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Red Sox 0, Phillies 1: Sox offense wastes Sale’s masterpiece

Another great start from Sale wasted by a lack of run support.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Most of this game was fairly uneventful, with both pitchers cruising through their opponents’ lineups. In fact, over the first seven innings, the most exciting part of the game was a fire alarm going off through the stadium. It sounded like it was coming from outside my apartment, leading me to go searching for the source only to find out the source was in Philadelphia. Anyway, yeah, the actual baseball game didn’t have a lot of action. At least, it didn’t have a lot of action on the offensive side of the game.

The good news is Chris Sale looked like early-season Chris Sale again, completely dominating this Phillies lineup. Whereas he had struggled to keep his strikeout stuff going late into games in his previous few outings, he had the Phillies lineup off balance throughout this entire start. In fact, he never really got into any serious trouble.

Over the first six innings, the ace of Boston’s staff only threw 80 pitches and had allowed just three baserunners with none of them coming in the same frame. He allowed one double, one single and one walk. None of them came around to score. Sale also managed to strike out two batters in each of the first four innings.

Through the first seven innings, he had ten strikeouts to just one walk and the two hits. It was looking like a vintage performance for Sale....or, you know, vintage in the sense that he looked like the guy from a few weeks ago rather than the merely good pitcher he has been of late.

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the Red Sox offense also looked like a vintage unit compared to early-season Sale starts. It was particularly frustrating that they couldn’t get their ace any run support considering they were facing Nick Pivetta, the owner of a mid-5’s ERA heading into this contest.

To be fair to the young Phillies starter, his stuff was more impressive than I had expected based on his numbers coming into the game. More importantly, I was impressed with his command, as he had major problems in that area in his first few starts. He did a good job of locating for most of this game.

With that being said, the Red Sox should have done better. They are too good to get shut down by a pitcher of Pivetta’s caliber, even if he was better than I thought he would be. To be fair, though, they had a little more success against the Phillies starter than they had against Sale.

Boston’s best chance probably came in the second inning, which is the one frame in which Pivetta’s command looked as advertised. That inning started with a walk and a single to put the first two runners on, and after two strikeouts Sandy Leon drew a walk to load the bases. Unfortunately, this game was being played in an NL park so Sale had to come to the plate in this situation. To be fair, he did well enough to get a hit, smashing a well-hit ball up the middle. Howie Kendrick made a terrific diving stop, though, and was able to make a strong throw to get Sale out at first and end the inning without a run being scored.

They wouldn’t have another chance until the fifth, and once again things rallied around the bottom of the lineup. This rally started with a base hit from Leon and the catcher moved over to second base on a wild pitch. After the second out was recorded, Mookie Betts came through with a hard-hit single through the left side. With the offense struggling to get much going all night, Brian Butterfield decided to challenge Daniel Nava’s arm in left field and waved Leon around. That ended up being a bad call, as Nava threw a strike home and Leon was out by a considerable margin. The game remained scoreless.

It would stay that way into the eighth, with Sale still in the game but the Phillies having just pulled Pivetta. Instead, they turned over to Pat Neshek, who began the inning by facing Sale. The pitcher came through with a big swing to start the inning and ripped a double to left field. There’s no way the Red Sox could waste a leadoff double from their pitcher, right? RIGHT? Lol, come on. Sale did make it to third after tagging up on a fly ball to center field from Betts, but was stranded there after Dustin Pedroia struck out and Xander Bogaerts popped out.

That led to the bottom half of the eighth, and wouldn’t you know it the blown chances came back to bite the Red Sox. After Sale recorded a quick first out, Andrew Knapp came through with a one-out base hit. Then, pinch hitter Ty Kelly ripped a double to the left field corner and the Phillies were not going to pass this chance up. They sent Knapp around to score, and he was able to do so. The Red Sox may have had a chance to make the play at the plate, but Benintendi overthrew his first cutoff man in Bogaerts and instead sent it to Pablo Sandoval, who was about even with the third base bag. Sandoval then sailed his throw over the catcher. Sandoval may have had Knapp with a better throw, but I think Benintendi should have hit Bogaerts with that cutoff. Either way, the Red Sox were all of a sudden trailing and Sale was on the hook for a loss. The ace would get out of the inning with just the one run being allowed.

That left it up to the Red Sox offense going up against Hector Neris, and.....they went down without scoring a run. Oddly enough, John Farrell left Pablo Sandoval to hit with the tying run on first base rather than going to Hanley Ramirez to pinch hit off the bench. That was a strange decision, and I’m interested to hear the reasoning behind it.

EIther way, it was a frustrating game in which they wasted a great outing from Sale and struggled to hit off a pitcher who, quite frankly, isn’t all that great. They still won three out of four in the series and are generally playing very well heading into this big series in Houston, but this game leaves a bad taste in the mouth. On the plus side, the bullpen got a day of rest. Hooray for small miracles!