This was a wild game that seemed like it would be a nice, easy win for much of it. The Red Sox jumped out to an early lead and Rick Porcello held on to it for most of his outing. The seams started to break early, though, and Joe Kelly fell apart late in the game to let the Angels right back in. Some late, clutch offense — from the bottom of the lineup, no less — gave Boston the lead back and they were able to escape with a win. There were some issues in this game (specifically relief and Porcello’s inconsistencies) but the bottom of the lineup coming through shows us just how scary this offense can be. It will get them wins more often than not.
For the second straight night, the Red Sox got a chance to prove that they are over their struggles against left-handed pitching, and for the second straight night they took advantage of the opportunity. Tuesday was not a terribly tough test with John Lamb being on the hill against the Red Sox as an untested southpaw with limited, and poor, results in the majors. Wednesday was a different story as Andrew Heaney has shown real talent at the highest level, at least when he’s been healthy. The Red Sox offense unloaded on the southpaw, however, and showed off the power that they’ve been boasting all year. ‘Twas fun.
The first inning was actually a little frustrating and I would be lying if I said a little part of me wasn’t worried that it was going to be another one of those games where the Sox leave a bunch of runners on the bases. Mookie Betts started the inning with a single, but he was quickly taken off the bases on a fielder’s choice. After a stolen base and a walk, though, Boston had a couple of runners on with just one out and the middle of the lineup coming up. Heaney came through in a big spot, though, striking out both Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland to end the inning.
The second was a different story for the good guys. Eduardo Núñez, who has quietly been looking a bit better at the plate of late, led off and he did some damage right away. Heaney threw a fastball right down the heart of the plate and the Red Sox infielder got a hold of it, sending it into the seats in straightaway center field to give Boston a 1-0 lead. Things only got better from there. After Rafael Devers smacked a base hit, Sandy León came up. The catcher got a fastball down and in, and he smoked it off the “AAA” sign in left field. 3-0 Sox. A few batters later, J.D. Martinez would come up with two runners on and guess what he did. Yeah, he did the damn thing. The slugger smashed his 25th home run — more than any Red Sox hitter last year, for what that’s worth — of the year and broke open a 6-0 lead.
Those were all the runs that would be scored for a while, but the Red Sox offense was still putting runners on base and making Heaney work. Well, they went down in order in the third, but the fourth looked like it could be a big inning. They got their first two batters on with a single and a walk, and after the first out of the inning another single loaded the bases for Bogaerts with just one out. Bogaerts couldn’t come through, however, grounding into a fielder’s choice with the runner at third getting cut down at home. Moreland then grounded out himself, and the inning was over without a run. They’d get a runner to second with one out in the fifth at well, but he was also stranded.
Meanwhile, Porcello was looking good in the early parts of this game, though his command wasn’t as on point as it’s been at other points this season. That would come back to bite him later, as we’ll get to, but for most of his start he had pitched well enough with the lead. In fact, even before he got the lead he looked really good. Porcello had no trouble with the top of the order to start the game, setting them down in order. He had a little more trouble in the second when he allowed back-to-back two-out singles, but with runners on the corners he induced an inning-ending fly out to keep the score tied at zero. Of course, we knew that score would change before he came back out to the mound.
After he was handed the 6-0 lead, Porcello was looking for the ol’ shutdown inning. It wasn’t a perfect frame as he allowed both Mike Trout and Justin Upton to reach with two outs, but once again with two runners on he was able to induce an inning-ending fly out. Things would get dicy again in the fourth when the Red Sox righty allowed a leadoff double to Luis Valbuena. After a couple of outs he issued a walk, and once against the Angels had two runners on with two outs. Once again, Porcello got out of it, this time getting a pop up on the infield to end the inning.
The fifth would see the first bit of damage against Boston’s starter as the cracks were starting to open up. The first pitch of the inning was a two-seam fastball that stayed right down the middle of the zone to Ian Kinsler and the second baseman smashed it into the Monster Seats to cut the Red Sox lead to five. Porcello came back strong after that, however, to retire the next three batters. He wouldn’t carry that success into the sixth. There, he allowed a pair of one-out singles to bring Martin Maldonado up with two on and one out. Porcello threw another middle-middle two-seamer, and the Angels catcher hit it out of the park. All of a sudden, the Red Sox lead was down to 6-4. Porcello would leave the game with two outs in the inning, and Heath Hembree came on to finish things off.
After the Red Sox failed to get any of those runs back in the bottom half of the sixth, Joe Kelly was called upon with Trout, Upton and Albert Pujols due up. After getting Trout to pop out, he gave up two well-hit singles to put runners on the corners with just one out. Kelly then got what should have been a double play ball back to the mound, but he bobbled it then threw the ball into center field. That allowed a run to score — cutting the lead to 6-5 — and put runners on first and second with still only one out. Kelly continued to struggle from there, allowing Andrelton Simmons to hit a double down the third base line to tie the game and put two in scoring position. Kelly would then get a huge strikeout for the second out of the inning before handing the ball off to Matt Barnes with two on and two outs. The righty came through in a huge spot, striking out Maldonado to keep the game tied.
So, the Red Sox were looking to answer back in the bottom of the seventh, and they did just that with a two-out rally. This rally, just like the one in the second inning, started with Núñez. This time, he drew a four-pitch walk. That brought Devers to the plate, and he smoked a double off the wall in center field to score the run and break the tie. León kept things going with a single out to left field to score one more, and Boston had an 8-6 lead heading into the eighth.
With the lead back in hand, Barnes headed back out to the mound. He’d get a strikeout to start the inning, but then Kinsler reached on a Devers error. That would bring Trout to the plate as the tying run, and Barnes would walk him after getting ahead 0-2. He’d come back with a huge strikeout against Upton, and that would bring Craig Kimbrel on to face Pujols with two on and two out. After the closer came in both runners moved up a base — pushing the tying run into scoring position — on a pitch in the dirt. That was followed with a walk to load the bases for Valbuena, who would work a full count but eventually go down swinging on a fastball.
The Red Sox would add on another run in the eighth when Martinez came in to score on a wild pitch. That play also, unfortunately, included a nasty injury as Angels pitcher Jake Jewell appeared to suffer a gruesome ankle injury as he ran in to cover home plate.
Kimbrel would come back out for the ninth to try and close out this weird, wild game. He got a 1-2-3 inning and the game finally ended four hours after it began.
The Red Sox will look to finish off the sweep ahead of their showdown in the Bronx on Thursday night. Brian Johnson will take the mound for the Red Sox with Jaime Barria going for the Angels. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.