BOSTON – Chris Sale left the mound to a standing ovation and then waited along with anxious Red Sox fans while the Boston bullpen frittered away most of a five-run lead.
Bases loaded in the sixth inning. Two runs.
Bases loaded, nobody out in the seventh. The Yankees scored another.
A leadoff home run by Aaron Judge in the ninth made it a one-run game.
It was only after Craig Kimbrel struck out the last three New York batters that Sale could savor the first postseason win of his career, a 5-4 victory over Boston’s longtime rival Friday night in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
“There’s no holding back now. It’s everything on the table, everything you’ve got,” Sale said after striking out eight and taking a four-hit shutout into the sixth. “I threw every pitch tonight like he was going to take the ball out of my hand after. You have to go up there and do what you have to do to get a win.”
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Saturday night, with Boston starting another pitcher trying to overcome a history of postseason struggles: left-hander David Price is 0-8 as a starter in the playoffs. He’ll face Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka.
“Pitching here is a huge honor for a player. I think it will be even better if we can win,” Tanaka said.
While Tanaka admits that the experience of going 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA during the 2017 postseason is an advantage, he said it is not the reason he is motivated.
“I know for a fact that I can make use of that experience at some point, but I consider this year an entirely different one from last year,” Tanaka said.
In the first playoff matchup between the teams since 2004, J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer off J.A. Happ in the first. The 108-win Red Sox made it 5-0 in the third and then white-knuckled it as New York slowly chipped away after Sale left with two on and one out in the sixth.
Astros 7, Indians 2
In Houston, Alex Bregman slugged his fifth career postseason home run, and Justin Verlander delivered a strong start for the Astros, who claimed Game 1 of their American League Division Series.
Bregman was the first of four Astros to smack solo home runs, with George Springer and Jose Altuve adding back-to-back homers in the fifth inning off Indians right-hander Corey Kluber (0-1). Catcher Martin Maldonado added a leadoff homer to ignite Houston’s two-run seventh.
Verlander (1-0) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 5⅓ innings.