This was an extremely dumb baseball game that was really exciting but also incredibly stupid, and did I mention dumb? The Red Sox got another solid outing from Chris Sale that still felt as if it was missing a little something, and their offense failed to get much of anything going from Jake Junis. Oh, and the defense was nice enough to jump into the mix. They’d finally get just enough for a late lead, but Craig Kimbrel blew the save and sent it into a really dumb set of extra innings. It was a rollercoaster few innings before the Royals finally got to Brian Johnson and while the Red Sox made it really interesting in the bottom of the 13th, they came up just short. Literally, like, a few feet short.
It was looking like another one of those games for the Red Sox offense for the first half of this game. That will happen to even the best units in the league but it’s still frustrating as it happens. It’s even more frustrating when the best pitcher on the team is on the mound and you can’t give him any run support. Of course, we tend to only look at these things from a Boston scope — which, ya know, is understandable — but Junis deserves plenty of credit for what he was able to do against the Red Sox. He did leave a few pitches in the heart of the zone that could have been punished, but most of them were not. That being said, his slider was impressive and it was clear that he had Boston’s hitters off-balance all night long.
The first few innings weren’t exactly breezes for Junis, though the Red Sox really didn’t threaten until the third. After managing just a single in each of the first two frames, Boston had their best scoring threat of the first half of this game in the third inning. There, Andrew Benintendi started the rally with a one-out single, and after the second out J.D. Martinez drew a walk and Mitch Moreland reached on an infield single to load the bases for Xander Bogaerts. The shortstop, of course, had come through with a big grand slam the night before. This time he got a hanging slider down the heart of the plate but he was just out in front of it and fouled it off. He followed that pitch up with a whiff to end the inning and strand the bases loaded in a 0-0 game.
That was a demoralizing moment in the game, and Junis fell into a bit of a groove from there over the next couple of innings. The next six batters went down in order with only one ball leaving the infield, which was not an ideal strategy if we’re being honest.
Meanwhile, Sale was looking to make some strides in the right direction. Despite his otherworldly results to start the year, there has been something a bit off. Most of the focus has been around his velocity, but the command and break of his slider has been more concerning, and it’s something the coaching staff was working to fix with mechanical tweaks prior to this game. In this writer’s opinion, the slider was snapping off a bit more crisply in this game, though the ace still had a weird amount of trouble to finish of Royals hitters.
Kansas City was able to get a runner into scoring position very early when Jorge Soler ripped a double in the second at bat of the game, but he was stranded there in an inning that included a sick strikeout of Salvador Perez that included some of those aforementioned sliders. Sale would work his way out of trouble again in the second where he allowed a couple of singles but kept the game scoreless thanks to a double play.
After another scoreless inning in the third, Sale finally got into some trouble he couldn’t escape in the fourth, though it was hardly all his fault. Perez reached to lead off the inning on an error by Rafael Devers (who had made a few really nice plays in the field prior to this) when the third baseman couldn’t field a short-hop cleanly. He was overly aggressive in charging the ball and probably had a much easier play if he hung back and waited for the ball to come to him.
From there, Sale became responsible for the advancement of the inning as he issued a walk to Abraham Almonte before hitting Lucas Duda with a pitch to load the bases. That brought up Alcides Escobar, who hit a fly ball to left field that didn’t really look deep enough to score Perez, who is not exactly fleet of foot. Martinez made a decent throw to the plate, though it was a bit up the first base line. Still, it looked like it should have had Perez but Christian Vazquez couldn’t keep it in the glove and the Royals had a 1-0 lead with two runners in scoring position, as both runners advanced when Vazquez lost the ball.
Sale would escape that inning and recover with a relatively quick fifth inning that included just a walk, but then he got into more trouble in the sixth. With the Royals still leading 1-0 due to Boston’s offense inability to get to Junis, Sale allowed two singles in the first three at bats of the inning. It looked like he’d allowed a third to Escobar, but Bogaerts made a big diving stop and was able to cut down the runner at second to put runners at the corners with two outs. The Royals then pushed the issue and sent Escobar, and for some reason the Red Sox had decided to throw down in this situation. Vazquez’ throw was too low for Bogaerts to make a quick, accurate throw to the plate and instead he got Escobar in a rundown. That ended the inning, but not before the Royals scored their second run of the game.
