Sunday's game was marked by inning after inning of offensive futility, an incredibly shaky Ryan Dempster, and a bullpen that just couldn't hold the lead. And, in the end, by a 5-4 Red Sox walkoff victory.
After the first two innings, it looked like the Red Sox might be gearing up for a legitimate blowout victory. Ryan Dempster, who retired the first eight batters he faced, was locked in, mowing through Toronto's lineup in very short order. Meanwhile, the Red Sox had put together a solid rally in the bottom of the second against Mark Buehrle, with Ryan Lavarnway following up a pair of leadoff singles with a pop-up to right that fell perfectly between three fielders and into the stands for a ground rule double. Brandon Snyder would follow with a more resounding double in his first start for the Red Sox, and while the Sox didn't do a great job of maximizing their returns, they still entered the third ahead 3-0.
The promise offered by that inning would ultimately fall flat. After a third-inning with a few warning flags, Dempster allowed three singles and a walk before recording the second out in the fourth, allowing the Jays to pull within a run. The Sox would strike again off Buehrle in the fifth, with Jonny Gomes doubling Jacoby Ellsbury home to make it 4-2, but on the whole were held surprisingly silent for how much damage they threatened in the second.
If Dempster had struggled to get through the fifth, the sixth nearly proved a total disaster. Starting the inning with a four-pitch walk to backup catcher Josh Thole (in the game at first base for Adam Lind, who left with a back issue), Dempster proceeded to allow two hits on three pitches, loading the bases for J.P. Arencibia without an out on the board. If the Sox were still ahead, it seemed certain they would lose that lead in short order.
Except it didn't happen. Dempster won a 7-pitch battle with J.P. Arencibia, getting the catcher to pop out to Jose Iglesias, and then Craig Breslow got Maicer Izturis to do the same thing. Breslow then started off Emilio Bonifacio with two balls running away off the plate, but fought back to strike him out on the fifth pitch. Just like that, the inning was over, no harm done.
Unfortunately, Breslow would not enjoy the same success in the fifth, immediately surrendering a leadoff Monster shot to Jose Reyes. Alex Wilson and Andrew Miller got through the rest of the inning, however, and some good glove work by both Miller himself and Brandon Snyder got the Sox into the ninth needing just three outs from Koji Uehara.
As good of a pitcher as Koji is, though, he is not perfect. And whether because of his recent heavy workload, or just because he throws a splitter and sometimes those don't split, today would be an imperfect day. Shane Victorino gave him some help with turning Jose Reyes into the first out of the inning, covering tons of ground and making a spectacular sliding grab on a sinking line drive in dangerous territory. Jose Bautista, however, gave the defense no chance to deny him, launching a solo shot over the Monster to make it a 4-4 tie.
The Sox still had one chance left, though, before they had to turn to the final two members of their bullpen: an overused Junichi Tazawa, and the moribund Andrew Bailey. Thankfully, they took it. While Jose Iglesias couldn't give the Sox a leadoff baserunner, Brandon Snyder came through for the second time of the night, singling to right. Jacoby Ellsbury drew a five-pitch walk behind him (if ball four was questionable indeed), bringing Shane Victorino to the plate with two on, inlcuding a none-too-slow pinch-running Jonathan Diaz at second.
It happens often enough in baseball that someone will make a big defensive play in one inning and then pick up a big hit if they come up to bat in the next frame. Shane Victorino is not the best example of that today. With closer Casey Janssen in the game for Juan Perez, Victorino fell behind 0-1, then bounced a ground ball to first. It could've been a double play, though Victorino certainly had a chance of beating it out. But he never had to. Josh Thole, playing out of his natural position, just...whiffed on it. The ball went through the ol' wickets, into right field, and that was all she wrote.
The Red Sox can't rely on the other team making game-ending errors. They can't keep letting early offense die out as they have in recent games. But that's not the sort of thing that tends to linger, whereas that extra W in the standings is certainly not going anywhere.
Read more Red Sox:
- The Celtics, the Red Sox, and two franchise-saving trades
- John Lackey finally living up to his contract
- MLB All-Star Game 2013: Two Red Sox prospects named to Futures Game
- Farrell: Red Sox "better team" with Jose Iglesias at third base
- The Kevin Youkilis trade, one year later