That was something. Marco Estrada Bugs Bunny changeup’ed the Red Sox, Chris Sale entranced everyone with 13 strikeouts over 8 innings (but especially Jose Bautista, who struck out 4 times), Craig Kimbrel blew his first save since June, and Mookie Betts laced a 3-run double off of Jason Grilli in the 10th inning to give the Sox a 4-1 win.
Toronto’s pitching bedeviled Boston until the extra frame, when they loaded the bases against gruntin’ Grilli (I could hear it on the broadcast) thanks to two walks and a strikeout. With a 2-0 count, Betts laced a ball over the third baseman, giving the Sox three go-ahead runs and giving Sox fans a chance to breathe easier.
It had been awhile. For a time, it looked like, Xander Bogaerts’ ninth-inning two-out single plating Mitch Moreland off Jays closer Roberto Osuna would the only run of the game, and it took eight innings to get that. The pitching was just that good. Bogaerts changed it with his right-field single just after Moreland’s two-out double slid under the glove of Bautista, no doubt thrown off by the weight of his golden sombrero. Bogaerts was thrown out trying to go to second, but the damage seemed to be done, and permanent.
It wasn’t. It was only when the Sox had the lead that Sale was finally taken out of the game, to make room for Kimbrel, who gave up a towering home run to Kendrys Morales on his second pitch. It really, really, really sucked. He retired the rest of the side in order, at least, and the Sox eventually won, but yeepers.
Prior to the late-game logjam the action was fast, mostly because Estrada and Sale threw almost exclusively strikes. Before the game, Jerry Remy noted that with Estrada’s molasses cadence and Sale’s whirling dervish act, it would be like alternately watching the game in slow motion and fast forward. That is a good one, my friends, but Estrada was so damn efficient (100 pitches, 74 strikes) that the game still flew by early.
The Red Sox just didn’t know what to do with Estrada. He didn’t throw harder than 90, but his control was great and he was solidly in the heads of the Red Sox, who had no idea what was coming. It wasn’t a great look after Wednesday’s shutout, but on the flip side, when a guy is this good, what are you gonna do?
He was, really, entrancing, just as he was in his near no-hitter against the Sox last year. Mookie Betts went 129 at-bats between strikeouts, with his streak ending yesterday, but he struck out in his first two at-bats today. He would eventually walk in the sixth and get to third base on two stolen bases, the second of which was transparently a gift from a Blue Jays team that was far more interested in holding their shift against Mitch Moreland with two outs, and was one of the funnier steals you’ll ever seen. He simply ran over to third, which no one was covering, before Estrada threw the ball, as everyone watched. He stayed there, helpless, as Moreland struck out.
On the bright side, Sale was even better. He had 80 strikes on 102 pitches! Simply getting into scoring position was a rare feat on this afternoon for both sides, and almost immediately snuffed out by the K. In the third inning, Dustin Pedroia and Andrew Benintendi put together back-to-back two-out singles, but Betts struck out. Not to be outdone, Sale mysteriously threw four balls in a row to Steve Pearce in the fourth inning following a Justin Smoak single, putting a runner in scoring position for old favorite Jarrod Saltalamacchia. He struck out.
The chances actually got worse as the game went on. Estrada left after six innings, but relievers Joe Biagini and Joe Smith and had their way with the Red Sox through the ninth. The Jays got a two-out single from Kevin Pillar in the eighth inning, but up next was Bautista who, of course, struck out.
Of course, the real game started in the ninth inning, but there was no way to know it then. Then again, if the real game only starts when Sale comes out, what good is it? Next time, the Sox should keep him in and win their game early. I like that idea, even if everything worked out in the end.