That brought us to the bottom of the sixth inning, and finally the Boston bats got going. It was Moreland coming through first, as he took a hanging slider and crushed it out to right field for a solo home run to cut the deficit to one. From there, Devers smacked a two-out double on his second well-hit ball of the night, and Jackie Bradley Jr. drove him home on a little flare that found its way into left field. It wasn’t the prettiest piece of hitting, but it got the run home and tied the game.
Sale would come back out for one more inning and sent the Royals down 1-2-3 for the first time on the night. There was still a little to be desired but ultimately it was still a strong night for the ace. He ended up with seven innings of work in which he allowed just the two runs (only one earned) on six strikeouts, two walks and five hits.
The Red Sox were even nice enough to give him a chance at a win, too, as they came up against the Royals bullpen in the seventh. Eduardo Núñez lead off as a pinch hitter against the left-handed Tim Hill, but he made a quick first out. Benintendi followed that up with a double, though — his first extra-base hit off a southpaw all year — and he’d move to third on a wild pitch. With Brad Keller now in, Martinez was up with two outs and the Royals righty threw another wild pitch that allowed Benintendi to score and give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.
From here, it was up to the bullpen to hold a lead and Matt Barnes was up first in the eighth against the heart of Kansas City’s order. It was far from a clean inning, though that was hardly Barnes’ fault. After he made a terrific reaction play to get the first out, he induced another grounder through the middle that got by him. Núñez made the stop by couldn’t settle himself and made a weak, two-hopped throw to first base that Moreland couldn’t pick to allow Perez to reach. A better second baseman makes a better throw, but it was also a relatively easy bounce that Moreland corrals nine out of ten times. Jon Jay then reached on a bunt single, and after a big strikeout Vazquez tried to get Perez on a back-pick at second base. Perez broke for third on the plate and Bogaerts’ throw sailed past Devers. Thankfully, the screen on the dugout kept the ball in play and prevented the run from scoring, and Barnes would strand them with a routine flyout. It was as ugly a scoreless inning as one could imagine.
That brought us to the ninth with Craig Kimbrel coming in looking for career save number 299. He couldn’t do it as he left a fastball right in the dead-center of the zone to Alex Gordon, and the Royals outfielder took it out over the right field wall to tie the game at three. Kimbrel came back to end the inning and preserve the tie, but the Red Sox would have to walk it off if they were going to win this one.
After the Red Sox went down in a quick 1-2-3 ninth, Carson Smith came on for the tenth and allowed a pair of one-out singles before getting a big second out with a strikeout. Then, with Lucas Duda at the plate he threw a pitch in the first that Vazquez scooped up with his mask, and the ump was all over it. The runners advanced to second and third on catcher’s interference on a play I’ve never seen in my life. Smith thankfully escaped the jam with a groundout to avoid eternal shame for Vazquez.
So, from here we fast-forward to the twelfth after both sides went scoreless in the eleventh. Heath Hembree was on for his second inning of work, and it did not start well. Drew Butera led things off with a double just past an outreached Benintendi, and then Goins reached on a well-placed bunt between Hembree and Devers to put runners on the corners and nobody out for Jay. The Royals outfielder came through with a fly ball to left field to get the runner home and break the tie.
That was all they’d get, and it’d bring Kelvin Herrera to the mound with Boston having one more chance to at least extend the game. Because this game made no sense from the get-go, that’s exactly what they’d do. Perfectly enough, it was the oft-criticized (recently) Núñez who came through, taking an inside fastball and turning on it, sending it into the first row of Monster Seats. Tie game, and we’d head to the 13th.
The high wouldn’t last very long, though, as Brian Johnson came out for the 13th and he struggled. The lefty got a quick first out before allowing back-to-back singles to bring Soler up with two on and one out. Johnson tossed him a curveball down in the zone and the Royals outfielder went down and got it, sending it into the Monster Seats to give Kansas City a three-run lead.
All hope seemed lost, but the Red Sox got some momentum going in the bottom half when Moreland led things off with a single and Bogaerts was hit by a pitch. Devers was up next and battled through an 11-pitch at bat, but it ended with a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with one down. Bradley followed that up with an RBI groundout to cut the lead to two, and Vazquez ripped a single to cut it to one and bring up the most recent hero, Núñez for another chance. He almost did it again, but he flew out on a ball that went all the way to the wall in left-center field to end the game. What a bizarre game of baseball.
The Red Sox will not have to wait long to try and put this one behind them as these two teams will play their series finale in the afternoon with Boston heading out west after the conclusion of that one. Drew Pomeranz will be on the mound on Wednesday going up against Danny Duffy. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.