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|Chris Sale got an earful from the biggest crowd at Yankee Stadium this season while walking from the bullpen to the bench prior to the first pitch. The Red Sox ace said he didn’t hear the boos and insults.
By the second inning Mason Crosby Jersey , the catcalls weren’t for him, anyway.
Sale pitched his latest Bronx gem, Rafael Devers went 5 for 5 with a first-inning grand slam and Boston held New York to two hits during an 11-0 rout Saturday night to take back baseball’s best record.
Sale (8-4) allowed only Giancarlo Stanton’s clean single over seven innings, striking out 11. He has a 1.73 career ERA against the Yankees, best among pitchers with at least 10 starts against them since 1920. His ERA at Yankee Stadium is 1.86, second only to Seattle’s Felix Hernandez among pitchers with five starts.
”He looks like the best pitcher in the big leagues right now,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Boston is a major league-leading 56-28, just ahead of the Yankees at 53-27. New York held the best mark by percentage points after winning Friday’s series opener 8-1.
Yankee Stadium hosted a season-high sellout of 47,125, and the crowd ripped into starter Sonny Gray (5-6) after he gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings. The right-hander dropped to 0-4 with a 9.35 ERA against Boston since being acquired by New York from Oakland last season.
”I expect to come out and perform and make it fun,” Gray said. ”The way I’ve thrown the ball, I don’t think it’s been fun. I feel like we’re the best team in baseball four out of five days, and then I come out and do that.”
Devers had a career-best five hits. He nearly socked another homer in the seventh, but right fielder Aaron Judge reached over the wall and knocked Devers’ shot back into play with his glove. Devers ended up with a double following a video review.
Since June 5, the 21-year-old Devers has raised his OPS from .675 to .741.
”We take it for granted because he’s talented and did what he did last year, but he’s still a kid,” Cora said, adding that Devers has been working hard with Boston’s staff to shore up the holes left in his game from racing through the minor leagues. ”He’s staying with the program.”
Sandy Leon brought in Devers with a two-run homer into the second deck in right field. J.D. Martinez had three hits and three RBIs, and Mookie Betts added two hits and two walks as Boston piled up 17 hits.
Heath Hembree and Hector Velazquez closed it out with a hitless inning each. Velazquez gave up a groundball single to Gleyber Torres in the ninth for New York’s second hit.
New York had won seven consecutive games against left-handed starters and was a major league-best 19-5 against them this season, but Sale had them spinning. The Yankees hit just four balls out of the infield against Sale, and he retired his final 16 batters.
”Got punched in the face last night C.J. Uzomah Jersey , so you obviously want to respond well,” Sale said.
Judge struck out three times against the lefty in three at-bats, giving him 13 punchouts in 18 career at-bats against Sale. That’s the most strikeouts for Judge against any pitcher.
Torres also struck out three times against Sale during his first career start in the leadoff spot. This was the fourth time New York was shut out this season, all in the past 18 games.
Gray quickly disposed of Betts and Andrew Benintendi to open the game, but a well-placed grounder by Martinez sparked a big first inning. After Martinez’s infield single, Mitch Moreland’s walk and Xander Bogaerts‘ single, Gray floated a waist-high 1-2 curveball that Devers lofted just over the left-field wall. It was Devers’ second career slam – both this season – and his 14th homer of the year.
Benintendi and Martinez each added an RBI in the second, and Yankee Stadium fans jeered loudly as Gray walked off in the third.
Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. caught Aaron Hicks’ drive in the third while leaping and slamming into the wall in front of New York’s bullpen.
Red Sox: Boston reliever Tyler Thornburg pitched two innings for Double-A Portland on Friday and a clean inning Saturday with Triple-A Pawtucket, perhaps a final hurdle for the right-hander before he returns to the majors following surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last June.
Yankees: Hicks was visited by a trainer after being hit by a pitch on his right foot or ankle in the first inning. He remained in the game. … C Austin Romine was pulled in the seventh inning and sent for a precautionary MRI with left hamstring tightness. Results were negative, and he is day to day.
