What began as a rambunctious crowd at Yankee Stadium — mockingly cheering David Price during introductions and roaring just before the first pitch — found itself transitioning through several stages of grief on Monday night.
First came anxiety, followed by despair, which gave way to disbelief and then anger and, finally, resignation.
The Boston Red Sox sent the capacity crowd into a downward spiral and headed for the exits early, clubbing Yankees starter Luis Severino and taking advantage of Manager Aaron Boone’s indecisiveness to score seven runs in the fourth inning and blast the Yankees, 16-1, to take a two-games-to-one lead in the American League division series.
Instead of seizing control of the best-of-five series after winning at Fenway Park on Saturday night, the Yankees will now trying to avoid having to watch the Red Sox, who won a franchise-record 108 games this season, celebrate on their home field for the second time in three weeks.
“Tomorrow is do or die,” Boone said.
The loss set Yankees records for most runs allowed and the largest margin of defeat in a postseason game, and set a Major League Baseball mark for the worst defeat by a home team in a playoff game. It also broke a seven-game postseason winning streak at home for the Yankees.
The Red Sox pounded 18 hits, including four by Brock Holt, who became the first player to ever hit for the cycle in a postseason game. His final hit, a two-run homer in the ninth, came off the last of six pitchers — catcher Austin Romine, who provided some comic relief.
The Yankees, who will send C. C. Sabathia to the mound on Tuesday night against Rick Porcello, can only hope that their veteran left-hander has more to offer than Severino.
“That’s the beauty of baseball – we get to wake up tomorrow and it’s a brand new day and a brand new game,” Aaron Judge said in a mostly empty and somber clubhouse. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”
The crowd had urged Severino on — chanting “Sevy, Sevy” when he was in an early jam — but he left to boos, trailing by 3-0 with the bases loaded, none out and the top of the order up in the fourth.
He gave way not to one of the Yankees’ relievers who have extricated themselves from those types of jams — David Robertson, Dellin Betances or even Jonathan Holder — but to the starter-turned-reliever Lance Lynn, who had entered in the middle of an inning just once this season.
Lynn walked Mookie Betts to score a run, then gave up a bases-clearing triple to Andrew Benintendi that left the crowd in stunned silence as it stared at the scoreboard that read: Red Sox 8, Yankees 0.
And with Nathan Eovaldi on the mound for Boston, it must have felt like 80 to the Yankees.
When the Red Sox acquired Eovaldi from Tampa Bay in late July, it was simply to bolster their rotation. But the former Yankee, who missed all of last season after receiving Tommy John surgery with the Yankees in 2016, has proved to be a tailor-made antidote for the Yankees’ upper cut swings and patient approach. Eovaldi has morphed into a strike-thrower who has learned to spot his 100-mile-per-hour fastball at the top of the strike zone and has developed a cut fastball to keep hitters off it.
In three starts and one relief appearance for the Red Sox, Eovaldi has allowed one earned run in 23 innings against the Yankees. He went seven innings on Monday, allowing five hits — all singles — while walking one and striking out five.
“I feel confident that we can make it difficult on him tonight and if we do, I feel like we’ll have some success, even if he’s having some success early,” Boone said before the game. “As long as we make him work really hard, I feel like we can get to him.”
The Yankees never got the chance.
In an effort to prod Severino out of a two-month funk, the Yankees reconfigured their rotation after he was shelled at Oakland in early September to give him more rest. In his last three starts of the regular season, Severino was afforded, six, six and five days between starts, and he began to pitch better. He had seven days’ rest heading into the wild-card playoff, when he threw four scoreless innings.
But he had only four days rest entering Monday, and it did not take long to show.
Betts ripped the first pitch of the game — a 95-mile-per hour fastball — to deep center field. Brett Gardner tracked the ball down on the warning track, but it was a sign of things to come, as the Red Sox hit one rope after another.
“It was a mess,” Severino said of the first inning.
Added first baseman Luke Voit: “It was a long inning. You’re hoping that someone can make a play and you’re always trying to make that play just to kind of get the morale back. But they can hit and tonight they showed it.”
Severino allowed seven hits, walked two, and of the nine outs he recorded three were balls that were belted to the warning track in the deepest reaches of the park.
In the opposite dugout, Boston Manager Alex Cora shook up his lineup to great effect. He benched second baseman Ian Kinsler, third baseman Eduardo Nunez and catcher Sandy Leon for Holt, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez, hoping to jolt the offense.
It could not have worked better. Devers ripped a single to right to lead off the second, stole second base, advanced to third on a groundout and put the Red Sox ahead 1-0 when Vazquez singled off the glove of Severino. Holt began and ended the fourth inning outburst, lining a single to right to start the inning and hitting a two-run triple to right to cap it. Vazquez also singled and scored in the inning.
Now, it will be Boone’s turn to adjust.
Neil Walker, who can be counted on for quality at-bats, could find his way into the lineup at third base for Miguel Andujar, which would also give Sabathia — who yields more ground balls than any Yankees pitcher — a more reliable defender.
Certain to be back in the lineup will be center fielder Aaron Hicks, who left the series opener with a tight right hamstring, and has not played since, though Boone pronounced him much improved from Saturday. “It was a much harder decision today,” said Boone, who ultimately did not want to risk losing Hicks — who has had a history of muscle pulls — for a lengthy period.
But if the Yankees play anything like they did on Monday night, Hicks — and the rest of the Yankees — will have all the time in the world to get better.