In perhaps their biggest game of the season to date, the Red Sox managed to overcome the return of early-season Buchholz and produce eleven runs to knock off the Jays and secure both a series win and a two-game lead in the A.L. East as they head back to Boston.
Let the record show that the Red Sox got some 19 straight innings of Good Buchholz in the rotation. Perhaps even 21, depending on how much credit you want to give him for this game. He gave up a homer in the first, but gave the Sox a shutdown inning after they gave him back the lead in the second.
The third, though? Bad Buchholz returned with a vengeance. It started with a walk where he didn’t seem to agree with the close calls, and continued on a hard hit ball Dustin Pedroia nearly managed to snag (perhaps leading to a double play), but ended up bouncing into the outfield instead. And from there, it was a vintage Buchholz meltdown. He walked Jose Bautista to load the bases, failed again to find the zone even when there was no place to put Russell Martin, and then tried to get one over against Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop punished him for his predictability, crushing a grand slam to left to make it six Toronto runs in just three innings of work.
As awful as Buchholz was, it still left the Red Sox down by just two runs. The Sox had jumped ahead early when Kevin Pillar misread a two-out fly ball from Mookie Betts, letting it get over his head and Allowing David Ortiz score all the way from first. And while Buchholz had quickly surrendered that lead, the Sox put up three more in the second when Sanchez walked the 7 and 8 hitters, bringing Jackie Bradley Jr. to the plate. Bradley showed that, for all that he’s batting ninth, he’s not to be taken lightly. The pitch wasn’t even in the zone, and the contact off the bat wasn’t all that loud, but Bradley’s deceptive power came into play once again, as he went the other way with plenty of height and distance for the shot that got the Sox runs two, three, and four.
And so, when the Jays got their grand slam, the Sox were very much within striking distance, and strike they did. A quick two-out rally saw Xander Bogaerts single up the middle with Jackie Bradley and Dustin Pedroia in scoring position to tie things up. And just as the Red Sox responded, so too did the Jays. After a pair of strikeouts from Heath Hembree to start the inning, Josh Donaldson drew a walk and Edwin Encarnacion did to Hembree what he’d done to Buchholz in the first, going deep for the second time to make it a two-run Toronto lead. Again.
At this point, you could hardly be blamed for thinking the Red Sox were long shots to go back to Boston in sole possession of first. After all, it was a battle of the bullpens, and their extremely questionable unit had already surrendered two runs right off the bat. But if there’s any game these Sox have experience winning from early in the season, it’s the old barn burner. If they gave up another two-run lead, well, it wasn’t anything they hadn’t already erased once on the day. Hanley Ramirez was next up to contribute to the cause, blasting a solo shot to center. Unfortunately, the inning had one of the most frustrating endings possible, with Brock Holt attempting a straight steal of home with Bradley at the plate and Sandy Leon at first. It...did not work.
While Holt had wasted that particular opportunity, Jackie Bradley Jr. diminished the sting a bit by striking out to start the sixth. It was David Ortiz, however, who actually made things better. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts followed Bradley’s K with a pair of ground ball singles against Bo Schultz, bringing Papi to the plate. The Jays decided to turn to Joaquin Benoit. This, of course, is a matchup with some history, and today, that history repeated. In a replay of 2013, Ortiz took a Benoit changeup, and blasted it to right. There was one fewer run on base, but three was plenty for the Red Sox, who took the 10-8 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
With the Sox bullpen usually good for at least two passable frames, the next couple innings were the real danger zone for that 10-8 lead. Robbie Ross and Noe Ramirez had gotten the Sox through the fifth without letting the Jays score again, but after a leadoff single in the sixth, John Farrell actually turned to one of his biggest guns early to get through the top of Toronto’s order in Brad Ziegler. He absolutely answered the call, getting a double play on two pitches, then striking out Troy Tulowitzki after Xander Bogaerts botched a routine play to keep the inning alive for another batter.
Ziegler wouldn’t stop there, either. After the Red Sox scored an eleventh run on a Brock Holt walk and Sandy Leon double, Ziegler returned for the seventh, striking out both Jose Bautista and Russell Martin to start the inning before finally exiting after a walk to Troy Tulowitzki. That would bring Fernando Abad into the game which...well, the combination of a bobbled ball and a bad throw from Travis Shaw was certainly not his fault, but it still required Matt Barnes to come into the game. Thankfully, he got a quick ground ball from Kevin Pillar to end the threat.
Koji Uehara picked up the eighth without too much trouble, keeping Josh Donaldson’s bat quiet on the weekend with an inning-ending double play and leaving only one last bit of drama on the day. Starting the ninth with a walk, Craig Kimbrel made Sox fans endure a scare when he let Jose Bautista hit a rocket to right field, not missing a home run by much as he planted the ball off the wall. But it turned out he wasn’t just a bit too low and a bit too short for the homer, but also a bit too far right, as replay confirmed the call of a foul ball after the umpires let the baserunners play things out establish where they would have ended up. Kimbrel would come back to strike Bautista out, and while Martin also managed a deep fly ball, Mookie Betts managed to settle underneath it at the wall to finally secure the win.
It was an appropriately crazy finish to an undeniably huge series. With two big wins over the Jays, the Red Sox will head home up two on their closest competition in the East. This final gauntlet against their division competition has just begun, but at least it’s off to a strong start.