The Boston Red Sox were able to fend off the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game and ended up prevailing 6-2 on Tuesday.
With the win, Boston advances to the Division Series in the AL, and will now face the Tampa Bay Rays, who won the division.
It was a collective effort by Boston, one that included excellent pitching performances and several offensive stars showing up in the box score.
Two players, however, stood out above the rest and lifted Boston to the victory.
2. Xander Bogaerts
The Red Sox had several offensive contributors on a night in which they were facing perhaps the AL’s top pitcher in Gerrit Cole and a very talented group of relievers.
But the biggest hit of the night, the one that set the tone for the rest of the evening, came from the bat of Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts’ two-run home run in the first inning with two outs signaled that Boston wasn’t going to go away quietly against their favored rivals.
Starting the game with a 2-0 advantage in the first inning of a win-or-go-home game is huge.
The blast also brought the crowd into the game, because it evidently went crazy.
Besides the early home run, Bogaerts took two walks, which means he was on base on three of his four plate appearances.
Of course, he also authored the amazing relay throw to home to get Aaron Judge out in a crucial moment.
"I'm actually more proud of that [the relay throw] than the homer…" – Xander Bogaerts
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 6, 2021
In total, he went 1-for-2 with a home run, two runs scored, two RBI, two walks, and a strikeout.
Offensively, he was the performer of the night for Boston.
1. Nathan Eovaldi
On the pitching side of things, the Red Sox had a clear hero: Nathan Eovaldi.
The talented right-hander, with a history with the Yankees (he played in New York at one point in his career), shut down the Bombers during 5.1 innings.
He looked completely dominant, allowing just a run on an Anthony Rizzo homer in the sixth inning.
In total, he conceded a single run on four hits, and walked no one.
He was in complete control, striking out eight Yankees hitters, mastering the fastball up in the zone.
Nate Eovaldi is DEALING tonight! ♠️♥️♣️♦️
He's got seven strikeouts through five innings as the Red Sox lead the Yankees, 3-0.
— TwinSpires Sportsbook 💵 (@TS_Sportsbook) October 6, 2021
He continually pumped 99-mph heaters up in the letters, and the Yankees had no answer for Eovaldi until the sixth frame, when Rizzo homered.
After a Judge single, manager Alex Cora decided he didn’t want to risk the Yankees’ hitters figuring Eovaldi out and applied a quick hook even though he was at 71 pitches, with plenty of gas left in theory.
The decision went well in the results, and it was the right call, but the Red Sox did had to go through a scare when Giancarlo Stanton hammered a ball on the Green Monster, but Judge was called out at home on the throw made by Bogaerts.
Either way, it was a masterful performance by Eovaldi, who continually went ahead in the count and finished hitters effectively.