Another day, another walk off. This one wasn’t pretty throughout, as the Red Sox offense was dominated by Carlos Rodon for most of the contest. On the other side, Eduardo Rodriguez put together some good results but it probably overstates how well he pitched. Against a team like the White Sox, you’d obviously prefer easy wins, but baseball doesn’t work like that. The Red Sox will take wins however they can get them, and this one just happened to take a little longer.
For much of this game, it was frustrating both in terms of Rodriguez’ performance on the mound and the offense’s performance at the plate. We’ll start with the latter, since that was giving people flashbacks to the team’s awful stretch in the middle of July. Despite how well they’ve been hitting over the last few games, I can’t say I blame people for going to the dark place when seeing the lackluster performance they put forth against Rodon.
To be fair, Rodon was outstanding in this outing. The young lefty is much more talented than his numbers would suggest, particularly since he was hurt for much of the year and had been working his way back from injury. He’ll certainly get into trouble at times with lapses of command that can lead to hard contact and a run of free passes, but when he’s hitting his spots he’s damn hard to hit. He was hitting his spots for the most part on Friday night, and the Red Sox were having trouble with his wicked fastball/slider combo.
Really, it was just a whole lot of nothing going on for the Red Sox offense for most of the game. They didn’t get their first baserunner until Christian Vazquez snuck in a single in the third, and they didn’t really get anything going until the fifth inning. At this point, they were trailing 2-0 and it looked like it was going to be another shutout.
Boston finally got a rally going in the fifth, and it was of course started by Rafael Devers. The rookie, after striking out in an ugly first at bat, came back with a solid single through the middle as he continues to show an ability to make adjustments on the fly. Xander Bogaerts followed that up with a single of his own to put runners on the corners and after a great at bat Chris Young came through with a third consecutive single to cut Chicago’s lead to one. After a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Jackie Bradley reached on an infield single and just like that the bases were loaded with just one out and the top of the lineup coming up. It seemed like the perfect spot to put up a crooked numbers. Instead, Mookie Betts grounded into a fielder’s choice to cut Bogaerts down at the plate and Andrew Benintendi struck out to end the inning with the bases still full of Red Sox.
So, that was the frustrating offense. On the other side of things, Rodriguez wasn’t very sharp at all either, though he still put up good results. The command wasn’t there for much of the outing, and it seems likely that a better team would have put up at least a couple more runs, if not more, against the young southpaw.
Early on, things weren’t too bad for Rodriguez, though he was throwing more pitches than you’d like. Still, through three innings he’d only allowed two baserunners and one of those came on an error from Bogaerts. It was in the fourth inning when he started looking like he was having a rough night. That inning started with a hard-hit double from Jose Abreu, and after the first out of the inning that came on a diving catch from Betts the White Sox put two runners in scoring position on a walk and a ground out. So, that brought up rookie Nicky Delmonico with two outs and two in scoring position in a 0-0 game. Rodriguez got the at bat to two strikes, but threw the lefty two consecutive fastballs in the same spot. Delmonico didn’t miss the second one and smacked it off the Monster for a 2-RBI double.
That was all the damage the White Sox would do against Rodriguez despite him not having the best command of his pitches. Along with the relative lack of command, the lefty clearly didn’t have much confidence in his secondaries as he was leaning very heavily on the fastball throughout the start. As I said, a better team likely would have scored more runs and knocked him out early, but Rodriguez ended up lasting six innings and allowing only the two runs. It took him a career-high 118 pitches to do it.
So, that brings us to the bottom of the sixth with Rodon still in and the Red Sox trailing by one. They wouldn’t be trailing for long as they smacked a leadoff home run to tie the game. It came off the bat of -- who else? — Eduardo Nuñez. The team’s new spark plug took a changeup down and in and smacked it to the last row of the Monster Seats.
So, we now fast-forward to the top of the ninth after Addison Reed and Matt Barnes both tossed scoreless innings. Craig Kimbrel entered at this point with the game still tied and promptly allowed the first two batters to reach. After a bunt moved both runners into scoring position with one out, Kimbrel was in some trouble. Fortunately, he’s still Craig Kimbrel even if he’s been a bit more mortal of late and he got two strikeouts to end the inning.
The Red Sox wouldn’t get anything in the ninth, and this game was heading into extras. Brandon Workman took care of the tenth, and that brought on Heath Hembree for what was a wild eleventh. Like Kimbrel, he allowed the first two batters to reach and had the third batter drop down a bunt. Unlike Kimbrel, Hembree went for the out at third -- which seemed like a horrible idea at the time — and it worked. Devers made a great play keeping his foot on the bag and Hembree made a strong throw. Then, with runners on first and second, Vazquez pulled off a back-pick on the runner at second with a little assistance from Bogaerts blocking the second base bag with his knee. Suddenly with two outs and just one runner on, Hembree induced a ground out to escape the jam without allowing a run.
While all of this was happening, the Red Sox were failing to get much of anything going against a, franky, bad White Sox bullpen. It seemed to be continuing in the bottom half of the eleventh as Benintendi and Nuñez made two quick outs to start the frame. Then, Mitch Moreland came to the plate for his first at bat of the game after coming in for Hanley Ramirez earlier in the game. Aaron Bummer hung him a slider and he didn’t miss it. The ball ended up in the Monster Seats and the Red Sox walked it off.
So, the Red Sox get another win while the Yankees and Rays each get another loss. That puts Boston up by three games on New York and 4.5 on Tampa Bay. Things are good for the Red Sox right now, and they’ll look to keep the good times rolling with Drew Pomeranz on the mound Saturday night.