J.D. Martinez on Friday belted a three-run homer and Chris Sale struck out eight batters as the Boston Red Sox held on to beat the New York Yankees 5-4 in the opening game of the American League (AL) Division Series.
The Red Sox built an early lead, going up 3-0 in the first inning on Martinez’s home run, and 5-0 after three in front of their ecstatic fans at Fenway Park.
“I was just trying to get one down and I put a good swing on it,” Martinez said.
Sale, who last year struggled in his playoff debut against the Houston Astros, took a four-hit shutout into the sixth inning.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the sixth and seventh, cutting the deficit to 5-3.
The Bronx Bombers looked like they might mount a comeback when slugger Aaron Judge led the top of the ninth with a homer off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, cutting the lead to one.
However, Kimbrel rebounded to get the final three outs, striking out red-hot Yankees batter Luke Voit to seal the victory.
It has been 14 years since the Red Sox and Yankees last met in the post-season — in 2004, the Red Sox rallied from three games down for a stunning series triumph.
The second game of the best-of-five series was yesterday, with Boston starting left-hander David Price against the Yankees’ right-hander Masahiro Tanaka of Japan.
In other games on Friday, the defending World Series champions Houston Astros exploded for four homers to beat the Cleveland Indians 7-2 in the opening game of their AL Division Series.
Alex Bregman, George Springer and Jose Altuve all homered off Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber, while Martin Maldonado went deep off reliever Cody Allen.
The explosive offense backed up a strong outing from Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander.
“Everybody did something to help this team win today,” said Altuve, last year’s AL MVP.
Houston was to try to double their lead in the best-of-five series when they hosted Game 2 yesterday.
In National League (NL) action, the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Colorado Rockies 4-0 and the Los Angeles Dodgers cruised past the Atlanta Braves 3-0 to give both teams commanding 2-0 leads in their best-of-five series.
The Brewers moved within one game of their first NL Championship Series appearance since 2011 as Jhoulys Chacin, starting on short rest, threw five scoreless innings and the bullpen maintained the shutout.
Hernan Perez doubled in a run in the fourth inning and Milwaukee added three more runs in the eighth.
In Los Angeles, Clayton Kershaw allowed just two hits over eight innings and Manny Machado hit a two-run homer as the Dodgers beat the Braves.
Kershaw struck out three and walked none to remain unbeaten all-time against Atlanta.
Los Angeles can sweep the best-of-five series in Game 2 today in Atlanta, Georgia, while Milwaukee could do the same in Colorado.
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