The Red Sox overcame an early deficit and survived a late rally to just barely beat the Blue Jays 7-6 Saturday afternoon in what can only be described as a messy game of baseball.
First and foremost, this was a game about two starting pitchers showing up with nothing. For Clay Buchholz, this resulted in immediate damage. It would be generous to say that Buchholz simply lacked control. His curveball was generally closer to pitchout territory than the strike zone, and while he was occasionally able to find the zone with a get-me-over fastball, he didn't come close to fooling the Blue Jays. Toronto would push across a run on a walk and two singles before Buchholz could record a single out, with a wild pitch and another base hit putting the Red Sox in an early 3-0 hole.
Still, Brandon Morrow had shown no signs that he was going to keep Boston off the board in the first. Of the 14 pitches he threw in the first, Morrow had three called strikes, nine called balls, and two put in play. The only thing that saved him from damage was a Mike Carp double play ball. History would repeat itself in the second, with Jonathan Herrera the one to bail out the wild Morrow after another pair of walks with a double play ball.
Finally, though, the Red Sox got the message in the third: just don't swing. At first that led to a Jackie Bradley Jr. strikeout, with Morrow getting some calls that were conspicuously not strikes in the first inning. But after a brief relapse from Dustin Pedroia, who flew out to left, the Red Sox finally let Morrow sink himself with ball after ball. First Shane Victorino walked on five pitches, then David Ortiz on six. Mike Carp did end up swinging at a couple questionable offerings, but eventually he, too, walked to first, loading the bases. Five pitches to Grady Sizemore later, and a run was in. John Gibbons had seen enough: Morrow wasn't about to throw strikes, so it was time for Chad Jenkins.
With Morrow out of the game, however, the restriction on swinging was over. So when Jenkins' second pitch of his outing went right down main street at 90 MPH, A.J. Pierzynski was free to crush it, turning a two-run deficit into a two-run lead with one big grand slam. Will Middlebrooks made it back-to-back shots by sending a changeup out to left, leaving the Red Sox with a 6-3 lead when the inning finally came to an end.
Clay Buchholz did not exactly settle in from there, but he did manage to survive. We've often seen Buchholz lacking control of one or two pitches but managing to simplify the game and pitch more or less to contact, not so much fooling batters, but still making them beat him by hitting the zone. This was not one of those days. Even from the third inning on, Buchholz was mostly just bad. But even when he was missing the zone time and again, the Blue Jays did not get the message, staying a bit too aggressive to fully take advantage of his wildness. And when that paid off in the form of hard contact, the Red Sox' outfielders were up to the task of chasing down their long fly balls.
As a result, Buchholz would actually have a complete disaster turn into a seven-inning, three-run performance. Unfortunately, there is little reason to be encouraged with his actual pitching, but at least as far as this result is concerned, the Red Sox will not stare a gift horse in the mouth.
That's especially true given how tense the last couple innings of the game wound up courtesy of the bullpen. Junichi Tazawa, to this point in the season largely untouchable, just could not record outs, surrendering two runs on four hits in the eighth. Chris Capuano, likewise reliable, was pulled after recording a strikeout and offering up a walk to load the bases. John Farrell wasn't messing around, turning to Koji Uehara for four outs.
And four outs Koji got. It just...took a while. He stranded all three runners in the eighth, getting a pop-up from Melky Cabrera to end the inning, but Jose Bautista took him deep to start the ninth, and singles from Dioner Navarro and Brett Lawrie managed to put the winning run on base. But a long fly ball from Edwin Encarnacion was not long enough, finally putting the game safely in the win column.