The Red Sox have escaped Houston with a series win in the early hours of Monday morning despite a late blown save from Craig Kimbrel, with Jackie Bradley Jr. providing the big hit in the twelfth to give them the winning run.
That this even ended up being a game should perhaps be a concern for the Red Sox, who are showing a penchant not only for scoring plenty of runs early, but also for surrendering those early leads. Scott Feldman has had nothing but trouble with the Red Sox in his career, and that trend continued right off the bat Sunday night. Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia immediately gave the team a pair of runners in scoring position to start the game, and after a ground out from Xander Bogaerts, Houston elected to intentionally load the bases by walking David Ortiz, even in the first inning.
The Red Sox would unquestionably score their first run on a ground ball from Hanley Ramirez. But the question was whether they recorded their first out, with John Farrell coming in to challenge the neighborhood play on Houston's attempt to start a double play at second. Ramirez had already beat out the throw to first, and upon further review, it turned out Jose Altuve hadn't stayed on the bag to receive the throw from Marwin Gonzalez, reloading the bases for Boston. Travis Shaw drew a walk to keep the conga line moving and tack on another run, and Brock Holt nearly provided a big hit, but had to settle for a sacrifice fly as Chris Gomez laid out to rob him in left-center.
The Red Sox might've had more in the inning, but they also might've had less. As it stood, Henry Owens took the mound with a 3-0 lead, and from the get go it was clear he might need all of it. Showing a lack of control that approaches characteristic for him at this point, Owens allowed the first two batters he faced to reach on full counts. But the young lefty battled back with a strikeout of Carlos Correa and a pair of fly balls. He would nearly get out of the second without any damage done, too, before a Gonzalez long ball put the Astros on the board.
The Red Sox would strike back in the top of the third, taking advantage of an infield single from Brock Holt with back-to-back doubles from the bottom of the lineup in Ryan Hanigan and Jackie Bradley Jr. plating a pair of runs. But almost immediately the Astros responded, with Owens again putting himself in early trouble, loading the bases on a double and two walks to start the third. This time Tyler White and Evan Gattis were able to cash in on a sacrifice fly and single, erasing those two extra runs Boston had padded their lead with.
Ultimately, Henry Owens would not have much longer to pitch. He recorded just the one out in the fourth before being pulled with 86 pitches already on his arm for Matt Barnes, who turned in two solid innings of work for the Red Sox to get the ball to the portion of their pen that's supposed to be ever-reliable. And to the credit of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, they held up their end of the bargain by surrendering just one hit in the process of recording eight outs, four by way of the K. The Astros bullpen would respond in kind, but that still left them with work to do against Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel would almost get the job done. Almost. He got a pair of reasonably quick outs on Jose Altuve and George Springer. But fell behind 3-1 to Carlos Correa, who took advantage of the favorable count and doubled to right, bringing to the plate none other than Colby Rasmus, who had already authored one heart-breaking homer against the Red Sox this series. And while Craig Kimbrel's fastball can overwhelm even the best dead-red hitters in baseball, it didn't beat Rasmus, who got a 98 MPH heater in the exact same spot as the ill-fated pitch from Clay Buchholz, and did the exact same thing with this one, crushing it past the bullpen and into the right field stands to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
That left the Red Sox in a rough situation, having to find outs from a bullpen that had used its biggest guns trying to close out the game. And so they turned to perhaps the one rising reliever in the unit: Heath Hembree. And, as he had done after the two-out Joe Kelly start that had led to Owens getting the ball on Sunday, Hembree carried the team. He allowed just a two-out single in the tenth after an anemic offensive effort in the top half of the inning, and retired the Astros 1-2-3 in the eleventh, striking out Carlos Correa to end the frame.
Finally, in the twelfth, he would take the mound looking to lock in the win. Hanley Ramirez had singled to left field to start the top of the inning, and moved to second on a base hit from Travis Shaw. Playing for just the one run, the Red Sox had Brock Holt lay down a bunt to move Ramirez to third with one out. Ryan Hanigan drew a walk to load the bases, and Jackie Bradley Jr. came through with the big hit, slapping a low line drive into right field and scoring Ramirez from third.
They would get some insurance with Ryan Hanigan scoring on a wild pitch, and for a bit there, it looked like they might need it, with Tyler White reaching base on an error in the bottom of the inning and Carlos Gomez picking up a hit with just one away. But with the game on the line, Hembree got locked in despite pitching his third inning of the game, and struck out Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez to end things.
Look, it's not how the Red Sox would've wanted to win this game. They'd rather not be giving up homers to Colby Rasmus as they have. But tonight, with the Red Sox once again in desperate need of bullpen help, Heath Hembree stepped in and provided more than could have been expected. They'll be heading into Atlanta for Monday's game on too little rest, but if they've found a bullpen hero in Hembree? That's a worthwhile exchange.