NEW YORK — Prior to Thursday night, the week had not gone well at all for the Red Sox.
David Price’s issues aside, the team wasn’t getting it done on the field.
After dropping the first two games of the series against the Yankees, the Red Sox found themselves not atop the AL East standings for the first time since March 31. With the way the team lost both games, particularly Wednesday’s bullpen collapse, it didn’t make matters any better.
Imagine if the Red Sox had lost Thursday to get swept by the Yankees to fall to a full two games back in the division, especially with the bullpen blowing a 4-0 lead in the series finale. Add in the fact how much scrutiny Price is facing following the week that he’s had, it would have undoubtedly been the most scrutiny the team had faced all year — and that hasn’t been much.
But, thanks to one J.D. Martinez swing in the eighth inning, things took a turn.
With the game tied at four in the top of the eighth against Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Martinez lofted the second pitch he saw into right field. Off the bat it looked like a routine fly ball, but it kept carrying until it landed in the first row of the bleachers.
Even Martinez himself didn’t think it was gone.
“No. I hit it, and I was like blowing, praying, doing everything I can to push it over,” he said. “I knew it had a chance.”
That proved to be the game-winning hit in the Red Sox’ 5-4 win over the Yankees, which moved them back into a share of first place in the division, as they get set for a weekend series in Toronto.
“I told him before he went up – you better hit a homer right here. And he did,” Hanley Ramirez said. “That’s good. I told him to his face. We need a homer from you right here. And he went out and hit it.”
Speaking after the game, Martinez knew what a big win it was.
“Huge. Definitely huge,” he said. “I was kind of hoping that we can almost slow them down, in a sense. They’ve been hot. Just to kind of put a stop to them, and for us to at least take one here and avoid the sweep was huge.”
New York entered the contest winners of eight straight and 17 of its last 18.
Going into the series, everyone downplayed its importance, but afterwards it seemed to be a different story. The energy and excitement in the stadium for all three games made it feel like October, and not just a May series between two AL East teams.
No one could truthfully say this was just another series.
“It was a great series,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “If you think about it, a few plays here, a few walks there, we had a chance to sweep them. But we didn’t. We won a game of the series, now we go to Toronto.”
“The three games felt like the championship series last year,” Cora added. “It was as loud. They have something good going on there. We also have something good here. It’s going to be a fun rest of the year.”
Thursday had the potential to be a disaster, but with one swing, Martinez changed the whole narrative and perhaps entire direction of where the Red Sox go from here.
“We’re going to take off,” Ramirez said. “We’re going to keep winning games like we’ve been doing. It’s a long season. You’re going to have ups and downs. Our manager, man, everybody here is loose and everybody comes here every day ready to work and we do what we’ve got to do every day to win games.”