This team, my goodness. They never seem to make it easy, and this game was frustrating for a long time, but Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts came through in the ninth inning and that was enough for a victory. Before that, the game was marked by a poor inning from Eduardo Rodriguez that looked like enough to propel St. Louis to a victory. The offense was also frustrating for much of this game, but as has been the case so often this year they came through when it mattered most. This team is fun, you guys.
This was a relatively big start for Rodriguez, and considering the importance of Rodriguez to the Red Sox rotation in Price’s absence, it was a big start for the Red Sox. Of course, they’ve been on a roll of late and one game in the midst of a stretch like this isn’t a dealbreaker in either direction, but the young southpaw carrying over the momentum from his fabulous start in the Bronx would go a long way for this team. As I said above, it wasn’t a bad start for Rodriguez, but he got into some trouble at times and couldn’t really get himself out of it. That’s a big step that is hard to take for many young pitchers around the league, getting yourself out of trouble on a consistent basis. Rodriguez has the ability and has flashed it many times, he just couldn’t do it consistently on Wednesday night.
Specifically, the second inning was a rough one for Rodriguez. The lefty actually put forth a solid first inning, allowing one double but nothing else around it. He lost his command in the second, and the Cardinals just kept building upon their success. The rally started with a double from Yadier Molina that just missed being a home run, and after a walk to Jedd Gyorko the Cardinals got their first run on an RBI single from Kolten Wong. From here, St. Louis scored another run on a double, their third run on a passed ball and their fourth run on a bloop single to center field. It was a nice combination of taking advantage of a struggling pitcher, good hitting, bad defense and good fortune. It actually could have been worse, too, as Matt Carpenter was thrown out at home on a bullet from Jackie Bradley with just one out. Still, Rodriguez and the Red Sox left the inning with a 4-0 deficit.
From here, Rodriguez settled down in a big way, though his pitch count was essentially ruined by that second inning. He did allow two runners to reach scoring position in the third, but they reached on a couple of bloops. After that, he went into cruise mode and over the next three innings the only Cardinal to reach did so on an error. Overall, this was just one bad inning for Rodriguez that was enough to hand him the L. There were some concerns — the inefficiency at times is a problem as is his tendency to lean heavily on his fastball — but it was a solid outing. The cutter he’s added to his repertoire in recent starts seems to be a keeper, and gives him another element when he’s not trusting his slider. Consistency is the key for Rodriguez, and that point was driven home again in this game.
Rodriguez certainly wasn’t the only negative from the early part of this game for Boston. The Red Sox were going up against a pitcher in Lance Lynn who gives up weak contact but also always appears to be right on the verge of falling apart. He’s carved out a nice career for himself, of course, and has been fine this year, but it seemed like the Red Sox could have done more than they did in this game.
They didn’t really get anything going until the third, when they were already trailing 4-0. With a lead like that at that early point in the game, the key is to simply chip away at the lead, and that’s what they did. The rally started with a single and a walk, and then Eduardo Nuñez hit a little ground ball to the mound. Lynn made the mistake of trying to throw out Boston’s speedster, and it got by the first baseman and allowed a run to score. That’d put runners on the corners, and they’d score another run on a sacrifice fly from Mookie Betts. It was kind of a sad sacrifice fly as it came on a diving catch on a sinking line drive. It seemed as if that changed the tide of the inning, since Boston couldn’t score after that.
The Red Sox would threaten again in the fifth when they put forth a little two-out rally. There, Betts would reach on an error by Carpenter (a tough call in my opinion as he was just barely taken off the first base bag) and an Andrew Benintendi single put runners on the corners. Hanley Ramirez couldn’t come through with the big swing, though, as he popped up the first pitch to end the inning. They’d also get another chance in the sixth when Rafael Devers started things off with a double and Mitch Moreland drew a walk with one out to put two on for Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox catcher ended the inning with a double play ball, though.
So, the lineup had some chances, they just couldn’t come through with the one big swing when it was needed. It’s something we’ve seen plenty of this year, and though they’ve been much better about it of late it’s still wildly frustrating when it happens. Things obviously got better in the final inning, which we’ll get to in a minute, but things were pretty bleak at this point.
On a more positive note, it was a good day for the Red Sox bullpen. Matt Barnes came in for Rodriguez with one down in the sixth and got two straight strikeouts. He’d come back out for a scoreless seventh. Addison Reed allowed one double in the eighth, but it came on a blooper. Other than that, he was perfect in his inning of work. Craig Kimbrel came in to get a little work in the ninth, and he set St. Louis down in a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts.
In the bottom half of the ninth, the Red Sox had one more chance to at least tie this game. They got off to a hell of a start, with Xander Bogaerts launching his first home run since July 5. That cut the lead to one, and it was followed up with a walk from Mitch Moreland. From there, the Cardinals changed their pitcher, the Red Sox sent Brock Holt to pinch hit and he’d strike out. After that, Jackie Bradley took another walk to move the tying run to second base. Nuñez came up next, and during his at bat Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was ejected for arguing a late time call by the Red Sox batter. Nuñez would eventually pop out for the second at bat, bringing up Betts for a chance to win it. After a fantastic at bat, the start outfielder launched a double off the Monster to score both runners and win the game. Bradley, who scored the winning run, was actually beat to the plate by the ball but Yadier Molina dropped the throw and allowed him to score. It was a hell of a win, to say the least.
Most of this game was certainly not fun, but this team just has a way of coming through at the end of games. For all of the talk about the lack of leadership and the unlikeability of this team, they are tied for the most walkoff victories in the league. That seems fun to me. With the Yankees also winning on Wednesday, the Red Sox maintain their 4.5 game lead. New York and Boston meet at Fenway this weekend in a massive series, with Drew Pomeranz taking the mound for the good guys in game one on Friday.