While the Sox haven’t really been dramatically outscoring their opponents in recent days, they haven’t played much in the way of exciting games (not, of course, stretching back to Hanley’s walkoff in the first). Maybe that’s not a perfect description, but it’s been a matter of the Red Sox getting ahead and staying ahead, with the biggest drama coming in if pitcher A, B, or C can record three more outs without surrendering a run. They haven’t even had all that many big jams to deal with in the process.
Saturday night was different. On Saturday, for the first time in kind of a while, it really felt like the Red Sox might lose. Rick Porcello had a pretty big stumbling block of an inning. After a scary second saw the Sox avoid a run thanks to Dustin Pedroia gunning down Corey Dickerson as he tried to score on a Mikie Mahtook ground ball, the Rays put together four pretty solid hits against Porcello in the third to score three runs on a night where he was otherwise about as good as he’s ever been, even rebounding by striking out the side in the fourth.
For as good as Porcello was outside of that period, though, the three-run inning put the Sox behind 3-1, with a couple hits from Mookie Betts and Brock Holt in the second accounting for all of their offense to that point. They did get one back in the second, with Betts again doing a great deal of the work by walking, swiping second, and scoring on a base hit from Hanley Ramirez, but the Rays lead would last through the end of six—a rare situation for this team to be facing of late.
The seventh, however, quickly promised change, as Ramirez and Holt led things off with a pair of base hits to put the Sox in prime position to tie things up. Chris Young didn’t really do what he was hoping to, but his swinging bunt achieved much the same result as the non-swinging variety, moving both men into scoring position. The Rays would turn to Dana Eveland to handle Jackie Bradley Jr., but he could throw nothing but balls, walking the center fielder on four pitches to load the bases.
At another time in the season, having the bases loaded for Sandy Leon and Dustin Pedroia would’ve seemed a great position to be in. But the two players who had produced some of the team’s hottest stretches in recent memory had cooled dramatically. Leon entered the game on a 3-for-32 skid, and Pedroia had only snapped an 0-for-15 slump with a single in the sixth. Leon, for his part, was unable to right the ship, tapping to third where Longoria was able to fire home to keep the run out. And briefly it seemed like Pedroia had followed suit, hitting a changeup towards the hot corner that Longoria scooped up in plenty of time. But the ground ball was just barely foul, giving Pedroia new life that he took full advantage of. Perhaps looking for a similar result, Danny Farquhar’s eighth pitch to Pedroia was another changeup, but this one stayed just over the inside portion of the plate and knee high for Pedroia to launch. Corey Dickerson kept heading back, only to stop and watch it leave for a grand slam to make it 6-3.
That, of course, was good enough for the win, because the bullpen apparently decided to stop surrendering leads of any size, much less ones of three runs. Kimbrel did give up a solo shot in the ninth, but if he was going to choose a game to give up his first earned run since August 9th, this was as good as any and better than most. The Sox will take a win by one run or ten—whatever keeps the streak alive.