Where Saturday provided a classic win with David Ortiz' heroics, Sunday? Sunday gave us a mess. But a mess the Red Sox came out on top of.
The pitching? The pitching was certainly a mess. Sean O'Sullivan had survived the solidly mixed bag that was his first start of the year. But this one did not treat him nearly so kindly. SoS, as he is known, was far from precise with his control, and when you lack much in the way of pure stuff, you just can't afford that. After getting through a quick first, two fielding gaffes on one play let Colby Rasmus reach second on what could have been a ground out, and Tyler White walked to set up Luis Valbuena. Not the most dangerous bat in the game, but O'Sullivan left an 0-1 fastball up and over the plate, and even mediocre hitters can put a charge into one of those. Valbuena sent it down one of the tunnels in the bleachers, and gave the Astros three runs at once.
At the time, it only left them up by one, as the Red Sox had once again gotten on the board in the first. At this point, just the one run would actually be a below average performance in the opening inning, so Boston went ahead and put two on the board, with a pair of leadoff walks leading to runs on a wild pitch, and a double down the left field line by Hanley Ramirez.
Not willing to let Valbuena's homer sap their momentum, the Sox just kept on piling the runs up in the second. Josh Rutledge started what would prove a productive day at the plate with a lucky double to center that Carlos Gomez lost in the sun, then came around to score as Ryan Hanigan started his own with a single into left. Mookie Betts hit safely behind him, but Dustin Pedroia was denied despite some hard contact, bringing Xander Bogaerts up to bat.
Now, the question with Xander, even as he's come into his own, has been when the power will arrive. The answer seems to be 2016. The swing Bogaerts put on the high fastball from Chris Devenski lofted the ball high--the kind of swing that you'd expect to see land in a glove, scrape the wall, or maybe edge into the Monster seats last year. In 2016, though, it cleared everything, making its way into the Boston streets, and putting the Red Sox up by three.
The third would see O'Sullivan give up another homer, this time to Carlos Correa, but the Sox just kept hitting even as the bullpen made its way into the game early on for the Astros, with second hits from Hanley, Rutledge, and Hanigan getting the run back and then another on top of it.
The two sides finally exchanged scoreless frames in the fourth, but in the fifth O'Sullivan finally caved for good, surrendering a pair of singles to start the inning and finally getting the hook when he surrendered a line drive that Jackie Bradley Jr. thankfully managed to camp under and put on a line to home plate to keep Jose Altuve from leaving third. Robbie Ross Jr. came in hoping to put out the fire, and while he did get Colby Rasmus on strikes, he fell apart from there, walking Tyler White, surrendering a double to Valbuena that would've been three runs if it didn't hop up into the stands for two, and hitting Carlos Gomez before finally striking out Preston Tucker to end the inning, clinging to a two-run lead.
Then came the sixth, and the moment that really would have stung if the Sox hadn't pulled this one out. Ross stayed in the game to face the lefty Jason Castro, but was pulled after surrendering a five-pitch walk. Heath Hembree would come in, and pitch quite well for the most part, getting Jose Altuve to ground out. But in an attempt to turn a double play, the Red Sox got the slow lead runner in Castro, freeing up Altuve to swipe second and third. Still, it shouldn't have mattered, as Hembree struck out George Springer, then induced a routine ground ball to Josh Rutledge. But the throw from Rutledge sailed high, pulling Hanley off the bag, and letting Altuve score. From there, Hembree surrendered two straight hits, leaving the Astros on top 9-8 before he finally got Valbuena to ground out.
In the end, though, it was the Astros who would make the final gaffe. Rutledge sought to make up for his error in the seventh, reaching base as the tying run with a one-out single. Holt struck out behind him (and was tossed in a hurry by Joe West, who of course had to make himself known) though, and Ryan Hanigan seemed to end the inning with a lazy fly ball to right. But as George Springer and Carlos Gomez converged, nobody took charge, and the ball simply fell in, letting Rutledge come in to tie the game. Mookie Betts came to the plate behind him, and produced a much more impressive hit, tripling into the gap to put the Red Sox ahead.
From there, it was just two innings of blissfully competent relief from Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel standing between the Red Sox, and a messy win. No matter how pretty or ugly the process, though, they all count the same in the end. And now the Sox have the good part of the rotation lined up for Kansas City.