Well, that was quite the day at Fenway. If you like being taken on a rollercoaster of emotions, this one was for you. It started off mostly positive despite a lack of offense because Eduardo Rodriguez was cruising in a way we haven’t seen much in his career. Then, things took a turn way downhill when the lefty sprained his ankle, forcing him to leave prematurely. Then, Joe Kelly would cough up the lead an inning later and things looked bleak. Not with this Red Sox team, though. Xander Bogaerts kicked off a ninth-inning rally to tie it, then he capped off the victory with a walkoff grand slam. What a game. What a team.
After Rick Porcello got shelled and left Friday’s game early, the Red Sox really needed a strong outing from Rodriguez. That is exactly what he got, but unfortunately the baseball gods had other plans and his outing ended prematurely. Before the injury, the southpaw was cruising as efficiently as we’ve seen from him. He was mixing his pitches and keeping the ball in the zone for what was an incredibly encouraging outing. The man has no luck.
The Blue Jays did get their first batter against Rodriguez on base with a soft line drive into center field, but the Red Sox lefty did not let things compile. He came out and struck out the next two batters he saw before ending the inning on a weak ground ball.
The second included the biggest bit of trouble Rodriguez saw, with that inning also starting with a leadoff single. After a fielder’s choice put Kevin Pillar at first base, Randall Grichuk hit a ball out to deep left field for what was initially called a double to put two runners in scoring position with just one out. However, the Red Sox challenged the play at second and Grichuk was eventually ruled out, leaving just Pillar on third with two down. Rodriguez then got Aledmys Diaz swinging on a high fastball, and that was the end of that threat.
From there, Rodriguez was on a roll, getting three consecutive 1-2-3 innings. As I said above, he did so efficiently, too, and he was at just 60 pitches through the first five innings.
Unfortunately, for as well as Rodriguez was pitching, his offense wasn’t giving him much support. Going up against spot starter Sam Gaviglio — a reliever by trade — Boston had some chances but were not able to cash in.
In the first, they got a leadoff single from Mookie Betts (because of course they did), but Brock Holt quickly negated that with a double play ball. The second would see just a one-out single, but the third included another chance. Tzu-Wei Lin — getting the start at third base for this one — drew a one-out walk and Betts followed that up with another single. Just like that there were two on with just one out, but once again Holt hit into a double play. This wasn’t your typical double play, however, as it was a little bloop into center field but Pillar — one of the best defensive outfielders in the game — made an incredible diving catch and was able to easily double up Lin at second base.
The fourth, finally, brought some production for the Red Sox offense, and it came quickly. J.D. Martinez led off that inning, and he did so with a bang. Gaviglio tossed a two-seam fastball down in the zone, and Martinez destroyed it out to left field for a solo homer. Just like that, the Red Sox were on the board with a 1-0 lead. That was all they’d get in that inning, but it was a lead at least.
The bottom of the fifth had a two-out rally, but it showed the flaws of hitting Holt behind Betts, as if the two double plays weren’t enough. Lin poked a two-out single through the right side, and the Blue Jays opted to intentionally walk Betts to get to Holt. That paid off as the utility man struck out looking to end the scoring chance.
In the top of the sixth, the day took exactly the type of turn the Red Sox didn’t need. After Rodriguez started the inning with a strikeout, Lourdes Gurriel hit a grounder to the right side. Swihart, starting at first base for this game, got to the ball but bobbled it before quickly recovering. After getting a handle he tried to make a quick throw to Rodriguez covering the bag, but his throw was behind the pitcher. It wasn’t a good play and he shouldn’t have rushed the throw, but it’s tough to put everything that happened next on Swihart.
Rodriguez didn’t make the catch and ended up colliding with Gurriel, who was on the ground after a head-first slide into the bag. The pitcher’s lower leg caught Gurriel in the head and it was clear right away things weren’t right. After a brief conference with the trainers on the mound, Rodriguez was removed with the game. Given all of the other injuries in the rotation and how well the lefty was throwing, this would be a big blow if the injury is serious.
Heath Hembree came in after Rodriguez exited the game and walked one batter but got out of the inning with the 1-0 lead intact.
After the Red Sox went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, Kelly came out for the seventh and continued his struggles. The righty allowed a single and a double right off the bat and suddenly had two runners in scoring position with nobody out. He did get a couple of ground outs after that, but the second allowed the runner from third to score and that tied the game. Kelly then walked the next batter he faced to put runners on the corners with two outs, and that was his day.
Matt Barnes came in next, and the Blue Jays perfectly executed a hit-and-run to allow a soft grounder to get through the right side and give Toronto a 2-1 lead. Barnes came back and struck out the next batter, but the damage was done.
Things only got more frustrating in the bottom of the seventh. Swihart did get a one-out single, but the Sandy León followed it up on a routine fly ball to left field. Swihart was off on the pitch and had his head down, leaving him with no idea where the ball was hit. The second baseman deked him into thinking it was a double play ball, and Swihart was on the wrong side of second base when the ball was caught. He was easily doubled up due to some some truly horrendous baserunning, and the inning was over.
The eighth brought yet another chance for the Red Sox when Betts single-handedly got a rally going. With one out, he reached on an infield single and was able to get over to second on an errant throw. Then, on the second pitch of the next at bat, he stole third and was 90 feet from tying the game with only one out. Unfortunately, Holt was up and for some reason Alex Cora opted against a pinch hitter. Holt would ground out with the infield in, keeping Betts at third. That left it all up to Martinez, but he would strike out swinging to strand the runner.
After Brandon Workman tossed a 1-2-3 ninth, Boston had one more chance to at least tie the game against Blue Jays closer Tyler Clippard. Bogaerts did his part by leading off the inning with a double into the left field corner. Jackie Bradley Jr. then kept it going with another double, this one to right field, and the game was indeed tied with a runner in scoring position and still nobody out. Unfortunately, Cora stuck with Eduardo Núñez, Blake Swihart and Sandy León rather than turning to Steve Pearce or Mitch Moreland — this writer would have hit for Swihart — and those three went down with a strikeout, a fly out and a ground out to send this game to extras.
Craig Kimbrel came on for the tenth and looked like he was going to cruise after two strikeouts, but then walked Justin Smoak. He would get out of the inning after that, but he ended up needing 20 pitches, which hurts given how worked Boston’s bullpen has been in recent days.
In the bottom half, Betts once again got on base, this time thanks to an error on what should have been a routine ground ball to shortstop. That brought Holt up in another double play situation, but this time the Red Sox put on a hit-and-run and it worked perfectly. Holt poked one through the left side, putting runners on the corners with one out. Martinez was then intentionally walked, loading the bases for Bogaerts. He just needed a deep fly ball, and he hit one of those and then some. The shortstop sent one way out to center field for a walkoff grand slam, capping off a wild day at Fenway.
The Red Sox will look to head into the All-Star break on a positive note with the final game of this four-game set on Sunday afternoon. Boston will send Brian Johnson to the mound to take on Marcus Stroman. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.