This was a strange game. We all came into Tuesday’s action expecting a relatively quick pitcher’s duel between Chris Sale and Carlos Carrasco. These are two of the very best pitchers in the American League, and both of these offenses have had a tendency to go into hiding at times in 2017. Instead, the two aces combined for 8 2⁄3 innings of work and the two lineups combined for 22 runs. It wasn’t just Sale and Carrasco, either. Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Cody Allen and Addison Reed all struggled to some degree.
From the Red Sox perspective, Sale and Kimbrel were allowed to struggle. Obviously, you never want that to happen, but they’ve pitched so well this year that you have to give them a little leeway for a bad game. The key was the offense. All year long, these star pitchers have come through and bailed out the lineup’s consistently poor performance. It was time for the roles to reverse. The lineup was up to the task, and they came out on top in one of the wildest regular season games we’ll ever see.
It was pretty clear from the jump that Sale didn’t have things working to their fullest capacity, which was incredibly jarring. We’re just not used to seeing this from Sale, as he was as bad as he’s been in a Red Sox uniform by a large margin. Some were blaming this on him working with Christian Vazquez for the first time all year, and perhaps that was part of it. But, to me, it was more that he just had a bad day and the Indians had a good day. It happens.
That fact didn’t make that first inning any easier to watch, though. Honestly, it was a whole lot of bad luck that bit Sale and the Red Sox in the ass. Francisco Lindor started things off with an infield single on a little trickler to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. After Lindor stole second, Brandon Guyer hit yet another infield single, although this one was hit a little harder. Michael Brantley followed that up with another single, this one on another grounder but one that found a hole and reached the outfield. Just like that, Cleveland had a 1-0 lead before Sale could even record an out. From there, the Indians gifted Boston an out on a bunt and then scored two more on a double from Carlos Santana. It certainly wasn’t a sharp inning from Sale, but it was also a lot of bad luck.
The second inning was more straight-up bad pitching, though it was two at bats that got him. One was a four-pitch walk to lead off the inning, the other was a home run. The dinger came from Guyer on a fastball that was left middle-in. Guyer was ready for it and just turned on it.
So, after two innings of work Sale had put his team down 5-0, and it was time for the offense to pick up him for once. Fortunately, they were up for the task. They came through with a huge rally in the bottom of the second that was started by -- who else? — Rafael Devers. The rookie drew a one-out walk to start things off, and after a Bogaerts double put two in scoring position Mitch Moreland slugged a three-run home run into the right field corner to bring Boston within two. They wouldn’t stop there, as Christian Vazquez stayed hot with a double, then moved to third on a wild pitch. Mookie Betts drew a walk in the next at bat, putting runners on the corners with one out for Brock Holt. The super utility man hit a perfect double play ball, but Boston made their own break with Betts running on the pitch. That drew Lindor out of position and allowed everyone to advance a base without recording an out. Finally, they’d tie the game on a double from Eduardo Nuñez, though Holt did get thrown out at home on the play.
After the Red Sox tied the game at five, things settled down for a few innings. Sale certainly never reached the level we’ve gotten used to over the rest of his start, but he got through the next two innings without allowing any runs. That brought us to the fifth, and Sale would get into more trouble here. In this one, he got two quick outs before allowing a double to Jose Ramirez. In the next at bat, he hung a slider to Edwin Encarnacion and the former Blue Jays destroyed it. Just like that, Cleveland was back up by two.
The Red Sox came back in the bottom half of that inning looking to answer for their ace, and it seemed like they did so in the first at bat of the inning. Hanley Ramirez smashed one out to center field and it should have been gone, but Austin Jackson did this.
@Indians. #MLBNShowcase pic.twitter.com/uT9MxELUSq— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) August 2, 2017
So, that brought us to the top half of the sixth with Sale out and Blaine Boyer in. At this point, it looked like the Indians were going to run away with it. Thanks to a double, a walk and a misplayed sacrifice bunt, Cleveland loaded the bases before recording an out. Then, Boyer got through it. He induced a shallow fly ball in left field for the first out and then a tailormade double play ball to end it without allowing one run. As it turned out, that was a huge turn of events.
The Red Sox came right back in the bottom of the sixth with a big rally of their own, only they came through with the big hits when they needed them. Moreland started things with a one-out double and Vazquez followed that up with a single to put runners on the corners. From there, Betts came through with an RBI single as last year’s MVP runner-up continues to heat up. Terry Francona had seen enough at that point and called upon Andrew Miller, his not-so-secret weapon. The lefty hit Chris Young to load the bases before allowing a huge bases-clearing double to Nuñez. The newest Red Sox hitter just keeps coming through, and this time he gave Boston a 9-7 lead.
From here, it was up to Boston’s new-look bullpen. They called upon Matt Barnes for the seventh inning against the heart of Cleveland’s order, and he was more than up to the task. He set them down in an easy 1-2-3 inning. That led to Addison Reed’s Red Sox debut in the eighth. That didn’t go as smoothly. The righty allowed a home run to the first batter he faced to allow Cleveland to climb within one. We’ll chalk it up to new-team jitters, as he settled down from there and held on to the one-run lead.
That brought on Craig Kimbrel to shut the door and send his team home with a wild win. Things did not work out that way. Like Reed before him, Kimbrel would allow a long ball to the first batter he saw in Lindor. Unlike Reed before him, it didn’t get much better from there. He did follow up the home run with a couple of outs, but then allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases. With Jackson at the plate, Kimbrel threw a breaking ball in the dirt that took a nasty bounce off Vazquez’ heel and to the backstop. That led to a run and a 10-9 lead for the Indians.
The frame would end with that same score, and the Red Sox had one last chance against Cody Allen. They took full advantage, because of course they did. That’s just the way this game was. Once again, the rally was started by Devers, this time on an infield single. After Bogaerts flew out, Moreland came through with a strikeout. Yes, you read that right. He struck out, but the pitch went to the backstop so he reached. Then, Vazquez came up, and...well he walked it off. Allen served up a fastball down in the zone and Vazquez launched it over the fence to give the Red Sox a win in an absurd, insane game.
Well. What else is there to say? Turning point? The win we’ll be talking about at the championship parade later on this fall? Are you going to kill me for even suggesting that? At the end of the day, the Red Sox win their first series of the second half and, with the Yankees losing to Detroit tonight, Boston takes back first place in the American League East. Decent night, if I do say so myself. They’ll look for the sweep Wednesday night with Rick Porcello on the bump.