The early parts of this game flew by as it was a pitchers duel in every sense of the word. For the Red Sox, Chris Sale put forth one of his very best outings of the season and continued his utter domination of the Blue Jays. He ended up with eleven strikeouts on the night, with his fourth being his 1500th. That made him the fastest to ever reach that mark in baseball history, by innings pitched. On the other side, Brett Anderson shut down the Red Sox for most of the game. It was certainly frustrating to see them perform so poorly at the plate in yet another Sale Day, but in the end they came through in the later innings to pull out a victory. It’s becoming a theme of late, that even against poor pitchers the Red Sox don’t get going until late. It works when the pitchers are on, and that will be the case more often than not with this staff, but it’s not exactly an ideal strategy. Of course, the more positive way to look at it is that they come through when it matters the most. However you want to look at it, the end result has been a win more often than not this season, and that’s what we’re all looking for.
We’ll focus on the Red Sox portion of the pitchers duel first, because my god is Sale ridiculous. With some mild concerns starting to swirl after his last start against the Indians, the lefty put all of that to rest with an absurd outing against the Blue Jays. Really, it was just like every other great inning we’ve seen from him. He had his fastball and his slider working and was making hitters look stupid all night long. It was cool.
There really weren’t even a lot of chances for the Blue Jays lineup against the Red Sox ace. They did get one piece of really good contact against Sale in the second inning when Kendrys Morales ripped a double on a line drive into the left-center gap. That came with one out, and the southpaw struck out the next two batters to escape the inning without allowing a run. After that out, Sale retired the next 17 batters he faced.
He’d eventually come back out for the eighth and got himself into a little bit of trouble. The lefty allowed a couple of singles to lead off the inning before he was pulled. Still, it was a masterful performance with eleven strikeouts in seven innings. He has completely and utterly dominated the Blue Jays this season, and it continued on Tuesday. Over his three starts against Toronto, he has tossed 22 innings against the Blue Jays with 35 strikeouts and two walks without allowing a run. That is absurd.
As has become an unfortunate Sale Day tradition, the Red Sox offense couldn’t give their ace a nice lead to work with in this game. Instead, they got shut down for most of the night by Brett Anderson, a pitcher who has shown talent throughout his career but has had trouble staying healthy. He’s been able to pitch some in 2017, and it has been mostly very bad. You wouldn’t have known that by watching on Tuesday, though.
In the early going, while the Red Sox weren’t able to put any runs on the board they were hitting the ball like it was only a matter of time. With one out in the first, Eduardo Nuñez blasted a double off the wall in center field that missed being a home run by approximately a foot. A couple batters later Mookie Betts ripped a liner into right field, and while it fell down for a single it also ended the inning when Nuñez was thrown out at the plate on an ill-advised baserunning decision. They’d go down 1-2-3 in the second, though it did include a solid single that was cancelled out by a double play.
From there, Anderson settled in for a while. The Red Sox didn’t really make any challenges over the next few innings, failing to even hit a ball out of the infield until there was one out in the fifth. After the second-inning single, Anderson retired 12 Red Sox in a row.
Then, with two outs in the sixth, things finally took a turn. It started with a single from Rajai Davis, and then some luck turned it around for Boston. Davis was picked off at first base, but broke for second base and the throw from Justin Smoak hit Davis in the back to allow him to reach safely. With a runner in scoring position, Nuñez hit a weak flyball out to right field, but Jose Bautista couldn’t make the sliding catch and allowed the run to score and Nuñez to get to second. He’d eventually make it to third on an infield single, and an Andrew Benintendi steal of second — which also included a botched run down at third base from the Blue Jays — put two in scoring position for Mookie Betts. The outfielder couldn’t come through, though, and the Red Sox had to settle for just the one run.
Fortunately, Hanley Ramirez was ready to change that in the next inning. Obviously, it’s been a tough year for the Red Sox 1B/DH, but he can still do damage on high fastballs. That’s exactly what he did in the seventh, blasting a solo homer out to straightaway center field. They’d keeping it going in the eighth, once again starting the rally on a Davis single. He’d steal his second base of the game, and after a Nuñez walk they each advanced a base on an error on a pickoff throw. It was just another example of how speed can play games with a pitcher’s head. Benintendi would knock in the third run on a base hit.
So, it was up to the bullpen to preserve a three-run lead starting in that eighth inning. Addison Reed was called upon in the eighth inning with two runners on and nobody out. This was the exact situation for which he was acquired, and he got off to a good start striking out the first two batters he faced. Things got a little dicey after that as he allowed a single to load the bases and then entered a battle with Steve Pearce. On the eighth pitch of the at bat, though, Reed induced a groundout and the score remained 3-0. The ninth belonged to Craig Kimbrel, and after a rough outing on Monday he came through with an easy 1-2-3 outing on Tuesday that included two strikeouts.
The Red Sox only picked up a half-game in the American League East with the win as the Yankees were rained out on Tuesday. They’ll now play a doubleheader on Wednesday before the big series against Boston. Still, the Red Sox are now up by a full four games in the division and, if everything goes perfectly tomorrow, they could be up by as much as 5.5 heading into the big series against New York. Two straight wins is what a team needs to do after a bad four-game losing streak, and now they’ll look to push it to three on Wednesday with Rick Porcello on the bump.