The Red Sox walked 14 times and stranded 18 runners in the game, but still managed to win 7-4 to move to ten games over .500 for the first time all season and maintain sole possession of first place in the AL East.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but Doug Fister managed to keep the Red Sox in the game. Early, though, it appeared as though a long night ensued for Fister and the Red Sox. Justin Smoak’d (I’m certain I’m the first one to use this pun) a three-run homer to left-center field, as the daunting middle of Toronto’s order seemed destined to hammer the soft-throwing righty.
(Of note, that home run actually broke the MLB record for most home runs in a month, a particularly impressive feat considering the previous high was in the midst of the steroid era, in May 2000.)
Marco Estrada — who, despite his 4.89 ERA, is a particularly curious Red Sox killer — allowed seven (!!!) walks through his four no-hit (!!!) innings. He weaved his way into trouble, walking Lin, Marrero, and Betts to open the third inning. Then weaved his way back out of it, getting Benintendi to pop out to the catcher, Pedroia to foul out to shallow right field, and Moreland to strikeout on a pitch above his shoulders. That was the first of three bases loaded opportunities in which the Red Sox would fail to score.
Though Estrada entered the fifth with a no-hit bid, he would exit the game three batters later.
Finally, the Red Sox broke through in the top of the fifth inning when Pedroia doubled into the gap to score two. Estrada was pulled after the Pedroia double, and put this game’s destiny, as we may have presumed pregame, in the hands of the bullpens.
Deven Marrero of all people would tie the game in the top of the sixth inning, with an RBI single to right field. Andrew Benintendi came up two batters later and avenged a rough start. Benintendi had left five runners on base in his two at-bats thus far, but finally came through with an RBI double down the left field line to grab a lead. It wasn’t quite the breakout inning that had seemingly been percolating all game, but the Red Sox had chipped away and taken the lead.
Aaaaaaand then it was gone.
Troy Tulowitzki took Heath Hembree deep to left field and the bullpen game was on. Coming in, the Red Sox probably would have taken a bullpen game — Toronto entered the game with a 3.69 team ERA and the Red Sox’ bullpen came in with a 2.92 — and ultimately it was the depth of their bullpen that would outlast Toronto’s.
Fister was fine. As is, the Red Sox have to be overjoyed with fine, and should he need to take another start (depending on the status of Eduardo Rodriguez), they’d happily take another 5-6 innings of three-run ball.
Fister was not at fault for extra innings, nor was the Red Sox bullpen (sans the one mistake from Hembree). That fault fell squarely at the feet of the Red Sox’ offensive struggles, particularly with runners on base. Pedroia grounded into a double play with one out and two on in the eighth. Bradley and Vazquez stranded Hanley in the ninth after a line drive double in the ninth. Benintendi struck out with two in scoring position then Moreland grounded out with the bases loaded in the tenth to move to 0-6 on the day.
It bears repeating: the Red Sox got 14 walks and stranded 18 runners.
In the 11th, another Hanley double and a Bradley single put runners on the corners for the Sox to inevitably strand. Then something funny happened! Xander Bogaerts came off the bench on his off day to shoot the go-ahead single into right field. Deven Marrero then brought in Bogaerts and Bradley to break the game open and end the madness. The Red Sox led 7-4.
Kimbrel did some fun Kimbrel thing and capped off yet another strong outing from the bullpen. After the Tulowitzki home run in the bottom of the sixth, Hembree, Barnes, Boyer, and Kimbrel combined for six scoreless innings, in which the group allowed just two base runners.
Rest up, Red Sox Nation. Tomorrow is Sale Day.