Mookie. Freaking. Betts. The man is incredible, and while there was more to this game than just one at bat, Mookie had one at bat that changed everything. In one of the best battles at the plate you’ll ever see, the Red Sox superstar changed the game with one swing and led his team to their tenth straight win. Credit to David Price for pitching well after a shaky start, too, and to Jackie Bradley Jr. who had a big day at the plate himself. That said, this was a Mookie game through and through.
The first third of this game was not very fun and it was looking like the win streak was going to be snapped in frustrating fashion. Price had gotten off to a bit of a rocky start and was allowing some hard contact, giving some indication it could be a long (or, more realistically, short) night for him. Even worse, the Red Sox were doing what they always do against J.A. Happ. That is to say they were not hitting. Anything. And when they did get chances, they went down without much of a fight.
Price, as I said, started off slowly. He did strike out three batters in that first inning, but unfortunately they weren’t the only three batters he faced. He also faced Lourdes Gurriel, who ripped a one-out double into the left-center field gap. Then, a couple batters later, he faced Teoscar Hernandez. The Blue Jays outfielder got a cutter that stayed middle-in and he destroyed it out to center field for a two-run home run. Before the Red Sox even got to come to the plate, they were down 2-0.
Price did recover pretty quickly after that inning, to be fair. Over the next three innings he allowed just two singles and faced a total of ten batters. Unfortunately, as I said, Happ was rolling through the first three innings. The Red Sox were struggling to make any hard contact and were swinging and missing more than we are used to seeing from them this year.
Boston did get a couple of baserunners in the first when J.D. Martinez singled and Steve Pearce was hit by a pitch, though the latter play would eventually lead to Pearce’s exit. They would also both be stranded. They’d get another chance in the third when Jackie Bradley Jr. singled, stole second and moved to third on a ground out. He would be left there, though.
Then, in the bottom half of the fourth, things got weird and things got very good for the Red Sox. After a quick first out, Xander Bogaerts would single, and then it appeared he was cut down at second on a fielder’s choice. However, replay showed that Devon Travis’ foot came off second base a millisecond early, and the Red Sox won a challenge to keep Bogaerts at second with Brock Holt at first. Eduardo Núñez would then hit a little nubber to the mound, and the bases were loaded with one out and Sandy León coming up. The catcher wouldn’t make hard contact, but his soft grounder to shortstop scored a run with Holt being cut down at third on an impressive glove-flip from Lourdes Gurriel.
Bradley then came up and Happ made a mistake by walking him — after getting ahead 0-2 — to re-load the bases for Betts, and everything happened. It was one of the best at bats you’ll ever see, and one that was honestly way too intense for the fourth inning of a mid-July game. Betts would see 13 pitches in the at bat, and one of them was a pop up in foul ground on the right side that bounced out of Justin Smoak’s glove. To be fair, it would have been a great over-the-shoulder catch. Still, it gave Betts another chance, and he took advantage. On the 13th pitch, the superstar got a fastball below the zone and he muscled it over everything in left field for an Earth-shattering grand slam. Just like that, it was a 5-2 lead for the Red Sox.
After that, it was all up to Price to keep the game in hand, and he did not seem fazed by the long sit in between his fourth and fifth innings. In the top of the fifth, he did allow a single but the runner was not able to advance beyond first. He then followed that up with a 1-2-3 sixth that included his eighth strikeout of the night.
The seventh wasn’t quite as easy with Kendrys Morales leading off the inning. It’s been a tough year for the Blue Jays DH, but he got a first-pitch changeup down in the zone and he smashed it just over the center field wall for a solo shot. The lead was cut to two. Price did come back to get a couple more outs before handing the ball off to Brandon Workman in search of the final out of the frame. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced, but escaped the inning after that.
Boston would get that run right back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from — who else? — Betts, and Matt Barnes came in for the eighth. The righty has been dynamite all year, but he struggled a bit here. That inning started with a sharp single, and after the first out was recorded Smoak hit a ball out to deep center field. It was headed for the top of the wall, but a fan reached over and interfered. The ump — correctly, in my opinion — ruled that Smoak would stop at second and the runner from first would score, cutting the lead back down to two. Barnes then allowed another sharp single to put runners on the corners with the tying run on first, but he came back with two huge strikeouts to end the inning and the threat.
After the Red Sox failed to score in the eighth, it was up to Craig Kimbrel to record his second save in as many nights. He did give up a single, but that was it. He’d shut down the inning and the game, giving Boston a ten-game win streak.
The Red Sox will try to go for their eleventh straight on Friday night in the second game of this series. They’ll send Rick Porcello to the mound to take on Ryan Borucki. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.