A pyrrhic victory? The Red Sox certainly hope not.
It's hard to put too much blame on any catcher tasked with catching the knuckleball, but it's also hard not to blame Ryan Hanigan for just how much of a mess he's made of it this year, and today in particular. The knuckleball is not supposed to be reliable, exactly, but Steven Wright's has been in 2016. Remarkably so. And while there were plenty of walks to go around today, it still was capable of keeping runs off the board, as the Blue Jays just could not make hard contact against it. They might well have never scored on him...had Hanigan been able to catch the thing.
While the fourth will go down as the inning that saw the first run for Toronto, it should also be noted as quite the Houdini act from Wright. A leadoff single and walk put Wright in trouble, with one of those passed balls advancing both batters. They run would score when Justin Smoak followed with a line drive that Dustin Pedroia, out in shallow right, made a mortal effort on, denying Boston the highlight-worthy out. Either way, though, the ball was hit hard enough that the runner likely would not have scored had Michael Saunders still been at second. And with Wright going strikeout - double play to escape the frame, that was one run that could be attributed to Hanigan.
Two that were rather more obvious: those that scored when Saunders produced a swinging strike three that should have ended the fifth. But Hanigan couldn't grab that one either, and not only Ryan Goins, but Jose Bautista managed to score, each having already moved up on another passed ball. Wright failing to cover home cost him one of those runs, but Hanigan failing to come up with the strike cost him both.
In the sixth, though, Hanigan would not have the excuse of working opposite Wright. With Matt Barnes now in the game, Hanigan stuck his leg out to try and block a pitch that bounced in, letting it get by him and allowing Devon Travis to take second. Travis proceeded to steal third, and score on a ground ball out. Four runs in, four runs that could have been prevented. Hanigan would leave the game after the inning, complaining of neck stiffness.
The good news is, that was all the Blue Jays got. Wright had avoided damage early, and after the leadoff walk to Devon Travis, the bullpen faced the minimum number of Blue Jays batters, which is obviously not terribly conducive to scoring runs.
The other good news is that the Red Sox jumped on Marcus Stroman again, leaving those four runs insufficient. Travis Shaw would score the first run on a Blake Swihart single after leading off the second with a double, and David Ortiz knocked a pair of runs in when the Jays chose to pitch to him with first base open in the third. The fourth saw a two-out single from Mookie Betts make good on a pair of one-out walks, while the fifth had Travis Shaw bringing in Xander Bogaerts after one of his three hits on the day.
The sixth Red Sox run is slightly more controversial. With two down and Blake Swihart on first, Mookie Betts shot a ground ball past third, down the left field line, and ultimately off the wall in foul territory for a double. With the fortuitous bounce keeping the ball away Saunders in left, Butterfield gave Swihart the go-ahead to come in. But the throw would beat him, and the call at the plate was out. Even the replays didn't seem to show anything conclusive, though the tag from Martin missed at first, and Swihart might have gotten his toe on the plate before later slapping it with his hand to be sure. No one replay seemed conclusive, but at the league office, they managed to put together evidence enough to overturn the call.
Thankfully, that one run wouldn't spell the difference, and given how little the Jays managed in the last innings, it seems hard to argue it changed much at all. But unfortunately there would be more to come for Swihart in this game. One inning later, in attempting to run down a Michael Saunders fly ball, Swihart would go crashing into the wall in foul territory, much like Hanley Ramirez did 13 months ago. Swihart would actually make the catch, albeit on a bounce off the wall, but that didn't seem very important when he failed to rise, having smashed his left foot and leg hard into the wall. He would, after initially requiring aid, limp off the field under his own power, but it didn't look good, and the Red Sox are currently awaiting tests to tell them how bad it actually was.
So it's a win for Boston. A necessary one, given the last three days. But one that may have cost them Blake Swihart. Not a worthwhile trade, if so.