I don't quite know how they did it, but the Red Sox walked everyone, and still managed to defeat the winningest team in the American League, 7-3.
If you did not see this Henry Owens performance, consider yourself lucky. We thought we were done with this sort of thing with the departure of Daisuke Matsuzaka, but Owens spent his three full innings on the mound doing a damn good impression of 2008 Matsuzaka.
You might think that's good. After all, 2008 Daisuke Matsuzaka had an ERA under 3.00! But for anyone who experienced it, particularly with the benefit of hindsight confirming all of our suspicions, watching Daisuke in 2008 was like watching a train hurtling towards a half-finished bridge at top speed. Sure, it was making good time, but the end result was always going to be the same. There's no special skill for producing Houdini-like escapes that wouldn't translate to keeping runners off base in the first place, after all, meaning the tight-rope act with all the walks and the bases loaded situations were eventually going to come tumbling, tumbling down.
And so we come to the three innings of one-run ball Henry Owens started the game with. It looks good at a glance, and then you notice the six walks, and realize how easily this game could have been lost in the first few frames. Owens did get his pop-ups and his ground balls, but he never had a clue where his pitches were going, and when John Farrell decided to try him in the fourth despite just about every Red Sox fan begging for some long relief, he quickly surrendered a homer to Avisail Garcia to start the inning and end his night.
Boston can only thank their lucky stars that it came with the bases empty to start the fourth rather than with the bases loaded to end the third.
Even when the Red Sox did get their bullpen into the game, though, it wasn't pretty. Heath Hembree has been the guy to turn to when the team needs lots of innings, but it had been a week since he last got into a game, which would have been reason enough for rust. Really, though, Hembree didn't start out particularly badly. His control was a little lacking, but this outing was one that seemed to spiral out of control when nothing would go his way. The White Sox picked up five base hits against Hembree between the fourth and fifth inning, but only one was hit particularly well, with two staying on the infield. Ultimately, though, with his pitch count rising, Hembree surrendered the eighth walk of the night from the Red Sox pitching staff, and did so with the bases loaded to bring in a run.
Simply put, this should not be the description of a Red Sox win. And yet, by the end of the game, it wasn't even particularly close.
Matt Barnes came in to strand all three runners Hembree left him by inducing a fly ball to right which Mookie Betts caught and threw home to Ryan Hanigan, who put down a good block of the plate to get Brett Lawrie trying to score from third. Barnes then finally gave the Red Sox a clean inning in the sixth on three ground balls. It was the beginning of 4.2 innings of relief from the bullpen blissfully free of misfortune and incompetence alike.
And what's more, lineup had never even let the White Sox take the lead. Dustin Pedroia had taken on the task of continuing Boston's tradition of scoring in the first with a homer to left. In the second, Brock Holt and Ryan Hanigan combined to produce a run in an inning that could have been much bigger, with both Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz hitting the ball hard, but directly at fielders with the bases loaded.
The third saw the Sox plate two more, with Hanley Ramirez finding the range for his second straight start, and Travis Shaw getting a "triple" when Austin Jackson couldn't make the catch on a fly ball to the wall in center, letting the ball get away from him in the process. Brock Holt hit a deep fly ball of his own to bring Shaw home, making it 4-1 for the Red Sox. In the sixth, Jackie Bradley Jr. continued both his torrid streak at the plate and the Boston power trip with a solo shot of his own. The Sox would tack on a pair of insurance runs in the eighth when Dan Jennings lost the strike zone, culminating in a double from David Ortiz, but that served to do little more than let Robbie Ross Jr. tackle the last couple innings.
Make no mistake, this was one ugly win. But it doesn't much matter how many walks the Red Sox gave up when, at the end of the day, they score seven to Chicago's three. No, it doesn't bode well for Henry Owens' ability to stick in this rotation just yet. That's fine. Eduardo Rodriguez will be back in about a week. And he'll be returning to a Red Sox team that just took two-of-three from the team with the best record in the American League.
There's no denying it: the Red Sox rebuilt their record with a bunch of wins against some pretty bad opponents. But this week, they added to it against a pretty good one, and did so while sending Clay Buchholz and Henry Owens to the mound. They'll head to New York now with momentum, and a chance to start really getting their record to a point where .500 is well in the rear-view mirror, and they can set their sights on bigger and better things.