After the game, the Yankees optioned RHP Giovanny Gallegos to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Boston LHP David Price (9-5, 3.66 ERA) and Yankees ace Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10) square off in prime time Sunday. Price is 7-1 with a 2.72 ERA in nine starts since being diagnosed with a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome that caused him to miss a turn against the Yankees in early May. Severino had his worst start this season vs. Boston on April 10, allowing five runs in five innings, but then matched a season high with 11 strikeouts in a strong outing against the Red Sox on May 8.
Four of the five teams that gave up the fewest points during the regular season are the last four left with a shot at the Super Bowl, something that had never happened since the NFL-AFL merger nearly a half-century ago.
And three of the four toughest to gain yards against are still around, too.
Still think that all a team needs to succeed in the modern game is an elite QB? Go ahead and take a close look at Sunday’s matchups for the conference championship games.
Sure, Tom Brady (assuming his injured right hand is good to go) and the New England Patriots will be playing for the AFC title, just like they always do, but they’ll be going up against Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles will send Nick Foles out to face the Minnesota Vikings and Case Keenum Vincent Rey Jersey , hardly a marquee matchup between quarterbacks, and one set up by injuries to other signal-callers.
What this quartet of teams does have in common is solid defense, showing once again that while everyone is paying so much attention to one side of the ball, it’s the other that might truly matter the most. The more league rules and officiating tend to favor offenses, the more figuring out ways to slow that down is imperative.
”When you have a defense that can shut that type of firepower down,” said Brian Robison, a linebacker on the Vikings defense that ranked No. 1 in yards and points allowed, ”it allows you to win ballgames.”
Minnesota gave up 15.8 points per game. Jacksonville was No. 2 at 16.8, followed by No. 4 Philadelphia’s 18.4 and No. 5 New England’s 18.5.
”There’s teams that have really good defenses that aren’t talked about,” Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. ”We’re one of them.”
It’s the first time since the 1970 merger there has been that sort of defensive dominance among the NFL’s final four. The closest was at the end of the 2010 season, when teams that ranked No. 1 (Steelers), No. 2 (Packers), No. 4 (Bears) and No. 6 (Jets) in points allowed reached the conference title games.
”The most heralded guys on the field are the quarterbacks. So I would say, nine times out of 10, your detail goes into your offensive planning and things like that,” said Jacksonville’s leading tackler, Telvin Smith, who returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown last weekend. ”Offense sells tickets, and defense wins championships. I’m happy I’m on the defensive side.”
He is part of a young, talented and speedy D that rose to prominence quickly via a combination of shrewd drafting (linebackers Smith and Myles Jack, defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. Authentic Albert Wilson Jersey , cornerback Jalen Ramsey) and free-agent signings that panned out (defensive lineman Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson).
Take a look at the rankings in various regular-season categories related to defense, and you can’t miss the Jaguars. That helps explain how they made it this far with Bortles, whose 84.7 rating ranked 22nd among QBs with at least 100 pass attempts and whose 13 interceptions were exceeded by only six players.
Campbell tied for second in NFL with 14.5 sacks, while Ngakoue added 12 and led the league by forcing six fumbles. Bouye tied for third with six interceptions, while Ramsey, Gipson and Church each had four. As a unit, the Jaguars were No. 2 in yards allowed at 286.1, trailing the No. 1 Vikings (275.9), with the Eagles (306.5) at No. 4. The Jaguars were also second in sacks and total takeaways, while they topped the NFL with seven defensive TDs.
Exceptional defense can carry a team far: In nine of the last 10 seasons, the No. 1 or No. 2 team in points allowed participated in a conference championship game. The exception was 2015, when the Seahawks led the league in that category but lost in the divisional round, and the Bengals ranked second but lost in the wild-card round.
”Now it’s down to, `May the best defense win,”’ Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said. ”We each get to showcase what we can do.”
AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Kyle Hightower in Foxborough, Massachusetts; Mark Long in Jacksonville, Florida; and Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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