It’s a sweep and it’s win number 101, though there will be some negativity coming out of this win. First, the positives. They won, which was neat, and the magic number is down to six. On top of that, Eduardo Rodriguez looked very good and was efficient, which is huge given how important of a role he figures to play in October. Boston needs him on track, and he looked that way on Thursday. Plus, they got some power from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers. However, they also had to overcome another poor performance, this time from Joe Kelly. The righty had nothing in this game, and he could very well be pitching his way off the postseason roster. Oh, and Eduardo Núñez left with an injury, though there’s hope it was just precautionary. Either way, they got a win, and a win is a win is a win is a win.
The story of this entire series against the Blue Jays has been incredibly impressive pitching, and that continued on Thursday. Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hill making his third start since coming off the disabled list, and was looking to get back on track. He was excellent in his first start back, but got roughed up his second trip back to the mound. This was going to be a good test to see how he rebounds from a poor outing coming off injury, because in the past he has seemingly allowed those outings to snowball. Not this time, though. It’s true that it was against a Toronto lineup that doesn’t exactly stack up to the lineups he’ll face in October, but we’ll certainly take what we saw from Rodriguez at Fenway in this game.
Rodriguez got off to a really hot start and looked super impressive right off the bat, coming through with a 1-2-3 first inning that included a pair of strikeouts against the top of the Blue Jays lineup. The second posed a little more trouble, though it wasn’t as bad as it may seem in the box score. He did allow a groundrule double to Kendrys Morales to lead things off, but it was really a pretty weak pop up that found its way down the right-field line and hopped into the seats just in front of the pole. If we’re being honest, it’s probably an out if Mookie Betts was playing rather than J.D. Martinez. Regardless, Morales was on second and he’d move to third when Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-out single through the left side of the infield. Rodriguez didn’t give in with runners on the corners, though, getting a weak grounder to third base to end the inning unscathed.
In this third, the Blue Jays were able to get more runners against Rodriguez after the Red Sox handed the lefty a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the second. Lourdes Gurriel started the rally with a one-out single into center field, and he’d move over to second base on a weak grounder back towards the mound. That would be big, because Justin Smoak came up next and came through with a base hit of his own. That would bring Gurriel home, and the Blue Jays tied the game. Rodriguez did stop the bleeding after that.
Over the next few innings, the Red Sox southpaw settled into a groove as he tried to give his offense some time to rebuild a lead. Rodriguez did allow a single to lead off the fourth, but then he’d go out and retire the next nine batters he faced and cruised through the sixth inning.
While all of this was going on, it was another frustrating day for Boston’s bats. It wasn’t a typical lineup for the Sox, with Betts having the day off, Ian Kinsler hitting second and Blake Swihart DH’ing. Still, it was not super fun to watch, and they started the game off by going down in order without much of a threat in the first inning.
In the second, things did turn around because of Martinez and his big-time power. The slugger has been doing it all year, and Blue Jays Sam Givilgio played right into his hands. Toronto’s righty was keeping fastballs away from Martinez, and we all know if you miss even a little bit on the outer half it’ll go a long way to the opposite field. Martinez reminded those of us who forgot by sending a 2-2 pitch into the bullpen to give Boston the 1-0 lead on his 41st homer of the season.
The Red Sox didn’t get any more runs in that inning, and it was actually even worse than that. With a runner on first Eduardo Núñez hit what looked to be a double play ball, but the throw to first was a bad one that resulted in him arriving safely. However, his knee kind of buckled as he approached the bag and he was down after touching the bag. He did remain in the game...but only for a little bit.
Before we get to that, though, we have to get to the Red Sox trying to answer after Toronto tied the game at ones. They did take the lead back, but it was still frustrating because it felt as though they could have done more. Jackie Bradley Jr. started the inning off with a double, setting things up for the top of the lineup. He’d move over to third on a ground out and score on a sacrifice fly, and then the Red Sox got three straight singles to load the bases. Swihart had a chance to give Boston a big jump in this game, but he grounded out and they had to settle for just a one-run lead.
In the fourth, Núñez led things off and he ripped one off the Monster to kick off the inning. He did hustle into second to leg out a double, but he was clearly feeling some discomfort and was lifted from the game. He was officially removed with knee soreness on the same knee that he hurt last October to end his season, though the severity is not known. Given Boston’s place in the standings, Alex Cora has every reason to be ultra-cautious with everyone. Rafael Devers would come in to pinch run, but he’d be stranded in scoring position.
From here, we fast-forward to the bottom of the sixth when Devers came up with nobody on and two outs. The young slugger has been struggling a lot in this second half when healthy, but he got good wood this time up. He got a pitch middle-in and turned around on it to launch one down the right field line for a solo shot, his first since his original stint on the disabled list. With the 3-1 lead, the Red Sox did threaten for more later that inning when Chrisitian Vazquez ripped a single and then stole second, but he’d be stranded there.
So, with the 3-1 lead, Cora decided to take Rodriguez out of the game with only 78 pitches, and Ryan Brasier came on for the seventh. He looked good, coming through with an easy 1-2-3 inning.
After Boston went down in order in the bottom half of the seventh, Bobby Poyner got the call for the eighth. Poyner looked good to start getting a pop up to lead off the inning, but then he got into trouble. The lefty doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, so when he leaves one in a hittable zone he gets into trouble. That’s what happened against Gurriel, who launched one off the light stanchion in left field. Poyner got one more out before being lifted for Joe Kelly to try and finish the inning.
The righty did not do well. His outing started with a four-pitch walk to Smoak, followed by a single to Morales. With the tying run now in scoring position, Kelly hit Randall Grichuk to the load the bases for Kevin Pillar. Kelly then hit Pillar, and we were all tied up at three. That was the end of Kelly’s disastrous night, and Brandon Workman came on to try and escape the bases loaded jam. He got a three-pitch strikeout to end the inning.
So, now the offense had to get at least one more run to try and win this game, and they didn’t waste much time. Xander Bogaerts continued to come through in the clutch, smacking a one-out double in the eighth. He’d then steal third base, setting up Blake Swihart for the game-winning RBI with even just a deep fly ball. Instead, the young catcher popped one up, but Red Sox magic kicked in. Yangervis Solarte was playing in and never looked like he had the ball tracked. It clanked off his glove, Bogaerts scored on the error and Boston had a lucky lead.
With the lead back in hand, Craig Kimbrel was on for the save. He had no trouble at all, coming through with an easy 1-2-3 inning to finish things off and complete the sweep.
The Red Sox finished off the sweep, and they’ll stick around in Boston for their next series against the Mets starting Friday night. Hector Velazquez will take the mound for the good guys, and he’ll take on Noah Syndergaard. First pitch comes at 7:10 PM ET.
As for the division, they took one step more towards locking things up. The Yankees were off tonight, so the lead is now at 10.5 games and the magic number stands at six.