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Red Sox 5, Cardinals 4: Bullpen leads Red Sox to marathon victory

Late offense and a masterful bullpen performance leads Boston to a sweep.

Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The offense’s frustrating performance was the story for much of this one, as they reverted back to their frustrating selves for most of this game. To be fair to them, they were facing off against Mike Leake, who happens to lead the National League in ERA. Watching him pitch, I’m honestly not sure how it works. His stuff isn’t really that impressive, although he did spin a few nice breaking balls in this one.

Mostly, it’s just the command, and the Red Sox either couldn’t find good pitches to hit or, when they finally got one, rarely took advantage. They did get a runner in scoring position a few times in the early going — one on a Xander Bogaerts triple — but they couldn’t push a run across. Leake got through his first six innings without allowing a run. Instead, he gave up a bunch of grounders and the triple from Bogaerts was one of the only instances of good contact of the game for Boston hitters.

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland were particularly distressing. The former went hitless once again, and now is up to 28 plate appearances without a hit. Moreland is in a similar slump, although he did score a run after reaching on an error in the seventh.

In the seventh, a flip seemingly flipped for this Red Sox offense. Trailing 4-0, Moreland started it when he reached on that error and made it to second on a bad throw. With the first baseman on, Jackie Bradley demolished a baseball 441 feet out to straightaway center field. The homer came on a sinker on the outer half of the plate down by the knees and Bradley just stayed with it and killed it. It’s just another sign of his coming out of the slump.

In the next inning, with Trevor Rosenthal throwing triple digits on the mound, Dustin Pedroia started the rally by drawing a walk. Then, Bogaerts came through with his second triple of the night, this one on a liner to right-center field that rolled all the way to the wall. It was an impressive piece of hitting on a fastball up and away. Bogaerts has become so incredible at just taking what a pitcher gives him and doing damage with it. The shortstop would come around to score the tying run on a sacrifice fly to Andrew Benintendi.

From there, the Red Sox and Cardinals would trade scoreless half-innings for what seemed like hours (but wasn’t) until we hit the 13th. In that frame, Boston would still get two quick outs, but then really turned it on. Moreland started things off with a ground rule double that just barely landed in fair territory, and after the Cardinals intentionally walked Bradley, Chris Young came in to pinch hit for Fernando Abad. The move worked out, as Young hit a ball into left field that got down and drove in the go-ahead run.

Ben Taylor — the last reliever available in the Red Sox bullpen — came in and got the final three outs. It wasn’t just Taylor, though. The entire relief corps for Boston was outstanding, throwing a combined seven shutout innings and keeping this game tied long enough for the offense to eventually get the job done.

Meanwhile, starting for the Red Sox in this one was Rick Porcello, who continues to confound after winning the Cy Young last year. Prior to his last start against the Rays, the righty was looking a lot like his 2016 self. He was getting some strikeouts with his new-ish fastball-heavy approach, and was showing off the command that allowed him to soar so high last season. Then, he went out against the Rays last weekend and got hit hard by the Tampa offense for the second time this year.

So, on Wednesday, he was looking for a bounce-back, but it was pretty clear early on that it wasn’t going to come. Dexter Fowler was the first batter he faced in the game, and he left the former Cub a fastball right down the chute and Fowler destroyed it deep into the seats. Just like that, Porcello was pitching from behind.

That was all the runs he’d allow in that first inning, but he allowed three in the second and was trailing 4-0 with 40 pitches after two innings. To his credit, he would somehow make it through six innings and didn’t allow any more runs. With that being said, he didn’t really have that same command in this one as he was leaving a few too many fastballs in the zone, particularly early.

Let’s get to that second inning, though, because that was really the difference in this game and it was on both the pitcher and the gloves behind him. Things started when Yadier Molina hit one down the left field line. He’d get a double on this one, but Andrew Benintendi bobbled it when he picked it up. If he had grabbed it cleanly, there’s a decent chance he could have gotten the slow-moving Molina at the bag. After that, Aledmys Diaz pushed a bunt to Moreland, who took a second to see if he could get Molina at third. After doing so, it was too late to get Diaz at first and all of a sudden there were runners on the corner with two outs. Moreland has to just take the easy out there.

After that, Porcello gave up a single and a double — both well-hit — and the Cardinals had two more runs on the board to go up 3-0. He would walk Fowler, although it was very clearly an unintentional intentional walk, to load the bases before a ground out would allow the final run of the inning to score. Really, it could have been worse than it was.

Porcello also could have gotten into trouble in the fourth after he started things off by allowing a double to Leake and walking Fowler. Tommy Pham came up with two on and no outs and smacked a liner up the middle. Bogaerts would come through, though, somehow getting a glove on it and knocking it down before picking it up and getting the two lead runners for a double play. Porcello didn’t allow a run in the jam, and wouldn’t for the rest of the game. Like Eduardo Rodriguez on Tuesday, this outing could have been much worse than it ended up being.

All in all, this was a really nice win. Porcello wasn’t at his best, but he gave the offense a chance to win. For much of the game, it looked like they weren’t going to get the job done, but they turned it on for a late rally. We’re all going to be tired in the morning, but it was worth it.