All year, the Red Sox have had a problem. Call it one of sequencing and luck, or timeliness and clutch, but whatever the reason, the Red Sox have made an art form of taking big scoring opportunities and throwing them right out the window.
Monday night, finally, was different. Loading the bases wasn’t simply a sign that the inning was about to end, but that the Red Sox were about to score. And if the Red Sox scoring was once again a harbinger of the opposition firing back—the shutdown inning is approaching mythological status at this point—Rick Porcello limited the damage enough to turn Boston’s big hits into a big win.
Before the Sox could load the bases, though, Mookie Betts had put them on the board. After a 1-2-3 first, Betts joined a pretty exclusive club in Red Sox history, becoming just the fourth player under 24 to hit 30 homers for the team when he cleared the Monster to lead off the second. He joins Ted Williams, Tony Conigliaro, and Nomar Garciaparra in that accomplishment, and Nomar turned 24 before he actually hit his 30th homer in that season.
Mookie Betts is pretty good.
But that was just the one run, and after the Red Sox loaded the bases later in the inning with two outs on the board, they were probably hoping for a bit more. They didn’t really take full advantage, but they did at least get a hit from Brock Holt, and the run that comes with it, only losing out on more as Sandy Leon got himself thrown out trying to score from second.
That brought us to the first non-shutdown inning of the night, which really was a little bit of everything going wrong. A would-be double play ball finding a hole vacated by a shift, another going for just the one out on a fairly awkward throw home from Hanley Ramirez, and a bloop down the right field line into No Man’s Land. It wasn’t a magnificent inning from Porcello, but it also wasn’t the sort of thing he could really have completely avoided. Either way it left the Sox and Rays tied.
The tie did not last long, as the Red Sox opened up in earnest on Andriese in the fourth. Hanley Ramirez led off with a single to set up one of the team’s coldest bats and one of it’s hottest in Travis Shaw and Chris Young repsectively for a double a piece, to bring home two more, and while Andriese battled back with a pair of strikeouts, Brock Holt brought Young in to score with a double into the gap in right to make it 5-2.
Once again, the Rays responded to a run-scoring inning with one of their own, but this time after a leadoff double from Corey Dickerson, Porcello locked in to limit the Rays to only that one run they managed to push across with productive outs. And in the bottom of the inning the Sox went a long way towards putting the game away with another couple doubles from Ortiz and Betts, with Travis Shaw picking up his second of three hits on the night to bring Betts in and make it 7-3.
Porcello would get the Sox into the bottom of the seventh with the lead intact, where the lineup once again got to work. Again, they loaded the bases with two outs on Shaw’s third hit and walks from Ramirez and Young. And again, they got the hit, with Sandy Leon delivering a base knock up the middle to bring in two runs.
Those two weren’t entirely necessary, but they were nice to have when Clay Buchholz toyed with an eighth-inning implosion. Ultimately, he got out of it with just the one run, though, and Fernando Abad handled the ninth with surprisingly little difficulty to end things.
The bases loaded hits weren’t really the story of the night so much as the parade of doubles, another strong outing from Rick Porcello even in the face of a tough-luck third. But man, after so much futility in that spot, just showing they can pick up that hit in that spot goes some way towards getting the old monkey off the back. And of course, picking up the win keeps the Sox form losing any more ground with the Jays having defeated the Orioles. They’ve just gotta keep putting men on, and the runs will come.