Well, even the Red Sox will lose some games from time to time. This was not a real pretty night in any facet of the game, as the Red Sox succumbed to some frustrating offense, rough pitching and bad defense. There was even a questionable baserunning play mixed in. Ultimately, it was clear that Alex Cora wasn’t entirely focused on winning this game specifically, as he used Joe Kelly and Drew Pomeranz in a close game. It’s understandable given the team’s lead in the division, but it was frustrating to watch in real time. To me, though, the biggest moment of the game was the third, when the Red Sox had a chance to break the game wide open but failed to do so. Either way, a rough day from Rafael Devers along with Kelly and Pomeranz aside, losses happen.
For the first couple innings of this game, both pitchers were walking a bit of a tightrope but never really needing to press too much in tough situations. Vince Velasquez showed off the stuff that has made him such an intriguing pitcher for the last few years, and over the first couple innings the command was there too. When he is flashing both at once, he’s tough to hit and the Red Sox learned that first hand. They did get a single in the first, but Brock Holt got himself caught stealing to end that inning with J.D. Martinez in the plate. Then, in the second, they got a leadoff walk, but it was followed by a double play. Then, Jackie Bradley Jr. got to third on a single and a bad backpick attempt, but Rafael Devers left the runner on third.
Meanwhile, Nathan Eovaldi was something in between his first two amazing starts and his last disastrous outing. The righty was mixing his pitches well and generally hitting the zone, but he also fell into spells of no movement, and was predictably hit hard. This is what cursed him back in his Yankees days, when he had high velocity but poor results. Anyway, he also allowed some baserunners in the first two innings, but limited the Phillies to just a pair of singles and not allowing the runner to advance beyond first base.
In the top of the third, Velasquez suddenly lost it in the blink of an eye. The Red Sox were very fortunate with this rally, though they also came through with the big swing when they needed it. It started with Eovaldi, who clearly had no interest in swinging the bat but was able to work a walk anyway. Then, Andrew Benintendi was hit by a pitch after falling behind 0-2 and Holt reached on a very weak infield single. Suddenly, the bases were loaded without it feeling like the Red Sox had earned anyway. It didn’t matter how they got to that point, though, and Mitch Moreland stepped up. The first baseman ripped a line drive into the left-center field corner, and a poor misplay by Odubel Herrera ensured Boston would get all three runners to cross the plate on the bases-clearing double. Velasquez would then load the bases with two more walks, and his night was over. The Red Sox had a chance to break the game open from here with just one out and the bases full, but they squandered the chance. Jackie Bradley Jr. flew out, but not deep enough to score the run, and Devers struck out. Not adding more seemed like trouble at the time and that feeling would be proven correct in short order.
After a couple of quiet frames following that rally, the Phillies came up in the fourth looking to at least chip away. They got off to a strong start thanks to the Red Sox defense, as Rhys Hoskins led off that inning with a grounder to third base. It was well hit and behind the bag, but Devers had plenty of time to make a good throw and couldn’t do it. Moreland couldn’t handle the hop, and the Phillies had their leadoff man on. Eovaldi got himself into some trouble after that and started to get hit hard, allowing a single and a double to put a run on the board and two in scoring position with still nobody out. After a ground out and a pop up, Eovaldi did allow the Phillies within one but had a chance to get out of the inning with the lead in hand, though there was a runner on third. Carlos Santana came in to pinch hit and he came through, ripping one through the shift to knock in one more and tie the game at three. It was a play Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler likely make, but Brock Holt didn’t really have a chance. I think that says more about the glovework of the first two, however.
From here we fast-forward to the top of the sixth, when the Red Sox started to threaten once again. After a couple of quick outs, Devers got things going with a weak ground ball that was well placed down the third base line for a single. After Sandy León followed that up with a single of his own, Alex Cora opted to take Eovaldi out of the game in favor of Steve Pearce as a pinch hitter. It seemed as if Pearce got the run home with an error by Cesar Hernandez at second base, but replay showed that Justin Bour kept his foot on first base on the poor throw. The run was erased and the inning was over with the game still tied.
Taking Eovaldi’s place on the mound was Joe Kelly, and he got off to a rough start. Wilson Ramos — who killed the Red Sox all year with the Rays — struck again with a triple out to right-center field that was no doubt aided by a questionable misplay by Bradley in center field. Kelly would settle down a bit after that, but after issuing a one-out walk he gave up a sacrifice fly to Scott Kingery, and the Phillies took a 4-3 lead. Kelly would get a strikeout to escape from there, but the lead was given up.
After the Red Sox failed to put anything on the board in the seventh, Drew Pomeranz came on in the bottom half. He immediately got into trouble, allowing a single and a walk to start the inning. With two on and nobody out, the lefty came back to get a fly ball that moved the runner to third and a strikeout to bring Ramos back to the plate. Ramos continued to kill the Sox, this time smacking a double to right-center field to score two more runs and give Philadelphia a three-run lead. The Phillies would get one more, and they had a 7-3 lead after seven.
In the top of the eighth, the Red Sox got their chance. Going up against Pat Neshek, Boston got a pair of singles before catching a huge break. It seemed Bradley had grounded into a double play to first, but Justin Bour threw the ball directly into Xander Bogaerts’ back, leading to a bases loaded situation with nobody out. Devers then hit it well but it was right at Nick Williams in right field and Martinez couldn’t score from third. Then, León popped out in foul ground, and it was up to Mookie Betts in a pinch hitting situation. He didn’t hit it super well, but his grounder up the middle was deflected by the pitcher and resulted in an RBI infield single to make it 7-4. That brought Andrew Benintendi up with the bases still loaded and two outs, but Phillies closer Seranthony Dominguez quickly induced a ground out and the deficit was still at three.
After Hector Velazquez tossed a 1-2-3 eighth, the Red Sox had three more outs to score at least three more runs. They failed to get any runs, and left Philly with a split instead of a small sweep.
So, the Red Sox won’t go home with another sweep, but they got a split in Philly and get a day off on Thursday before returning to action at Fenway on Friday against the Rays. Brian Johnson will take the mound for the Red Sox with the Rays going with another “opener” day, I guess. First pitch will be at 7:10 PM ET.
The good news is that, despite the loss, the Red Sox maintain their double-digit lead in the American League East thanks to a Yankees loss at the hands of the Rays on Wednesday. That lead stays at 10.