Yowza. This was not a great game and, if we’re being honest, there was probably more bad to take away than good. But, that’s not what counts. It was a win on the ledger and showed once again that this Red Sox team doesn’t stop fighting. For most of the night it seemed like the Red Sox would go home with a relatively uneventful win, but then Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree and Craig Kimbrel all imploded, only to be picked up by the offense. A win is a win is a win is a win.
The Red Sox were in desperate need for a strong effort on both sides of the ball today, and it certainly wasn’t going to hurt if it came early. Things weren’t perfect in the series opener against the Marlins, but all in all things got off to a solid start. Although both sides of the ball were important and both pitching and hitting was an issue against the Rays, it seemed like the offense was more in need of a strong effort. They were going up against Jose Ureña, a pitcher with solid stuff but not someone who is untouchable.
Mookie Betts in particular had been scuffling in a noticeably way over this rough stretch for the Red Sox, and he got off to a nice start against Ureña. It wasn’t anything mindblowing, but he cleared out an inside fastball and sent it on a liner through the left side for a leadoff single. It was a good sign, at least. He would be stranded at first base, but there was some hard contact in the outs.
In the second, the Red Sox lineup got some more good contact and they were able to turn it into a lead. Xander Bogaerts got things started with a double, and the extra base was a result from a good read off the bat. Marlins outfielders were playing deep all night, and the shortstop recognized it. He hit a liner into the gap that would normally be a single, but Rafael Ortega had a deep throw to make from right field and Bogaerts capitalized and stretched it into two bases. That would be important as he’d move over to third on ground out. That brought Ian Kinsler up, and he snuck a chopper over the third base bag for a single that drove in Bogaerts and gave Boston a 1-0 lead.
While this was all happening, Brian Johnson was on the bump and he had an outstanding start to this game. After a few disappointing outings from Red Sox starters, it was nice to see a groove from the lefty. He set down the first seven batters he faced and looked like he may be able to cruise through this Miami lineup.
That tune changed quickly, and things never really got too much better. After he started the third by setting down his seventh consecutive batter, Johnson made his first mistake of the night. He tried to sneak a curveball by Isaac Galloway, but his breaking ball stayed right down the center of the zone and the young Marlins outfielder blasted it out to left-center field for a solo homer. Just like that, the game was tied at one. Johnson gave up a single right after that and a two-out double shortly after that, but was able to get out of the second-and-third jam with the game still tied.
Fortunately, the Red Sox offense had an answer right away in the bottom of the third. They got a rally started there when Jackie Bradley Jr. put a single into center field. Betts followed that up with a walk to put two on with nobody out. Andrew Benintendi kept it going with a double of his own, and three batters after the lead was lost they had it right back with a 2-1 score. Things seemed poised to continue that way with two in scoring position and still nobody out, too, but Mitch Moreland put a dent in those plans with a strikeout. After the Marlins intentionally walked J.D. Martinez to load the bases, Bogaerts couldn’t make them pay in a big way but he did drive in one more with a sacrifice fly. It felt as though they should have gotten more and that squandering the chance could come back to bite them, but at least for the moment it was a 3-1 lead.
Johnson came back out for the fourth looking for a shutdown innings, but things did not get off to a very promising start. Former Yankee Starlin Castro led that one off with a triple off the wall in center field — and just barely over a leaping Bradley’s glove — giving Miami a prime chance to at least cut into the lead. Johnson managed to escape, though, with a strikeout, a walk and a pair of pop ups. In the fifth, with the score still 3-1, Johnson allowed a one-out single and his day was over.
Brandon Workman took over with the man on first, but that runner was quickly taken off the bases when Blake Swihart threw a strike to second base to catch the base stealer. After Workman then allowed a walk and a single to put two on, he’d get out of that mini jam and keep the 3-1 lead. The righty came back out for the sixth and looked much better with a clean, 1-2-3 inning.
So, after Ureña had settled in for a few innings, the Red Sox got back going in the sixth. This time, it was with the long ball, something that had been noticeably lacking over the last week or so. It came from a relatively unexpected source as well. Eduardo Núñez came up with one out and nobody on and the infielder got a fastball in on his hands but he was able to turn it around and send it on a line out to left field. It just barely made it over the top of the wall and was originally called a long single, but it clearly make it over the mark and it extended Boston’s lead to three.
Joe Kelly took over for the seventh inning and tossed an impressive 1-2-3 inning, and in the bottom half the Red Sox had two on with nobody out but a double play and a flyout resulted in that inning ending with no runs on the board.
In the eighth it was Matt Barnes, and he continued what has been a bit of a rough patch for the right hander in an outing that turned into a disaster. Trying to protect a 4-1 lead, Barnes allowed a single to lead it off. Then, with J.T. Realmuto at the plate he left a fastball middle-in and the catcher smashed one into the Monster Seats, and just like that the Red Sox lead was down to one. Castro was up next, and he got a fastball right down the center of the plate that he put into the Red Sox bullpen and in the blink of an eye a three-run lead was turned into a tie game. After a strikeout Barnes gave up another single, and Alex Cora had seen enough.
With one out and the runner at first base, Heath Hembree came on to try and maintain this tie into the bottom of the eighth. He’d immediately allow another single to put two on with just one out, and after getting a fly ball for out number two he walked the number nine hitter to load the bases for the top of the lineup. Hembree got weak contact from Rafael Ortega, but the outfielder’s blooper found empty space in left field, leading to two runs and a 6-4 Marlins lead. The inning would end after that, but the damage had been done and then some.
Suddenly, the Red Sox had just six outs remaining to score at least two more runs. They got the eighth off on the right foot when Martinez shot a single right back up the middle. After Bogaerts lined out, Boston got back-to-back singles from Núñez and Ian Kinsler, loading the bases with one down for Blake Swihart. The catcher would go down by way of the K, leaving it all to Bradley. Tayron Guerrero’s pitch count was rising, but he stayed on and eventually it was a full count. Bradley finally got one in play and he snuck a ground ball through the middle to tie the game. Guerrero stayed on for Betts, and not only did he walk the Red Sox leadoff hitter but, with a runner on third, ball four sailed over Betts’ head and to the backstop. Kinsler came in to score, and Boston’s lead was brought right back. Finally, Guerrero was lifted and the innign was over, but it was now a 7-6 lead in Boston’s favor.
So, Craig Kimbrel came on to try and close this one out without stress. He did not succeed. After getting a strikeout to kick things off, the closer walked the next two batters and suddenly the tying run was in scoring position. He couldn’t escape the jam, allowing a single to tie the game right back up. After getting the second out, Kimbrel threw a wild pitch and the Marlins had runners at second and third. He’d escape the jam, but just like in the eighth the damage was done and the Red Sox offense had to get back to work.
After Steve Pearce led the ninth off with an out, the Red Sox got something going with back-to-back singles from Martinez and Bogaerts. It seemed like they’d squandered the chance when Eduardo Núñez hit a double play ball up the middle, but JT Riddle’s throw to first was in the dirt and got by the bag, allowing Martinez to come around and score the winning run. It was an ugly game, but a win is a win is a win.
The Red Sox will look to complete a little two-game sweep of the Marlins on Wednesday, and hopefully in easier fashion. On their quest to do so they’ll start red-hot David Price against Trevor Richards. It’s an early start tomorrow, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 PM ET.
As for the division, well, Boston did pick up a half-game in the standings on Monday when the Yankees dropped a game to Chicago on the Red Sox off-day. They weren’t so lucky on Tuesday, though, as New York completed a comeback with a walkoff win, keeping the Red Sox AL East lead at 6.5 games.