The Red Sox didn’t get a sweep this time around, but after finishing off the “first half” in strong fashion, Boston did get another series victory. This time, it was solid overall effort from all corners. Brian Johnson didn’t go deep, but he was good enough in the time he was in there. The bullpen also pitched in some bend-but-don’t break fashion and were able to preserve the lead. Offensively, Xander Bogaerts did the thing again and overall the lineup had a good enough day. There really wasn’t anything standing out here, but the team pulled out yet another win and heads into the All-Star break with 68 victories to their name. Prettayyy prettayyy prettay good.
The Red Sox had a bullpen that was running on fumes heading into Saturday, but with Brian Johnson on the mound they didn’t really have hope for a long outing. Really, the team just needed the lefty to not implode and make it as far as he possibly could. We knew he wasn’t going to be able to go much beyond the 80-pitch mark, but as long as he was able to do that in relatively efficient fashion the bullpen would be fine — particularly with the All-Star break immediately following this game — and the offense should be able to do the job. That’s mostly what happened, as Johnson was solid as ever. Like always, he was far from dominant and his control was certainly not perfect, but he really only made one bad mistake and was able to pitch his way out of jams more often than not on Sunday.
The first inning was in impressive one for Johnson, particularly considering it was his first frame since coming off the disabled list. He did walk a batter with two outs, but he spun a handful of impressive curveballs en route to a scoreless inning that included a pair of strikeouts. The second was a little more nerve-wracking, and once again in was the control. Johnson walked two batters in that inning, but he was able to pitch around that with some weak contact.
Toronto was finally able to get on the board in the third, however. Boston had a 2-0 lead heading into that inning, but that wouldn’t last the inning. Randall Grichuk, starting in center field in place of the injured Kevin Pillar on Sunday, started that inning with a double. Johnson did get a pop up for the first out, but then Teoscar Hernandez came up. Boston’s southpaw tossed an 0-1 curveball down and in, and the Blue Jays slugger smashed it into the Monster Seats to tie the game at two. Johnson would get out of the inning after that, but the damage was done.
Fortunately, he was able to come back strong in the fourth as well. That was an easy 1-2-3 inning that included a pair of strikeouts to finish things off. His pitch count was starting to get up there, by his standards, but he did come back out for the fifth. There, he got a pair of outs but also walked a batter and was lifted with two outs in the inning. Again, it was nothing special from Johnson in this game, but he did his job. Brandon Workman came on with two outs and one on and got a strikeout to end the inning.
While this was happening, the Red Sox were looking for a big game after struggling for much of Saturday’s game. They had a decent chance at doing so against Marcus Stroman, who has been struggling all year despite the talent he’s shown throughout his career. Boston didn’t have a monster day against the Blue Jays starter or anything, but it was at least less frustrating than Saturday.
They actually got off to a very hot start, and really picked up right where they left off in the walkoff victory the day before. Xander Bogaerts was hitting second in this game — a nice change by Alex Cora, by the way — and he got a pitch to drive in his first at bat. With the bases empty, Stroman threw him a fastball middle-in, and Bogaerts crushed it out to left field for a solo shot and his second homer in as many at bats. Just like that, Boston had a 1-0 lead.
That inning continued in a positive direction after that, too, with J.D. Martinez drawing a walk. That brought Mitch Moreland to the plate, and he hit a soft grounder to second base. Devon Travis tried to tag Martinez on his way to second base, but he missed the tag then bobbled the ball as he tried to throw Moreland out at first. After all that, no outs were recorded and Boston had two outs. That was big since Brock Holt followed that up with a bloop single, scoring Martinez and giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead after one.
From there, things quieted down significantly for a few innings. It did look like they had a leadoff double from Sandy León in the second, but his lack of speed messed that up as he was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double. Boston ended up going down 1-2-3 in the second, third and fourth innings.
In the fifth, things started to change for the better. This time, León did get a leadoff double on a ball that probably should have been caught by Hernandez in left field. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed that up with a double of his own, and Boston had a 3-2 lead. After Bradley moved to third on a flyout, Bogaerts hit a grounder back to the mound that deflected off Stroman. Toronto did get the out at first, but Bradley scored to extend the lead to two.
After Tyler Thornburg came out and tossed a scoreless sixth inning as he continues to look solid since returning from injury, the Sox got back on the board in the bottom half. Moreland and Steve Pearce each got on base to start that inning, with a walk and a hit by pitch, respectively, bringing Holt back up with two on. He came through yet again, poking a single through the right side to score one and put Boston up three. They would squander a chance to add to the lead anymore, but they were still in a good spot.
For the seventh, Cora called upon Ryan Brasier in perhaps the biggest spot in which he’s pitched since joining the club. He got into some trouble after a quick first out, giving up back-to-back singles ahead of the middle of the order. Brasier came through with some big pitching after that, though, getting Yangervis Solarte to ground one back to the mound and executing the double play to end the inning with the 5-2 lead still on the board.
After Boston failed to score in the bottom half, Heath Hembree got the call for the eighth. He got himself into some trouble in that inning. After getting a strikeout in the first at bat of the inning, Hembree allowed two more singles then one more after another strikeout. That loaded the bases for Toronto with two outs, leading to a huge battle between Hembree and Dwight Smith Jr. The pitcher won this one, striking out Smith on three batters to end the threat and keep the lead at three.
The Red Sox again failed to score in the eighth, it was up to Craig Kimbrel to close this one out. He did just that with an easy 1-2-3 inning, and the Red Sox are heading into the All-Star break feeling very good about themselves.
So, the Red Sox will be off for the next four days. Well, most of them anyway. Monday will be the Home Run Derby, Tuesday is the All-Star Game before two days off. Then, the Sox finally get back in action on Friday in Detroit. See you then!