That was a rough game on a number of different fronts. On the positive side, they did get a strong outing from Rick Porcello. We’ll get into it below, but the three runs that were scored on his watch were hardly his fault and the righty was on his game pretty much all night. This game is decidedly not on him. On the flip side, the offense didn’t do much of anything for most of this game. In particular, the top of the lineup was disappointing as the biggest bats didn’t show up. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez combined to reach base once and all told they went 0-13 with nine strikeouts. That’s not a recipe for success for a team that was doing so well because of the jump-started top of the lineup. The hitters did show some late life in the ninth to force extras, but Craig Kimbrel threw a meatball that he paid for in the tenth. It wasn’t a fun time.
Once again, for the third consecutive game the offense was the story. Or, more accurately, the lack of offense was the story for the early parts of this game. The Red Sox got another strong start from their starter, but the offense just couldn’t come through. J.A. Happ was on the mound, and while he is a good pitcher who had good command in this game, Boston had more trouble than they should have. They’ve seemingly always had trouble with the Blue Jays lefty, but that’s not so much an excuse as it is me screaming internally.
The team hasn’t gotten away from the approach that was working so well early on, and two of the first three batters of the game swung at the first pitch they saw. Unfortunately, those two at bats resulted in a pop out and a ground out, and they mixed in a strike out in between for a 1-2-3 first. They wouldn’t get their first baserunner until the third when Jackie Bradley Jr. led things off with an infield single. it wasn’t the loudest production, but it was something! Of course, Happ came back and struck out the next three batters to end the inning without trouble.
In the fourth, the Red Sox got another baserunner on an error than was eventually changed to a hit, but he was also stranded. The fifth was another 1-2-3 affair, though to Boston’s credit they hit a couple of balls well but Kevin Pillar covers an impossible amount of ground while making it look effortless.
While all of this was going on, Porcello was looking phenomenal on the mound for the Red Sox, just as he’s been doing all year. He continued to use his entire arsenal with confidence and commanded the strike zone. There were three walks for the Blue Jays in this game after the 2016 Cy Young winner walked only one batter through his first three starts, but the stuff was great and the Blue Jays struggled for most of the night.
After a quick first inning that just featured a walk, the Blue Jays did all of their damage in the second inning. Of course, as we’ll discuss, it’s hard to put it all on Porcello, or even mostly on the pitcher. He did lead the inning off with a walk, which is always a recipe for disaster, but from there things got weird. The Blue Jays put on a hit and run in the next at bat with noted contact hitter Russell Martin (this is sarcasm) and it worked perfectly. The catcher hit a weak ground ball that snuck through a massive hole to put runners on the corners.
After that, Steve Pearce hit a weak chopper to third base. Rafael Devers grabbed it running in but had a tough play to try and get the runner out at the plate while on the move, and his throw was off target. It was decidedly not a good throw, and while that can be excused given the difficulty of the play you could certainly argue that he should just take the out at first this early in the game rather than risking a bigger inning.
With runners on first and second now and still nobody out, the Red Sox were playing for a bunt and instead Aledmys Diaz hit a double play ball to shortstop. Eduardo Nuñez was positioned far off the second base bag and while they got the out at second they didn’t have much of a chance to turn the double play. Devon Travis then hit another grounder to third and Devers made the play at the plate this time around. Then, after a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, another ground ball was hit to third. This one was hit pretty hard and took a tough hop, and Devers couldn’t make the play. Plenty of third basemen probably make this play and at least limit it to one run, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it routine. Either way, the Blue Jays took a 3-0 lead on the play.
From there, it was all Porcello for a while. Toronto had no answer for him as all of the righty’s pitches were at their best and he was missing bats left and right. There wasn’t even a ton of hard contact. In fact, after that two-run ground ball Porcello retired the next eight batters he faced on six strikeouts and two ground outs. That’s....well that’s what you’re lookin’ for.
At the end of the day, the line looked worse than how he actually pitched, which is saying something because the line really doesn’t look that bad. Porcello was pulled after seven innings of work and in that time he allowed just the three runs on three hits, three walks and nine strike outs. And, as we talked about, those runs weren’t entirely his fault.
So, down 3-0 the Red Sox had to get something going against Happ and the Blue Jays. They got a little bit in the sixth when Brock Holt led things off with a double on a liner into the left field corner. After the couple of relatively well-hit flyouts in the fifth, this seemed like it could be the start of something for Boston. Instead, Mookie Betts flew out and Andrew Benintendi struck out. Hanley Ramirez did come through with an RBI single, but the rally ended there because of yet another Martinez strikeout.
From here it was on to Toronto’s bullpen as the Red Sox were looking for better luck against anyone other than Happ. They did get a one-out baserunner in the eighth, but couldn’t take advantage. In the ninth, going up against one of the best closers in baseball in Roberto Osuna, the Red Sox got a couple of singles sandwiched by a Martinez strikeout to put two on with one out for Nuñez. The infielder came through with a big single into right field to cut the deficit to one and put runners on the corners for Bradley. Bradley would strike out, leaving it all up to Christian Vazquez. The catcher drew a walk (with some help from the umpire) to load the bases for Holt, and Holt \o/ came through with an RBI single to tie the game. It also ended the inning because Carlos Febles inexplicably sent Nuñez home to be thrown out by approximately 84 feet and end the inning with Betts in the on deck circle. I don’t know.
Instead of bringing Craig Kimbrel in for the ninth in a tie game, Alex Cora opted to stick with Joe Kelly who had just thrown a 1-2-3 eighth. It was not a strategy I particularly endorsed, but it worked. The Blue Jays got a two-out double but nothing else to push this one into extras.
Boston went down in three at bats in the top half of the tenth, and this time Cora did bring out Kimbrel. It was the right choice — you cannot lose a game with your best pitcher on the bench — but it did not work out. After a strikeout to start things off, Curtis Granderson came up and got a 2-0 fastball down the heart of the plate. The outfielder took advantage, sending it out of the park for a walk-off blast to give Boston their third straight loss.
The Red Sox will look to snap this losing streak and wake up the bats with the second game of this series on Wednesday night. Eduardo Rodriguez will be on the hill for Boston taking on Aaron Sanchez. First pitch will be at 7:07 PM ET.