Things have been going badly for the Red Sox. Very badly. They lost seven-of-nine, and only three of those losses came against a team that might be considered any good. And coming into the ninth Sunday after eight innings of depressing futility against Tyler Skaggs, Deolis Guerra, and JC Ramirez, they were on the verge of making it eight-of-ten with a series loss to the Angels.
Technically, though, it was still a save situation. Steven Wright had to pull a couple Houdini acts to get it to that point, though. He somehow got out of the first inning unscathed despite allowing three hits and a walk to start things off. The Angels saved his skin with Yunel Escobar managing to completely miss home in trying to avoid the tag from Ryan Hanigan, and Kole Calhoun running into an out trying to score on a passed strike three as one of Wright’s wild knuckleballs went in his favor for once. He escaped from another pair of leadoff hits in the second, too, leading into a couple of quieter frames to get the game to the fifth.
There Wright’s luck finally ran out. After again putting two men on early, Mike Trout put the Angels on the board by smacking a low liner off the tip of a leaping Xander Bogaerts’ glove. Albert Pujols brought a second home while giving Wright a second out, but the knuckleballer couldn’t find the zone against Andrelton Simmons, and Jefry Marte punished him by driving in a third.
That brought Clay Buchholz into the game, and...it actually didn’t get worse. Buchholz threw three almost completely clean innings, allowing just a walk to get the Sox into the ninth.
And there, with the Angels still facing a save situation, they called on Houston Street. It’s not that he didn’t have it tonight. He did allow a couple quick baserunners, but fought back to strike out Ryan Hanigan and Brock Holt to get the Angels within one out of the win, still holding a three-run lead.
The out did not come against Mookie Betts. Despite facing a 2-2 count on four pitches out of the zone, Betts was able to jump on the first strike he actually saw, smacking it into right field to get the Sox on the board.
And boy, did it ever not come against Dustin Pedroia. Street gave Pedroia the meatball of all meatballs--a slider that didn’t slide much, but made the perfect little arc into the middle of the zone. Dustin Pedroia did exactly what professional baseball players should do against that: wrecked it. One swing of the bat took a whole lot of bad and turned it right around, sending the slider over the center field wall and turning the 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead.
Still with one out to work with, Xander Bogaerts went ahead and made it five on, well, more or less the same pitch, finally ending Street’s game, and bringing Jose Alvarez in to record that last out.
Thankfully, after a dramatic top-half, the Sox enjoyed a much calmer bottom-of-the-ninth. Yunel Escobar managed one-out infield single, but Dustin Pedroia started a double play on Kole Calhoun a few pitches later to end the inning, and the game.
This is what we’d like to call a big win. One that sort of turns the tables, takes a season going wrong, and makes it suddenly (and dramatically) better.
We have had this moment before. It came on June 24th. The Sox entered the ninth down 7-4, and exited up 8-7. This was, of course, at the end of that ugly June, but not the very end. There were still five games left.
The Sox lost the next night 3-10, and went 1-4, including dropping a series against the Rays before they finally turned the (calendar) page.
We would like to hope that this is the hallmark of something new. That this will be a rallying point for a Red Sox team in need of one. That they will rattle off win after win and lay siege to the Orioles and Jays at the top of the division.
We would like to hope, but we can’t exactly take it on faith. Splitting this series with the Angels is not a victory. It’s just less of a defeat than it might have been otherwise. They’ll need to legitimately beat the teams they’re supposed to beat going forward, as well as some they’ve only got a shot to, rather than splitting series with the bad and getting swept by the good.
There is work to do, and the “first step” line can only be trotted out so often before it rings false. A big win in the face of a bunch of bad losses. But just one. If they want it to be more in the story of this season, they’ll have to make it that against the Mariners, the Dodgers, and all the rest.