over seven innings. (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' 8-1 loss to the Yankees, click here.)

Yes, the big lefty might have hit a bit of a bump in the road in his dominance over the Red Sox the last time the two met -- giving up four runs over four innings -- but this was along the same lines of what he had done his previous five showdowns with the Sox, in which Sabathia had allowed a total of four runs. A bunch of cutters and sliders, mixed in with some sinkers, and there you had it. 

Sabathia is 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in six starts against the Red Sox since the beginning of 2017, having allowed one or zero runs in seven of his last 11 starts against the Sox.

The Yankees might not have a legitimate No. 2 starter, but when it comes to playing Boston it doesn't really matter. They have Sabathia.

"He’s just able to outsmart you pretty much," Mookie Betts said of Sabathia. "He gets you out different ways. You can’t just sit on one thing because he mixes it up so much. He’s confident in everything he throws. There’s not a whole lot you can do when he’s moving the ball around the zone and keeping it out of the middle."

There is also the Red Sox' continued futility in Yankee Stadium, a place the Sox have scored two or fewer runs in seven times over the past two seasons

Those, however, would have to take second- and third-place on the frustration power-rankings this time around. The winner? Eduardo Rodriguez.

To be clear, Rodriguez has been a whole lot more good than bad this season, with his team winning 13 of his 15 starts coming into Friday night. And the last time the lefty faced off with these Yankees in their home park, he allowed just one hit over five innings. All of it is why this sort of thing can be so frustrating.

The Red Sox needed Rodriguez to set the tone in this three-game set, but instead, he duplicated the struggles of his last start in which he allowed five runs over four innings in a loss to the Mariners. What was somewhat bizarre was the lefty's decision not to throw his changeup (just 7 of them) or slider (one). It was by far the fewest times he had thrown his changeup in recent memory, with the pitch having accounted for 18.8 percent of his offerings this season.

"We were talking about it. I can recall one bad swing at the changeup, and it was in the sixth inning. Go back, take a look at it," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Nowadays, and we’ve been talking about this the last week, it doesn’t matter if you throw 97, 98 (mph), if you don’t mix it up, hitters are going to catch up with the fastball. We’ll watch that one together tomorrow and see what’s happened."

In fairness, it was a similar strategy to what Rodriguez implemented during his last Yankee Stadium outing, where he threw just eight changeups and a single slider. This time, however, New York was ready.

And really the lefty's downfall was a result of a horrific, four-run fourth inning by the Yankees (keyed by back-to-back homers from Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird), with Rodriguez going on to give the Sox six innings. But when it comes to games of this kind of importance, such innings, and outings, aren't going to cut it.

"It’s just something I just missed a couple pitches in the strike zone and they made an adjustment and hit the ball out of the park," Rodriguez said, downplaying pitch selection being part of the problem. "You have to turn the page and go on to the next game."

Steve Pearce notched hits in his first two at-bats as a member of the Red Sox.