The Red Sox outraced the rain and took advantage of a wild Wei-Yin Chen Monday morning, earning a 7-1 win in a Patriots' day game that ended after just seven innings.
With the pre-game forecast bleak, there was a sense of urgency for both teams. Whoever could establish an early lead might only have to defend it for five innings to earn a win. So when Justin Masterson took 22 pitches to finish the first, that was less important than the fact that he got out with only a walk against him. And when Mookie Betts essentially created his own run by singling, stealing second, taking third on the errant throw down, and then scoring on a David Ortiz sacrifice fly, there was the very real possibility that was all it would take.
Of course, that lead didn't last an inning. For a few at bats in the top of the second, it looked like Justin Masterson was going to leave the Red Sox hoping the rains would come before the game could be made official. Three straight line drives on a handful of pitches brought the tying run in to score (with a little help from Mookie Betts misplaying a single into three bases in the outfield). If you were having flashbacks to, well, most of the Red Sox' recent starting performances, you could hardly be blamed.
Then Masterson started throwing his slider, and the game was instantly back under control. With the slider not only doing its best imitation of a frisbee, but also hitting Ryan Hanigan's mitt, Masterson's fastball suddenly became little more than the setup pitch. The top of the second ended on a strikeout and ground ball, and while the Orioles would pick up another couple of baserunners in the top of the third, the slider once again carried the way, getting Adam Jones and Travis Snider on a fly out and ground out respectively to end the frame.
With Masterson settling down, the Sox took the bottom of the third to rebuild their lead in a big way. It was a rally fueled by a wild Wei-Yin Chen, who walked Xander Bogaerts to lead off the inning, then allowed a ringing single down the right field line to Ryan Hanigan--one which would have gone for extra bases and scored a run but for a very friendly bounce in Travis Snider's direction. Instead, that run would score when Chen bobbled a come-backer from Mookie Betts, allowing Bogaerts to score and Betts to reach first.
Perhaps because of the imminent rain, or perhaps to test Chen again, Dustin Pedroia laid down a bunt, moving the runners to second and third, but failing to reach himself as Chris Davis took it himself for the out. It would prove entirely unproductive when David Ortiz popped out to foul territory, and Allen Craig--in the game for an ill Hanley Ramirez--drew a walk that would have moved them along anyways. That loaded the bases for Mike Napoli, who took his own four balls to bring home another run and leave the Red Sox ahead 3-1.
Chen would finally get the Red Sox to put the ball in play for what should have been the third out, but Shane Victorino's ground ball ate up Manny Machado, scoring two more runs as a fan interfered with it, with another walk coming before Xander Bogaerts mercifully ended the rally he had started by popping out to first.
From there, the focus became getting five innings in. Masterson did his part, with a 12-pitch walk the only real time sink in two more clean innings. Still, with the rain coming down heavy in Fenway, the umpires decided to let the teams play on, leaving John Farrell to make the interesting (and, frankly, pretty damn amusing) move of turning to Junichi Tazawa in the sixth with only 93 pitches on Masterson's arm.
Tazawa made short work of the Orioles, who probably wish the game would have ended there given that the Red Sox proceeded to put up two more runs on hits from Dustin Pedroia and Allen Craig in the bottom of the sixth. Finally, after a scoreless seventh from Robbie Ross Jr., the tarp came out and, after a lengthy rain delay, the game was called once and for all.
A strong start from Masterson (after the slider was introduced) and if not an explosive day in terms of hits, a patient and productive one from the Red Sox at the plate. They don't come away with a series win for the first time this season, but they also don't pick up their first loss, and leave for St. Pete with the A.L. East lead.