BOSTON — A wobbly 5-4 win for the Red Sox over the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday night offered a new slogan for the Boston bullpen: not pretty, but good enough.
After Chris Sale lasted 5 1⁄3 innings, leaving with a couple of runners on base but no runs scored, manager Alex Cora called on five relievers to piece together the final 3 2⁄3. They answered — for at least a day — the largest question surrounding the 108-win Red Sox coming into the playoffs: Can the bullpen lock it down in the late innings?
The five relievers, including scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello, collectively allowed Sale’s two runners to score and gave up two more runs, along with five hits and three walks, as the lead dwindled to one. Despite allowing a home run by Aaron Judge in the ninth, Craig Kimbrel came through with a four-out save to end it.
“That’s what matters the most: We ended up with a victory,” Matt Barnes said. “Sale threw the ball great, and we got through it. When it comes down to October, wins are wins and it doesn’t matter how you get them.”
First came Ryan Brasier, a 31-year-old rookie, for an out. Then Brandon Workman for an out. Then Barnes for three outs, but only after Workman allowed the first two batters of the seventh to reach. Then Porcello for two outs. Then Kimbrel for the final four.
Judge made it 5-4 with a homer to right in the ninth, but Kimbrel struck out Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit to end it.
Cora, who before the game talked about learning last year as Astros bench coach how to be flexible with relievers, said, “We knew where we were going.” But using Porcello was plan “C and a half probably.”
Porcello, who threw 20 to 25 pitches in a bullpen session before the game, was going through the motions during batting practice Friday when Cora approached with a request.
“He asked me to go down to the pen and said he was going to try not to use me, but be ready to go. I said OK,” Porcello said. “He called down in the eighth and said I was in the game. I was definitely a little surprised, but excited for that opportunity.”
For Barnes — who threw a wild pitch and walked his first batter, Gardner, to load the bases before settling in to strike out Stanton — the experience was “surreal,” he said. The last time the Red Sox and Yankees played in the playoffs, on Oct. 20, 2004, in Game 7 of the ALCS, Barnes was among the 56,000-plus at Yankee Stadium, a kid from Connecticut who snagged tickets and went with his family.
(Did a 14-year-old Barnes participate in the “Who’s your Daddy?” chant at Pedro Martinez when Martinez entered for the seventh? “I plead the fifth,” Barnes said with a laugh.)
“I had always wanted to play baseball, and my dream was always to play in the big leagues,” he said. “To be on a team that’s this special, to play in a postseason series against the Yankees at Fenway Park, is surreal. It’s awesome, and it’s a lot of fun.”
The Red Sox will try to do it all again Saturday night. “All hands on deck. Win at all costs,” Barnes said. “You have to win 11 to win the World Series. You win Game 1 and move on and try to win Game 2.”