The Red Sox are addicted to extra-inning games, but for now we can hold off on an intervention because they keep winning them. This was a wild game that started off looking depressing at every turn. Doug Fister got rocked and kicked out early. The bullpen struggled early on and the team didn’t get a scoreless inning until the sixth. Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off his damn face.
Then, literally righty after he hit himself in the face oddly enough, things took a turn. The Red Sox offense came through with a huge rally in the middle of the game for a crazy comeback, and after a wild roller coaster ride they came through in extras once again. Although the bullpen struggled a bit early, this was yet another example of the relief corps coming through in the late innings just long enough for the offense to win the game. This team is something else.
Things got off to a really rocky start for Fister, which has been a common occurrence for him even in his good starts. Part of the issue for the righty was that he wasn’t getting the bottom of the zone, and that just killed him. As a sinkerballer who relies more on weak contact than pure stuff, he needs that zone to go all the way down for him to succeed, and the umpire just wasn’t having it. That forced him to work further up against Orioles hitters, and they made him pay.
That zone also forced him into a lot of walks, which is very unusual for Fister. That’s how the first inning started, and it was followed up with a single to put runners on the corners before an out was recorded. Fister would get three straight groundouts after that, but the first knocked in a run and the Orioles had a quick 1-0 lead.
The litmus test for Fister this year has been his second inning of work, and this time around it went horribly. Baltimore started with a double right off the bat, then Fister walked the next two batters he faced to load the bases. He was getting noticeably squeezed on those walks, and it was clearly starting to frustrate him. He didn’t handle that well, giving up another double to allow two to score before escaping the inning with just one more crossing the plate. He’d come back out for the third and load the bases on a single and two walks before leaving the game. It’s tempting to say the clock has struck midnight on Fister at this point, and it’s hard to argue with it. The strike zone certainly wasn’t helping him, but he made some really bad pitches in this game and the Orioles exposed him.
Heath Hembree would come into the jam that Fister left and allowed a sacrifice fly right off the bat, but that was it. The Orioles had a chance to really put the game away, but left the inning with a 5-0 lead. Obviously, that’s nothing to sneeze at but they’d wish they’d gotten more.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox were getting dominated by Dylan Bundy early in the game. Through the first three innings they managed just one baserunner and that came on a Rafael Devers bunt against the shift. They’d manage a little bit in the fourth, but not before Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off the ground and then off his face. He was forced to leave the game with a nasal contusion. Brock Holt came in for him and led the inning off with a double, and he’d be knocked in by Mookie Betts for Boston’s first run of the game.
After the Orioles picked up another run off Hembree in the fifth, the Red Sox were ready to go on a tear. Trailing 6-1, Boston started things off with a couple singles to put runners on the corners. After the first out, Jackie Bradley came through with another single to close the gap to 6-2. That was followed by a Bogaerts walk to load the bases, and Holt once again put a good swing on the ball and singled to give Boston their third run. After another single loaded the bases, Betts cleared them with a huge double and just like that the Red Sox had a 7-6 lead. That was all they’d get, but it was a huge six-run rally that frankly came out of nowhere.
So, at this point it became a bullpen game and the Red Sox turned to Fernando Abad for a shutdown inning. The lefty did get two quick outs and was left in to face the left-handed Pedro Alvarez. He couldn’t come through in the big matchup, as he fell behind 3-1 and then left a curveball over the middle of the plate and up in the zone. You can’t do that against Alvarez, and he crushed it over the wall in right field to tie the game. John Farrell would go to Brandon Workman at that point, but it didn’t get better. Austin Hays ripped a ground ball to third base and Devers failed to get in front of it, allowing the Orioles rookie to get to second on a costly two-base error. A Tim Beckham double gave the Orioles the lead before Workman got out of the inning.
That 8-7 Baltimore lead would stand heading into the top half of the seventh with Bogaerts leading off. After the Red Sox shortstop had some issues with an early strike call in the count, he got a changeup that was left middle-middle and he sent it into the left field seats to tie the game back up. To make it even sweeter, he gave a little look to the man behind the plate as he was rounding first.
The score would remain tied heading into the top half of the eighth, when the Red Sox threatened for the lead. With one out, Christian Vazquez ripped a double into left field and left the game for pinch runner Rajai Davis. He’d move on over to third on a ground out, but Sandy Leon couldn’t come through with the big swing and struck out to leave the runner 90 feet from home.
That brought in Addison Reed for the eighth, and the Red Sox defense cost them in a huge spot in this inning. Hays led off the inning with a grounder to shortstop, and for some reason Bogaerts tried to grab it with his bare hand and make the play from there. It’s not clear if he would have been able to make the play if he gloved it, but he’d have had a chance. Instead, the ball deflected off his hand and went into left field softly, allowing Hays to get to second base. The Orioles outfielder then moved over to third base on a ground out. Reed walked Manny Machado in the next at bat to put runners on the corners with one out for Jonathan Schoop. Reed came up big from here, though, getting a strikeout and a groundout to escape the jam.
After both teams’ closers got it done in the ninth, it was on to extra innings. After a fairly quiet tenth for both sides, the Red Sox were facing a tiring Miguel Castro in the eleventh. After a quick first out, Sandy Leon drew a big walk that was followed by the team’s second out. From there, Castro just lost control and issued three balls to Bogaerts before putting him on for free. He then walked Tzu-Wei Lin to load the bases for Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox outfielder came through in the clutch after falling down to a two-strike count, hitting a seeing-eye single through the right side to put Boston up by two. That brought on Carson Smith for the bottom half, and he converted his first save since August of 2015 with an easy 1-2-3 inning.
This was a big win for the Red Sox, as the Yankees stayed hot and picked up a win over the Twins. It was also the toughest pitching matchup for the Red Sox all series. With the victory, Boston maintains its three game lead in the American League East and their magic number for the division falls to ten. They’ll look to keep on winning with Drew Pomeranz on the bump on Tuesday.