We’ve heard this story before, but it truly never gets old. The Red Sox offense was sleepwalking through the early portions of this game and they fell behind by a few runs. It looked like things were going to end poorly, but as they’ve done so many times before they led a late-game rally to take the lead. This time, it came in the eighth and it was led by Mookie Betts. It would be unfair to say he did it by himself but he was clearly the face of this comeback. Earlier in the game, it was a mildly encouraging start from Doug Fister, who got a bunch of strikeouts but also allowed a bunch of hits. He wouldn’t get the win and there is still reason to be concerned if he does start a postseason game, but it was a step in the right direction at least. More importantly, the bullpen had itself a great game after him and continues its impressive year. The late-game rallies by the offense get most of the headlines and understandably so, but the bullpen has routinely kept this team in games to allow those comebacks to happen.
This game started out headlined by some quick work made of both lineups, though Fister couldn’t quite get through a scoreless first inning. He’s made first-inning runs something of a tradition, as we all know. In this first inning he gave up a one-out single that was sandwiched by a couple of strikeouts, but couldn’t get the last out to make it a scoreless frame. Instead, he allowed a big double to Scooter Gennett out to the right field corner to score the game’s first run and give the Reds an early 1-0 lead.
That was all they’d get in that inning, though, and through the first four innings Fister looked a lot like the guy who surprised everyone in the month of August. The veteran righty had his two-seam fastball on full display in this game and was painting the corners with it all day. As we’ve seen this year, when he’s able to locate that pitch he gets on a roll. That was able to happen as he quickly found his rhythm and easily cruised through the Reds lineup for the start of the game. He did allow that one run, but he only allowed one more baserunner through the fourth inning and struck out a whopping eight batters during that stretch. The majority of those strikeouts were of the backwards K variety, too, because of that backdoor two-seam fastball.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox lineup couldn’t match Fister’s early performance. Going up against Jackson Stephens, Boston had nothing for a pitcher there presumably isn’t a ton of film on. That’s not an excuse for them, of course, as it was wildly frustrating to watch them fail to get anything going through the early innings. However, we’ve seen new pitchers baffle major-league lineups before and this was one of those times. The Sox hitters just couldn’t manage a whole lot of hard contact.
The only real scoring chance the Red Sox had in the first four innings of this game was in the third, an inning that was kicked off with a double from Sandy Leon on a ball that missed being a home run by about a foot. That brought Fister to the plate, but for some reason he wasn’t bunting. The best guess is that the Red Sox were afraid of a bunt that would get Leon thrown out at third, but it was a questionable decision to put it kindly. Fister would fly out before Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts both grounded out to end the inning without a run.
So, from there we fast-forward to the top half of the fifth with the same 1-0 lead and both pitchers cruising. Rafael Devers led off the inning for Boston, and he did so with a bang. Stephens got to an 0-2 count, but then hung a curveball up in the zone and Devers took advantage of the small ballpark for a solo home run to tie the game at one. The Red Sox would get another baserunner immediately following the dinger, but couldn’t advance them beyond first base.
With a tie game, Boston needed Fister to keep cruising but he got some bad luck and turned it into a rough inning. After a quick first out, Adam Duvall hit a little chopper down the third base line that Devers couldn’t make a clean barehanded play on, giving the Reds a runner on an infield single. After getting the second out, the pitcher came up with two outs and Stephens was forced to swing. Unfortunately, he made contact and hit a little blooper that just made it over Dustin Pedroia for a single. Duvall rounded second to get to third, and though there wasn’t much of a chance at an out Jackie Bradley decided to go for the outfield assist anyway. It was a poor decision as his throw sailed way over Devers’ glove and into the Reds dugout, giving Cincinnati their lead right back. They’d get another one in the next at bat when Billy Hamilton ripped an RBI triple to right field.
Fister would come back out for the sixth with that same 3-1 lead standing and he started to get hit around again. The Reds got a couple of singles against the righty to start the inning, and after he got his ninth strikeout of the game John Farrell came out and removed him from the game. Overall, there were still some issues for Fister and he had a tough couple of innings to finish things off, but on the whole this was a big step forward after his last couple of outings. The race for the fourth spot in the rotation may be back on. Fernando Abad came in to get a couple of outs, including the third with the bases loaded after an intentional walk.
After the Red Sox failed to get anything going in the seventh, Brandon Workman came on in relief and Boston was single-handedly beaten by Billy Hamilton. The Reds speedster drew a walk, then appeared to be picked off when he got caught in a rundown. However, Pedroia made a bad throw that went to the wall beyond first base and Hamilton just started flying. He ended up getting to third, and then with Vazquez backing up the play at first base Hamilton made it home with no one covering the plate. The speed was clearly the biggest driver in him scoring on this play, but Pedroia, Workman and Devers — who was covering third — all should have been moving towards the plate to at least try and prevent the run from scoring. I’m not sure if it would’ve been possible to get Hamilton either way, but it was not a good look for the Red Sox defense, starting with Pedroia’s error and then everything that followed. Workman would get one more out before Robby Scott came in to finish things off.
As the Red Sox have been doing all year, they turned it on in the eighth inning for yet another late-game comeback. This rally started with a big leadoff walk from Vazquez that was followed by a single from Bogaerts. With the two leadoff men on, the Reds brought in Raisel Iglesias, who is their best reliever. At this point, Boston caught a huge break when Pedroia hit what should have been a double play ball. Iglesias misplayed it, though, and was only able to get the out at first. After Benintendi walked to load the bases, it was up to Betts to come through. That he did. With two strikes, Iglesias caught a little too much of the plate with a slider and Betts smacked it into the left-center gap for a bases-clearing, game-tying double. After Moreland popped out for out number two, Devers came up and hit a weak grounder to third base that he was able to beat out with some great hustle. That was huge, because Betts never stopped running and was able to score. It was truly incredible baserunning and a display of high baseball IQ to give the Red Sox the lead.
From here it was up to the bullpen to hold on to the lead and the top two men were up to the task. Addison Reed had the eighth and had an easy 1-2-3 frame that included a couple of punchouts. That led to a Craig Kimbrel save situation in the ninth, and he continued his dominance with a 1-2-3 inning to close the door.
So, with the win the Red Sox get their second consecutive sweep and their sixth consecutive victory. More importantly, they push their magic number for clinching the division down to four and it certainly seems as if it should fall to three with the Yankees currently trailing 9-5 in the ninth. Things are good in Boston right now, and they’ll look to keep the good times rolling on Monday with Drew Pomeranz on the mound.