The Red Sox just can't seem to hold any momentum, falling back down to .500 thanks to an eighth-inning disaster on Patriots' Day.
This was a tragedy in two acts.
First, the setup. On the mound for the Red Sox: Clay Buchholz. Here, certainly, is where you expect the disaster to come from. But no, no, Buchholz was more than viable today. And the difference was two-fold. First, he was able to hit some of his spots! Always a good thing. But he was certainly not perfect. There were no few instances of Christian Vazquez having to move his glove a good ways across the zone to corral a ball.
But when Vazquez did have to go out of his way, he didn't have to go across the plate. When Buchholz missed, he missed big. And that's fine, because when you miss by a mile you end up giving up a free ball rather than a homer. The Jays took their balls, got a couple free bases, and put some men on. But what they didn't get was the big ruinous hit, and when Buchholz hit those spots, he got the Jays to hit some easy ground balls that led to double play after double play.
And so it is that we have 6.2 innings of shutout baseball from Clay Buchholz. J.A. Happ largely responded in kind, except for a brief lapse in the second when Hanley Ramirez kept his opposite-field party going with a ground-rule double to right and scored on a Josh Rutledge single. And that was enough to keep the Red Sox ahead through seven, with Junichi Tazawa getting that last out on two pitches.
Here is where things start to go awry. At least aside from offensive things which had been going wrong all day.
The Red Sox have been pretty forward about wanting to keep Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara's workload down. But Tazawa was already in this game, and he'd barely been used. It made all the sense in the world to at least try to avoid Uehara and get Tazawa through the eighth. Instead, Uehara came out. And Uehara wasn't good.
He just didn't have any trust in his splitter, and when he only has his fastball, Koji isn't much of a pitcher. And it didn't help that everything that could go wrong behind (and in front) of him did. Josh Rutledge gave away a free base by throwing a no-chance grounder a mile past first, and after a walk to Justin Smoak, Christian Vazquez had a pitch bounce off his glove and well away, allowing both runners to move up. That made a hard ground ball to Xander Bogaerts good not for a double play, but for a run. Though it's worth mentioning that Bogaerts probably had a chance at home and just didn't take it.
Koji's day probably should've been done when he proceeded to hit Josh Donaldson to put two men on again, but with Tazawa done on just two pitches and Carson Smith still absent, the Red Sox just didn't have much of anyone to turn to outside of Kimbrel, and so Farrell elected to keep on trying, at least for one more walk to Jose Bautista before finally turning to his closer.
And Kimbrel gave the Red Sox hope. He did. Edwin Encarnacion went down swinging on three pitches, and Troy Tulowitzki fell behind 1-2, getting the Red Sox within a strike of escaping the inning with the tie. And then he threw ball, ball, ball, the last one not even close, to walk in a run and put the Jays ahead. Russell Martin managed to punch a single into center, and just like that, it was 4-1.
Those extra runs would prove extremely important, too, as the Red Sox came roaring back once more in the ninth. Hits from Dustin Pedroia, Travis Shaw, and Hanley Ramirez managed to bring not only the tying run, but the winning run to the plate in the form of David Ortiz. The stage was set for a magic moment on Patriots' day. But on 2-2, Drew Storen froze Ortiz on a borderline pitch across the top of the zone to end the game and send the Red Sox back down to .500.