What a game. Pitching dominated this one for the vast majority of it. Aaron Nola was phenomenal for the Phillies, putting up one of the most impressive performances the Red Sox have seen all year. Fortunately, David Price worked around some early trouble to keep his team right in it throughout with a commanding performance, and then the bullpen went to work. Alex Cora avoided using Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel in this game (much to my dumb chagrin), but it worked out fine. Tyler Thornburg, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly and Hector Velazquez combined for six shutout innings before Blake Swihart finally finished it off with a walk off. The offense was rough, and the top of the lineup in particular, but the pitching on both sides was noticeably amazing.
This was a hell of a pitcher’s duel for most of the duration, but unfortunately for the Red Sox the better of the two pitchers was on the other side. Aaron Nola doesn’t quite get the national praise he deserves — though that seems to be changing this year — but anyone who watched this one knows why he’s so special. The Phillies righty showed off one of the nastiest curveballs you’ll see in this league, and he combines that with a couple other plus pitches, all of which have outstanding command. As you can imagine, that resulted in Nola making quick work of the Red Sox for most of the night.
Mookie Betts was the first batter of the game, and he actually provided some semblance of hope. The right fielder flew out, but he squared it up and drove it all the way to the wall in right field. Unfortunately, any sense of optimism quickly went out the window. Nola retired each of the first eight batters he faced (including Betts) and generally made them look silly. Boston was finally able to get a baserunner in the bottom of the third on a two-out infield single from Sandy León. Because of course. He’d be stranded there and the Red Sox came back with another 1-2-3 inning in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Price wasn’t nearly as impressive as Nola but he was still getting the job done with a little help from his friends on both sides. The first inning did include a double from Rhys Hoskins, but he would be stranded on second as the Phillies didn’t do much beyond that.
The second wouldn’t go as well. That one started with yet another double, this one from speculated Red Sox trade target Asdrubal Cabrera. Price made a bad pitch on that double, and he made another one to Maikel Franco, who ripped a liner off the Monster. It was hit hard enough to hold Franco to a single, but Cabrera still scored easily to put Philly up 1-0. From there Price got a fly out that looked to be a double play as Franco was deked by Jackie Bradley Jr. and was dead to rights at first base, but Bradley’s throw was off target. That didn’t come back to bite them, however, as Price came back with two big strikeouts.
The third was another interesting inning with the top of the Phillies lineup coming up. Hoskins got a one-out double to start that rally, and Odubel Herrera followed that up with an infield single (that was originally ruled an error on Price) to put runners on the corners for Carlos Santana. The Phillies first baseman hit a chopper out to third base and Hoskins was off on contact. Núñez easily got the slugger in a rundown, and while that was happening Herrera inexplicably tried to sneak into third base. Xander Bogaerts made a heads-up play amid the madness to tag Herrera before they eventually got Hoskins to end the inning with the score still 1-0. It’s hard to explain, so just watch this.
Red Sox have a sixth sense for bad base running, don’t try to pull this on us pic.twitter.com/B7v4DTa4Dd— Sox Lunch (@Soxlunch) July 30, 2018
After all of the fun in the first three innings, Price got into a nice groove, recording 1-2-3 innings in both the fourth and the fifth.
So, Nola and the Phillies still had a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom half of the fifth, but that would change. Bradley started the action with a one-out single, bringing Núñez to the plate. The infielder smoked a line drive into center field with Bradley off on the pitch, and Herrera made another mistake. He thought he had the catch and was ready to double up Bradley at first base, but the ball kept rising. Herrera leaped but it snuck over his glove and all the way to the wall, allowing Bradley to score and Núñez to get into third with an RBI triple. After Brock Holt drew a walk, the Red Sox had a chance to take a lead with runners on the corners with just one out and Sandy León coming up. In that situation, the last thing you want, of course, is a double play, so the Red Sox called a hit-and-run. It made sense in the context, but it backfired. León hit a line drive right at the second baseman and Holt was easily doubled up at first base, ending the rally with the score still tied.
The sixth would feature more good pitching. Philadelphia did manage a couple of baserunners on a pair of singles — one of the infield variety — but couldn’t do anything with it. Nola followed that up by totally shutting down Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez. The seventh would go similarly, with Price tossing a 1-2-3 frame and Nola working around a two-out single from Bradley.
That brought us to the eighth, and Price came back to the mound with just 82 pitches under his belt. It was very much the right call — he’d been cruising over the last four innings — but Alex Cora also made sure to have a reliever (first Tyler Thornburg then Heath Hembree) ready at a sign of trouble. Price got two quick outs, but then allowed a double down the first base line to Herrera before walking Carlos Santana on four pitches. Hembree was completely warm, but Cora opted to stay with his starter against Cabrera, and it worked. The infielder hit it hard on a line, but it hung up long enough for Betts to make the out and keep the game tied at one.
In the bottom half of the inning, things got off to a promising start as Holt ripped one high off the Monster for a leadoff double. Unfortunately, the Red Sox couldn’t cash in. León popped one up to the right side, Betts (who struggled mightily against Nola after that first at bat) struck out swinging, and Benintendi lined one right at Herrera in center field.
As the ninth got started, the starting pitchers were out of the game. Thornburg got the call in the top half of the inning, and he did very well. He got two quick outs on a pop up and a strikeout before allowing speedster Roman Quinn to reach on a single. Predictably, the Phillies outfielder tried to swipe second base, but it did not work out. León’s throw was a little towards first base, but it was the perfect height and Holt made a great play catching it and applying the tag in one motion to end the inning. Thornburg is rolling, and at this point it’s getting really hard not to be excited.
In the bottom half, the Phillies countered with Seranthony Dominguez, the best reliever in their bullpen. Things got off to a promising start with Martinez drawing a walk, but Mitch Moreland quickly erased that with a double play. Bogaerts followed that up with a double play, and we were on to extras.
In the tenth with the nine, one and two hitters due up, Cora opted to go with Ryan Brasier. It was an odd choice, particularly after Craig Kimbrel and Hembree had each warmed up previously in the game. He did well to start, getting two quick outs including one on a comeback liner on which he made a great snag. However, he walked the next two batters after that, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. Brasier got out of the jam, though, and the Red Sox had another chance to walk it off in the tenth.
They had that chance against Pat Neshek, but they quickly recorded a couple of outs. Holt came through after that with his second consecutive double, and instead of hoping León ran into one the Red Sox called upon a pinch hitter in Blake Swihart. The Phillies countered by bringing in Tommy Hunter. Holt was ignored on second base so he swiped third, but it wouldn’t matter as Swihart flew out and we moved to the eleventh.
After both teams went down in order in the eleventh — Hembree pitched for the Sox — Joe Kelly was inexplicably given the ball for the twelfth. It seemed absurd, but by golly it worked as he avoided trouble after a two-out walk for a scoreless inning.
The Red Sox would go down in order in the bottom of the 12th, bringing Hector Velazquez out for the 13th. He would allow two batters to reach, but they both were stranded. In the bottom of the 13th, Boston finally started to show some signs of life. Núñez kicked it off with a single, and quickly stole second. Suddenly, the winning run was in scoring position with nobody out. Holt would strike out, but Swihart finally, mercifully, ended the game. The catcher ripped one out to deep right field and it got by a reaching Quinn, allowing Núñez to end it with the run. It’s a walk off!
The Red Sox and Phillies finish off their short two-game series Tuesday night in Fenway as Boston goes for a mini sweep. They’ll have their hands full, with Drew Pomeranz going up against Jake Arrieta. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.
As for the division, the Yankees had the night off so the Sox could only pick up a half-game. Still, it’s now a six-game edge in the AL East.