BOSTON (AP) — 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 rivals 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.
“It’s a five-game series, and getting them to use the bullpen is a good thing,” Judge said. “We were able to scratch a couple of runs off them. We’ve got to build off that coming into tomorrow.”
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.
New York, which won 100 regular-season games plus the AL wild-card game against Oakland, got three singles and two walks in the sixth, scoring two before Brandon Workman — the only player on the Red Sox roster with a World Series ring — struck out Gleyber Torres to end the threat.
The Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh but scored just one run. Boston manager Alex Cora used scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello to get two outs in the eighth before turning to Kimbrel for a four-out save.
“We almost caught them,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought we did a really good job of pecking away, a good job of giving ourselves opportunities, and just ran out of time there.”
It was the first ALDS matchup between the clubs and the first in the postseason since the Red Sox staged an unprecedented rally from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 AL Championship Series to advance and then won the World Series to end their 86-year dynasty of disappointment. (They also met in the ALCS the year before, and it ended with Boone’s 11th-inning homer in Game 7, better known in Boston as the game when manager Grady Little inexplicably left a tiring Pedro Martinez on the mound.)
Boston fans were ready, with derisive chants for the Yankees during introductions and again after J.D. Martinez smacked a 2-0 fastball into the glove of a stem cell researcher in the front row of the seats above the Green Monster.
“Everything you did before in the season doesn’t matter anymore. This is the playoffs,” said Martinez, who signed with Boston as a free agent in the offseason. “You know what the situation is. You’re playing the Yankees. This is the playoffs. You have to go. And now is the time to get it going.”
Sale left with a 5-0 lead after giving up singles to Judge and Stanton in the sixth; both came around to score. In all, Sale was charged with two runs on five hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings — the longest playoff outing for a Red Sox starter since 2013.
Martinez and Benintendi each had two hits for Boston. Judge had three hits, including the only extra-base hit, and Luke Voit had two singles for New York, which went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Happ lasted just two innings for his shortest postseason start, allowing five runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two.
The Yankees had 10 hits, but the first nine were singles. Stanton, who hit 38 homers in the regular season, had four of the Yankees’ 13 strikeouts.
“Sometimes you know that goes with Giancarlo sometimes,” Boone said. “If you make pitches against him, his outs are a lot of times strikeouts. … You have to live with that sometimes.”
Ryan Brasier faced three batters and two of them reached. Workman got a big out but also allowed two hits and a walk. Matt Barnes walked one but allowed an inherited runner to score. Even the usually reliable Kimbrel coughed up a run.
Just like that, the 5-0 lead was down to one run.
It was exactly the kind of performance that had Boston fans in a panic entering the series. But Workman insisted the team is still confident in its bullpen.
“I believe we’re the guys that are going to get the job done,” he said.
Aaron Hicks singled off Sale to start the fourth — ending an 11-pitch at-bat — but once he got to first base he began flexing his right leg. After a visit from the trainer, Hicks was replaced by pinch-runner Brett Gardner.
Hicks, who battled hamstring problems down the stretch, was also late going out to center field in the bottom of the first. The team said he had tightness in his right hamstring and was being evaluated.
“He’ll get examined further tomorrow, and have an MRI and everything,” Boone said. “He felt like it might have been cramping, so we’ll just have to see.”
Price pitches for the Red Sox in search of his first playoff win as a starter, though he has two postseason wins in relief. Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings in Game 5 of the ALCS against Houston last year.
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