It was certainly not the cleanest of victories for the Red Sox on Wednesday night, but a win is a win is a win is a win. On the negative side, there was more bad infield defense and baserunning for the Red Sox, and it almost cost them. Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nuñez in particular struggled with the gloves, and Andrew Benintendi made a weird baserunning play, though I’m honestly not sure how much blame he deserves. There were also some frustrating moments for the offense, but ultimately they got just enough from Mookie Betts and Brock Holt. That, combined with great bullpen work and a strong outing from Eduardo Rodriguez — who didn’t have his best strikeout stuff but still got good results from attacking hitters — led to a win. We’ll take ‘em how we can get ‘em.
For most of this game it felt like it was one step forward and two steps back for the Red Sox as they continue to look like a different team than the one than ran through the first few weeks of their schedule. One of the biggest differences for this team during this recent rough stretch has been their inability to get on the board early. When they were on their absurd run to start the year, they seemingly opened up a blowout margin within the first few innings of every game. The goal, obviously, was to do that again on Wednesday.
They got the start they wanted with Mookie Betts leading off, as he hit yet another leadoff home run. This time he got a fastball right down the heart of the plate and he sent it over the left field wall for an early 1-0 lead. It was Betts’ third leadoff home run on this road trip, which has been going on for eight games. Pretty good!
That was all they’d get in the top of the first, and the defense teamed up with Rodriguez to give it right back in the bottom half of the frame. Steve Pearce, one of the better platoon bats in the league and a bonafide lefty killer, led things off with a double out to left field that only missed being a home run by a few feet. Andrew Benintendi played it well off the wall and got it back in quickly, but Pearce made a good slide towards the outfield and Nuñez made a poor tag attempt with his momentum going the other way. It could have been an out with better defense, though Pearce deserves some credit as well.
Two batters later, Justin Smoak hit a ground ball out to third base. It took a tough hop but Devers made a strong stop. Unfortunately, he had to wait an extra beat to make the throw across the diamond with Hanley Ramirez playing off the bag in the shift. That lack of rhythm proved costly as Devers’ throw sailed away and allowed Pearce to score and Smoak to advance to second base. Just like that, the score was tied.
That was all the Blue Jays would get there, and after that first inning the pitchers would settle in a bit. Rodriguez was at his very best for a few innings, featuring his entire repertoire and attacking hitters as a pitcher with his kind of stuff should. The result were the kind of quick innings that have been so sorely lacking throughout his career. On the other end, the Red Sox got just one more baserunner over the next three innings. Defensively, Devers also made another error during this stretch.
Things took a turn for the better in the fifth inning for the Red Sox offense as it looked like they were finally about to break out for the first time in what seems like forever (it’s not). Aaron Sanchez got a little wild to start this inning as he walked the first batter he faced then hit the second to put two on with nobody out and the red-hot Brock Holt coming up.
The infielder came through with a double to left-center field, but things got a little weird. Jackie Bradley Jr., who was on second, thought the ball might be caught and started to head back. Christian Vazquez, who was on first, knew it wouldn’t be caught and just kept going. They almost passed each other between second and third, which would have resulted in an out of course, but narrowly avoided it. Bradley would score and the Red Sox had a lead with two in scoring position and nobody out.
This is where another step back would come. After Betts struck out, Benintendi drew a one-out walk to load the bases for Ramirez. The slugger has come through so many times already this year, but he couldn’t this time. Instead, he hit into a demoralizing inning-ending double play.
Once again, the Red Sox had a lead but wouldn’t hold on to it for too long. Once again this inning started with some suboptimal defense from Nuñez. Lourdes Gurriel hit a grounder up the middle and Boston’s second baseman got there, but Nuñez failed to set himself before making a throw — and he had time to do so — and as a result his throw took Ramirez off the bag and put speed on the bases. It was ruled a hit for some reason, but it should have been an error.
That speed paid off when Gurriel stole second base, and that would turn out to be a big play. After a second out Pearce came back to the plate and worked a tough at bat against Rodriguez, who was pounding the righty with changeups. With a 3-2 count, Pearce got one he could hit and while he didn’t make good contact the soft liner got into the outfield and tied the game at two.
This time, we wouldn’t wait long for the next run, and this time it wasn’t the Red Sox taking the lead. Instead, Yangervis Solarte led off the bottom half of the sixth by taking a hanging slider out to left field, and just like that Toronto had their first lead of the game. Even worse, the homer came within a minute or two of the Maple Leafs taking a 4-3 lead in the hockey game.
Fortunately, this was when the game took a reverse and instead of it being one step forward and two steps back, it was one step back and two steps forward. And, once again, it was Holt and Betts coming through. Boston got a one-out single from Holt in front of Betts, and the Red Sox star took an outside fastball and put it over the right field wall for a go-ahead, two-run home run. Amazingly, it was only Betts’ third opposite field home run of his career (per Fangraphs).
Much like when they scored their last run, however, they squandered the chance for more. Once again, they were able to load the bases after three straight walks following Betts’ home run. Devers was up next, and he hit a towering fly ball to right field that looked certain to score a run. Except, Benintendi couldn’t see the play past the second base umpire and left too early to tag and was stuck at third, and he’d be stranded there on a Nuñez ground out. It was....weird.
Rodriguez would then come back for two more outs in the seventh before being lifted. He ended up with another solid start with three runs over 6 2⁄3 innings on six hits and one walk. He did only strike out three batters, which is certainly a low number for him. Heath Hembree came on and finished off the seventh with a strikeout.
After the Sox went down in a scoreless eighth, Joe Kelly was out for the bottom half against the middle of Toronto’s lineup. The righty had no trouble with the heart of the order, inducing a couple of ground outs and ending things with a strikeout.
Boston would once again go scoreless in the ninth, and now it was Craig Kimbrel coming out to try and close out this game, avenge last nights walkoff and snap the team’s losing skid. He did all of that with a quick, 1-2-3 ninth and the Red Sox got back into the win column.
So, the Red Sox will look to make this into a win streak while also getting back into the series win column on Thursday with their finale in Toronto and the final game of this nine-game road trip. Boston will send Chris Sale to the mound to go up against Marco Estrada. First pitch will be at 7:07 PM ET.