Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: Early sloppiness undermines late comeback

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The Red Sox staged a dramatic ninth-inning comeback, but thanks to early sloppiness only managed to force extra innings, where Rajai Davis killed the Sox again.

The Red Sox came so very close to another dramatic win, but after Mike Napoli completed a ninth-inning comeback, the Jays managed to walk off in the tenth.

But, had it not been for their sloppy play earlier in the game, the Red Sox may have never seen extras at all. Because somehow, for those first, oh, seven frames of baseball, the Houston Astros showed up to play.

The most egregious, obvious bit of ineptitude came in the third inning. You might be familiar with this particular gif:

Astros_medium_medium

Well, it wasn't quite so...artistic, but the Red Sox provided their own interpretation in the third inning. With two outs on the board, Rajai Davis--who else?--knocked a comebacker at Jon Lester, who clipped the pitch with his heel, knocking it towards first. Lester recovered, went to make the flip to Napoli, and threw the ball right past him into foul territory. It would get far enough away that Shane Victorino would be the one to come up with it, firing a bullet in the general direction of third that a diving Davis basically fell on, knocking the ball into the other side of foul territory and allowing Toronto's Sox-killing center fielder to scurry home.

The defense for the Red Sox certainly wouldn't get worse, but they hardly made up for that third-inning disaster. While the other two runs scored off of Jon Lester would technically come off of hits, both of them probably could've been caught. The first was a Mark DeRosa double, the result of a flare that got over a leaping Mike Napoli. Only it looked like Napoli misjudged the ball, and his miss was more lateral than vertical. Not an easy play, but one that could have been made.

The other RBI hit was somewhat more convincing--a double to the warning track from J.P. Arencibia that Jonny Gomes drifted tentatively back on before letting it fall in front of the wall. Difficult in a different way from Napoli's play, but probably one that should be caught all-the-same.

Still, if the defense was letting Lester down--his own included--he kind of deserved it. The Jays were lacing line drives all over the place all night, so any ill fortune in one department was made up for--perhaps more than made up for--by fortunate placement in the other. It was not his best night, on the whole.

Somehow, though, despite the Red Sox again being shut down by Esmil Rogers, save a David Ortiz solo shot, they still managed to force extra innings. And it was the unlikeliest of players that got the job done. After a start to the ninth which had seen David Ortiz attempt to bunt his way on (unsuccessfully), Mike Napoli came to the plate with Jonny Gomes on first base and two outs. To his credit, Napoli had been showing signs. He'd lined out to a leaping Munenori Kawasaki in one at bat, and had yet to strike out. Still, when Brett Cecil provided him a 93 MPH offering up in the zone, it came as a surprise to everyone that Napoli's swing came on time, and carried quite the punch, enough to send it over the wall in right field, tying the game at three-a-side.

The reprieve for the Red Sox was brief. Brandon Workman had done very good work in relief, getting them through the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings with a curveball that was all sorts of on. But, with his pitch count rising in the ninth (starter-turned-reliever or not), the pitch stopped biting quite so consistently. And with Rajai Davis at bat, well, Red Sox fans could see it coming. A 1-2 hanger was deposited in left field, With Davis motoring into second ahead of a throw from Ellsbury, and that may as well have been all she wrote. The Blue Jays ended up taking a more conventional path to the win than, say, a walk-off steal of home, but the groundout to move Davis to third and infield single off of Stephen Drew's glove--he had to dive to try to make the grab in the air, since Davis would score otherwise--was effective all the same.

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