For a little while, it appeared this was going to be another frustrating day for the Red Sox. They failed to take advantage of early opportunities, the big bats weren’t doing a ton, Rick Porcello got hurt by a long ball and they were losing about halfway through. Things changed pretty quickly, though, and it was encouraging to see the team picked up by a rally started by the bottom half of the lineup. It was even more encouraging to see the bullpen hold on to a late lead with relatively little trouble. Ahead of a game against Jacob deGrom, it was nice to put the sweep out of play on Saturday.
In this game, more than anything else, the Red Sox offense was looking to get into a rhythm. They’ve been scuffling a bit recently, and even in the sweep of the Blue Jays they won on the back of good pitching and taking advantage of some breaks handed to them by the other side. On Friday, they had a decent excuse — even if it didn’t make it any easier to watch — for struggling against Noah Syndergaard, who is as hard to hit as just about anyone in the league when he’s throwing well. They didn’t have any sort of excuse on Saturday, going up against a spot starter in Corey Oswalt who has not had a good year.
After a bit of panic at the very start of their half of the first inning, it really looked like the Red Sox were going to be ready to break out of the funk. Mookie Betts was hit by a pitch to start off the inning, and he stayed in the game after a meeting with the trainer. After that, Andrew Benintendi hit a grounder over to Dominic Smith at first base, and the Mets first baseman’s throw went into left-center field. That put runners on the corners right off the bat, and a couple batters later Xander Bogaerts would smack a base hit to give Boston an early 1-0 lead. With two outs, Ian Kinsler loaded the bases with a walk, but the Red Sox couldn’t take advantage. It was nice to have the lead, but it felt as though they should have gotten more.
The second went similarly and ended with more frustration. Once again Boston was helped by Smith as the first baseman made his second error of the game to start off this inning, allowing Rafael Devers to reach as the leadoff man. Once again, however, the Red Sox didn’t take proper advantage. Benintendi to hit a single with two outs to put runners on the corners, but J.D. Martinez hit a routine fly ball and the runners were stranded, holding the one-run lead.
After that, the Red Sox offense took a couple of innings off. In the third, they managed just a single — and Oswalt was removed from the game — and in the fourth they surrounded three strikeouts with just a two-out walk.
Meanwhile, Rick Porcello’s day was taking the opposite trajectory. At the start of the afternoon, the righty was looking good. He didn’t get any strikeouts right off the bat, but he allowed relatively weak contact for three straight outs to start off the game in the top of the first. Then, in the second, he got more weak contact for two outs to start off the inning, and after hitting a batter he got his first strikeout of the day to end the frame. The third was another 1-2-3 frame, this one including a pair of Ks.
Then, in the fourth, things started to go downhill. He was no longer able to finish off Mets hitters as they were fighting through counts until they got pitches to hit. Jeff McNeil started the inning with New York’s first hit of the day, and after a couple of outs — one of which was a ripped line drive right at Rafael Devers in the shift — Brandon Nimmo stepped to the plate. After fouling off a few pitches, he got fastball up in the zone over the middle of the plate, and he crushed one out into the Mets bullpen. Suddenly, the Red Sox were losing 3-1.
Porcello, to his credit, did come back in the fifth and get another 1-2-3 inning. That fourth inning was pretty frustrating, and he was once again hurt by the long ball, but all in all he had himself a solid night. Unfortunately, he was on the hook for the loss and was going to need some help from his scuffling offense.
Fortunately, they provided just that, and they didn’t waste much time. The bottom of the fifth started with Bogaerts and Martinez recording outs, making it appear to be another quick inning, but the bottom of the order had other thoughts. Steve Pearce and Kinsler contributed back-to-back singles, bringing Jackie Bradley Jr. to the plate. It looked as though he had given Boston a lead with a three-run shot out to left field, and replay appeared to confirm that. However, the umps disagreed, called the homer back and the Red Sox had to settle for a two-run double to tie the game. After Rafael Devers was intentionally walked to get to Sandy León, Alex Cora called upon Brock Holt. He’s becoming a pinch-hitting specialist, and he came through again. The utility man smashed a double out to left field, scoring two and the Red Sox left the fifth with a two-run lead.
So, now it was all up to the bullpen to hold on to the lead as they try to gain the trust of the fan base. Bobby Poyner got another late-game look in the sixth, and he continued to look good with a 1-2-3 inning. The seventh belonged to Steven Wright, and the knuckleballer got into some early trouble by walking the first two batters he’d face. He worked his way around it, though, getting a strikeout, a fly out and a pop out to keep the lead at two. The eight was Ryan Brasier, and he was excellent in a 1-2-3 frame.
So, it was all up to Craig Kimbrel in the ninth. He continued to look very good as he has for a few weeks now, and he got an easy 1-2-3 inning. Win number 102.
So, the Red Sox will go for a series victory on Sunday in a rubber match featuring a pair of aces. Of course, it won’t be a true battle of aces, with Chris Sale only slated for about three innings. Jacob deGrom will be on the other side, though, looking to solidify his lead in the Cy Young race. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.
Meanwhile, in the division, the Yankees are currently down 8-3 to the Blue Jays in the seventh inning. If that score holds, the magic number would be down to four.