Well, the first half of this Saturday afternoon game was fun. Then, it took a turn, and it all went downhill very quickly.
Let’s start with the positives. For starters, the Red Sox started showing some power and just a general ability to get some runs across the plate in this one with old friend John Lackey being the victim. After starting the game out with four straight ground outs, Boston’s offense finally started showing some signs of life with one out in the second. A walk and a single put two runners on for Jackie Bradley and the Red Sox center fielder came through with an RBI single to put Boston up 1-0.
They’d come back in the third with another thanks to a leadoff triple from Xander Bogaerts on an encouraging swing that launched the ball off the wall in right field. He’d come around on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Benintendi. Two batters later, Hanley Ramirez destroyed a fastball left right over the heart of the plate and sent it over everything in left field. Per Statcast, the ball travelled 469 feet and was the third longest homer hit in baseball this season. It was a mammoth.
They’d tack on one more run in the game with another long ball, this time off the bat of Benintendi. It was the young outfielder’s second dinger in as many days. This one came on the first pitch of the fifth inning when Lackey left a fastball right down the heart of the plate and Benintendi deposited it into the bullpen in center field.
Meanwhile, Steven Wright started the game for the Red Sox and he was mostly good for the first five innings. His knuckleball looked like it had more life than it had previously this year and was even getting up to 80 mph for the first time in 2017. He allowed just two base runners in the first three innings, and the first was on an error (that he himself committed) and the second was on a single that was immediately followed by a double play.
He did get into a little bit of trouble in the fourth, allowing a leadoff double to Kris Bryant (who, in case you haven’t noticed, is just a marvel at the plate) which was followed by a mammoth home run from former Red Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo. That brought the score to 3-2 in Boston’s favor, but Wright quickly settled down. He got out of that fourth inning without any more damage then went out and tossed a quick 1-2-3 fifth.
Then, the sixth inning came around — with the Red Sox now leading 4-2 after Benintendi’s home run — and the tide started to turn. Once again, Bryant started things off with a double and he’d get to third shortly after when Christian Vazquez allowed a passed ball on a knuckleball he couldn’t squeeze. That loomed large, as Ben Zobrist hit a one-out grounder into the shift that scored a run and brought Chicago within one. Obviously, Bryant doesn’t score there from second. Wright did give up a hard-hit single to Heyward later in the inning — the second very well-hit ball from the Cubs that inning — but no more runs were scored.
In the top half of the seventh, everything turned to poop. Before the inning even got started, things were questionable. Wright was almost at the 100-pitch mark heading into the inning, and was looking a bit shaky in the sixth. I probably would have lifted him for a fresh arm from the bullpen, but I understand where Farrell is coming from. He is playing with a short bullpen because Matt Barnes had to send a message (which, of course, you could obviously blame Farrell for) and Heath Hembree has thrown back-to-back days. You probably don’t want to go back to him a third day if you can avoid it. I still would’ve preferred Taylor there, but there’s some defense to Farrell’s decision.
Anyway, we didn’t have much time to consider the pros and cons of the move because Miguel Montero led off the inning with a game-tying home run to right field on a hung knuckleball. After inducing a pop out, Wright allowed a double to Jon Jay and that would be the day for the knuckleballer. Overall, it was a solid enough day for the righty, but he started losing it towards the end and was probably left out there too long.
Things didn’t get any better after he left, either. Robby Scott came in to face Kyle Schwarber who promptly hit a weak blooper that found the grass in shallow center field to score the go-ahead run.
That brought in Ben Taylor and the real fun started. The righty started things off with a walk to Bryant, putting runners on first and second for Rizzo. The Cubs’ first baseman hit what should have been an inning-ending double play ball, but the Red Sox suddenly forgot to play baseball. Seriously, it’s hard to put into words how this shitshow of a play went down, but I’ll try.
- Ground ball goes to Mitch Moreland at first, who throws to Xander Bogaerts covering second for the out. Schwarber advances to third without a challenge. Things look normal so far.
- Taylor hesitates in going to cover first, leaving him a step behind the natural rhythm of the play.
- Bogaerts notices this and has to double clutch with the ball at second. Rather than just holding it and hoping Taylor can get another out to keep the deficit at one, he tried to lead his pitcher to the bag. It did not go well, as the poor throw went behind Taylor and over towards the dugout.
- Schwarber scored on the throwing error, and Rizzo headed towards second. Again, rather than holding onto the ball and taking the damage, Moreland tried to gun Rizzo down at second. Predictably, the ball sailed into left field and Rizzo got another base, scampering into third.
Overall, it was some Little League style ball. It was garbage all around and was responsible for two of Boston’s four errors on the day. Rizzo wouldn’t come around to score, but enough damage had already been done. In fact, Schwarber’s run ultimately didn’t make a difference in the game’s outcome but it was the cherry on top of a terrible inning.
The Cubs had the lead, and their bullpen didn’t give it up. The Red Sox had a chance at a rally after a leadoff single from Betts in the eighth, but after a botched double play in the next at bat Chicago actually turned an inning-ending double play immediately after.
This was a frustrating loss that can be put on all sides. Steven Wright made some bad pitches in crucial spots. Farrell made a questionable decision leaving his starter in for the seventh. The defense made four errors including two on one of the most embarrassing plays imaginable. The offense left some runners on. Despite all that, the Red Sox still have a chance to come back tomorrow and win the series.