The Red Sox got a huge game from Mookie Betts in his return from a short absence, and they got a wildly impressive relief outing from William Cuevas. Unfortunately, they didn’t get a whole lot else from others in this game — and Xander Bogaerts left early, though it doesn’t seem serious — and Cleveland would eventually outlast the Red Sox and take the win in eleven innings.
In the grand scheme of things, this game didn’t really matter much for the Red Sox. They were trying to clinch home field throughout the playoffs, and it’s always better to get such things out of the way as early as possible. Still, with a magic number of one in that race, it’s a matter of when rather than if in that regard. Add in that Hector Velazquez, who likely doesn’t have a postseason roster spot, made the start, it was mostly about getting some work in for the offense and just staying healthy. That said, these are professional athletes and they want to do well. And we watch!
The Red Sox did, to their credit, get off to a strong start on Sunday night. Mookie Betts led the charge after missing the last few games, wasting no time getting back into the action. Boston’s star ripped a double off the left-field wall right off the bat, and he moved to third on an unexpected bunt from Andrew Benintendi. After Xander Bogaerts drew a walk, Adam Plutko continued with control issues and tossed a wild pitch to allow Betts to score a run and put the Red Sox up 1-0 very early on. They couldn’t get anything more with a runner in scoring position and one out, though.
After a 1-2-3 second, Boston got back to action in the third, and once again Betts was at the center of it. Christian Vazquez and Betts started that inning with back-to-back base hits, and after another walk to Bogaerts the bases were loaded for Rafael Devers. He didn’t come through with a big hit, but a ground out to first was at least enough to score one run. That’s all they’d settle for, and while it could have been more it was, at least, a 2-0 lead after three innings.
As you can probably tell from that score, Velazquez was pretty solid in this game and it was in the typical Velazquez fashion. That is to say he didn’t showcase overpowering stuff, but he was mostly efficient in the strike zone and he was effective in his ability to induce soft contact. That was on display in a quick first inning where he did get a strikeout against Francisco Lindor and then two outs that combined for exit velocities of about 110 mph.
The second looked like it would end that trend when Velazquez and the Red Sox were struck by bad luck. Edwin Encarnacion hit what looked like a normal base hit to start things off, but Jackie Bradley Jr.’s cleat seemingly got caught in something, putting him on the ground and giving Encarnacion an unlikely triple. Velazquez managed to get out of it, though, when he got a ground ball to shortstop. Bogaerts made a nice play in the hole and surprisingly went for the play at the plate. They got the out there, and after a single put a second runner on Velazquez got a big double play to end the inning.
After a 1-2-3 third, the wheels started to fall off for the righty. Michael Brantley led off with a single, and he’d move over to second after Mitch Moreland couldn’t hold on to a pickoff attempt before getting to third on a wild pitch. After a single gave Cleveland their first run of the night, Velazquez’ night was over and Steven Wright came in to try and hold the lead. He didn’t succeed. The knuckleballer did get a strikeout for the second out of the inning right when he entered, but he then allowed a single and a double, and the inning ended with a 3-2 lead for the Indians.
Fortunately, the Red Sox have Mookie Betts, which means their newfound deficit didn’t last too long. The presumptive MVP favorite started out down 0-2 in this at bat, but then worked a full count before blasting a fastball on the outer half out to right-center field. Just like that, the game was tied and Betts was a triple away from the cycle.
From here, it was about the bullpen for a few innings. Bobby Poyner came on for the fifth, and he tossed an easy 1-2-3 inning. The lefty would come back out for the sixth, too, but after a leadoff walk he was quickly pulled in favor of William Cuevas. The righty got a strikeout and a double play to quickly quell any fears.
In the seventh, things started to get bad, though not in terms of the scoreboard. Bogaerts was the last batter to come up in that inning for the Red Sox — and, we should mention, Betts did get another double in that frame — but he tweaked something with his shoulder on a swing. He was removed from the game for Tzu-Wei Lin, though later we learned it was just precautionary. The team is calling it shoulder soreness and saying he’s day-to-day. Anyway, the Red Sox didn’t score that inning but Cuevas did come back out for a scoreless bottom half of the seventh that ended on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out.
Cuevas continued to roll into the ninth, though the offense wasn’t rewarding him for his efforts. The closes Boston came was in the eighth when their first two batters reached on back-to-back walks and the loaded the bases, but still it was tied at three apiece as we entered the bottom of the ninth. Here, Cuevas walked the first batter he faced, but he came back and faced the minimum in the inning thanks to a caught stealing by Vazquez.
So, we headed into extras, an Cuevas still stayed on the mound as the Red Sox looked to preserve some other arms and ride the hot hand. Cuevas got a ground out to start the inning, but he allowed a double and an infield single after that to put two on with one out for the top of the order. A ground out put the winning run just 90 feet away from the plate, but Cuevas escaped the jam yet again to push the game to the eleventh.
Once again, Cuevas started the inning, but he wouldn’t finish this one. He’d walk the first batter of the eleventh, and after a sacrifice bunt and an error, there were runners on the corners with just one out. That was it for Cuevas, who tossed 93 pitches in an impressive-as-hell relief appearance. Robby Scott entered and an intentional walk loaded the bases, but Scott couldn’t get the double play. Instead, Greg Allen came through with a base hit, and the Indians walked it off for the second straight night.
So, the Red Sox return home for their final week of the regular season. They’ll take on Baltimore on Monday with Nathan Eovaldi taking on Dylan Bundy. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.