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Red Sox 8, White Sox 7: Sox skirt disaster

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Losing a game started by James Shields is one very black mark. The Red Sox narrowly avoided it Thursday afternoon.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox were terribly, terribly close to disaster.

In a game started by James Shields, who had allowed 21 earned runs in his last 8.2 innings of work, that's the only way to describe coming away with a loss. Frankly, anything less than a blowout merits some disappointment. The Red Sox? They needed extra innings to get the job done.

The reasons why they needed those extra innings are...far more numerous than you'd like.

They needed extra innings because Rick Porcello was mediocre at best. Gone were the early-season strikeouts, replaced with hits aplenty. Really, though, he was nickle-and-dimed pretty heavily in the first, with the most impressive offensive inning against him coming with some ringing singles in the fourth. Even a leadoff triple that turned into a fourth run in the sixth could maybe have been kept out if Bradley had been attentive enough to hold Melky Cabrera at second.  Still, four runs and out in the sixth is just not good enough.

They needed extra innings because the Red Sox failed to score until the fifth against James Shields. That, too, is just not good enough considering how bad he's been. Yes, they got to him eventually when the White Sox pushed their luck in the sixth and Shields got wild, but even with that in the mix they still left him with a far-too-reasonable five inning, three earned runs.

They needed extra innings because Tommy Layne wasn't able to keep baserunners off after he got through the rest of the sixth, and because Junichi Tazawa left a pitch up to a guy strong enough to hit an outside offering a long, long way in Jose Dariel Abreu.

They needed extra innings because, with two on, one out, and a pitcher who couldn't find the zone in the seventh, Jackie Bradley Jr. decided to bunt.

And they needed extra innings because, even after Dustin Pedroia tied things up in the eighth by driving in Marco Hernandez, the Red Sox wasted a huge opportunity with two on to start the ninth. Bradley, Hanley, and Leon couldn't so much as advance a man to third, and we were on to the tenth.

But if they needed extras, at least they finally won a game against these White Sox.

Oh, it was quite the trial even in the tenth. Craig Kimbrel, on the mound for his second inning, looked horrific, loading the bases as he walked Lawrie on five pitches, gave up a single to Avila on a 2-0 pitch, then loaded the bases by giving up another free pass to Avisail Garcia. But much as the Red Sox had done in the first game of the series, the White Sox took a golden opportunity, and let it go to waste. Kimbrel got J.B. Shuck to pop-up, then struck out Tim Anderson and Adam Eaton back-to-back to keep the Sox just one run away from a win.

And finally, in the bottom of the inning, that run came. Matt Purke could not get number nine hitter Marco Hernandez, issuing him a walk after a seven-pitch battle. Mookie Betts hit a ground ball that could well have gone for two, but beat the throw to first to keep the chance alive. Dustin Pedroia fouled off the first pitch he saw, then couldn't hold up on an 0-1 fastball to fall into a two-strike hole, but just took and took and took until, four pitches later, he walked to first. That brought Xander Bogaerts to the plate, and if there's one Red Sox hitter who's stayed consistent, he's the one. Bogaerts didn't deliver the best of contact, but he got just enough, hitting a flare over Brett Lawrie and into center field. Mookie Betts came around to score, and thankfully, we were not left watching Deven Marrero batting cleanup with the last chance to cash in.

All is not well. Not even close. The Red Sox seem likely to have lost Chris Young to injury, at least for a while, after he pulled up with a hamstring strain. They're still a team that lost three straight to Chicago. They're still a team that almost managed to lose this one started by James Shields. They've got problems aplenty, but at the very least, they've avoided this particular bit of ignominy.