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Red Sox 9, Braves 8: What?

I don’t really know what just happened.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t believe what I just watched. The Red Sox never seemed like they were going to win this game, even before it started. Alex Cora was out to get some rest for his guys after taking the first two games of this series and sent out the B-Team. They kept it close for a while before Drew Pomeranz imploded, and with a six-run deficit it seemed over. Then, they put together a bananas rally in the eighth to tie it up, only to see the Braves get the lead right back on a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. It seemed like it was going to be a closer-than-it-should-have-been loss, before Brandon Phillips destroyed a two-run, go-ahead homer in the ninth. In his first game with the Red Sox. In his first major-league game of the season. I mean, come on. What?

The Red Sox clearly weren’t going all-out to win this game, which is justifiable when you have 96 wins on September 5, have an 8.5-game lead in the division and have suffered the last two Octobers from (arguably, I suppose) not giving proper rest down the stretch. The coaching staff not going all-out in terms of who was in the lineup is not the same as the players not doing everything in their power to win games. The Red Sox had some talent in the field and even if many were not everyday players, they wanted to prove they were major-league worthy.

Part of that group was Hector Velazquez, who got the start. The righty spent most of the season being very solid in a long relief role, and even accounting for some obvious luck in his numbers he was a serviceable arm. Has he ever been a guy on whom you want to depend? No. But there’s middle ground between that and being useless. He was out to prove he’s still a worthy spot starter with this outing, but thing got off to a disastrous start.

Two pitches into the game he left a middle-middle two-seam fastball to Ronald Acuña, and Atlanta’s rookie sensation sent it into the seats in left-center field. Just like that, it was 1-0. Ender Inciarte immediately followed that up with a triple into the right-field corner, and Nick Markakis followed it up with a single to make it 2-0. When Johan Camargo gave the Braves their fourth straight hit to start the game with a single of his own, Velazquez was in major need of a break. After a mound visit from Dana LeVangie, the righty settled down. He got a huge double play before ending the inning with another groundout, and the Braves settled for just the two runs in the inning.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Velazquez continued to look much better after that inning as well. He got a 1-2-3 second and then worked around a leadoff walk in the third for another scoreless frame. He’d come back out for one more inning of work in the fourth, and that one also started with a leadoff walk. It seemed the Braves would score another run on a Tyler Flowers double, but Lucas Duda showed off his lack of speed while Andrew Benintendi and Brock Holt hooked up for a perfect replay to cut the runner down at the plate. Velazquez would eventually get a grounder to strand runners on the corners and keep the Braves at two.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox and their makeshift lineup was trying to do some improbable damage against Atlanta’s best pitcher in Mike Foltynewicz. They certainly had some trouble. After going down in order in the first, they did get a bit going in the second thanks to some smart baseball. Brandon Phillips, in his first start with the Red Sox, drew a leadoff walk to spark the rally and he’d move to third on a Rafael Devers single. Brock Holt then hit a grounder to first base, and after Duda sort of half-assed looking Phillips back to the bad the veteran second baseman broke for home as soon as Duda turned his back. Phillips would score and cut Boston’s deficit in half. With two runners on the Red Sox needed a hit from Velazquez to tie it up, but they didn’t get it and the inning was over.

Boston went back to struggling after that. They did have another chance in the third when Andrew Benintendi smacked a two-out double, but they couldn’t capitalize. After that, the Red Sox would go down in order over the next two frames.

In the bottom of the fifth, Drew Pomeranz came on for Hector Velazquez and the wheels fell off. The lefty started that inning off by giving up a walk, two singles and another walk to give Atlanta one run and bases loaded with nobody out. Pomeranz then got a groundout for the first out, but it scored another run, before allowing a two-run triple. In the blink of an eye, a 2-1 game was a 6-1 game. William Cuevas then came on to try and get out of the disastrous inning, but he immediately allowed an RBI single and a walk. Finally, he’d get two strikeouts to end the inning with Atlanta holding a 7-1 lead.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The sixth and seventh innings were largely uneventful, but the Red Sox started to make things interesting again in the eighth. Christian Vazquez, Tzu-Wei Lin and Jackie Bradley Jr. started that inning off with three consecutive singles (two of which probably could have/should have been caught), and the Red Sox had the bases loaded with nobody outs against Dan Winkler. Blake Swihart came up next and smacked a two-run double, and suddenly the deficit was down to four with two in scoring and still nobody out. Andrew Benintendi knocked in one more with a single, and Steve Pearce came up next as a pinch hitter against the left-handed Jonny Venters. He made good contact out to left field, but Acuña made a nice play going back on it for the first out. Still, it did result in another run and suddenly it was 7-5. Phillips came up next and hit what could have been a double play ball, but Johan Camargo misplayed it then threw it away, resulting in no outs and two runners in scoring position with just one out.

The Braves would then turn to former Oriole closer Brad Brach to stop the damage, but Ian Kinsler would have none of that. Coming in as a pinch hitter, he smoked a single into left field, and just like that the game was tied. After the second out of the inning Christian Vazquez got a single on a hit-and-run play, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet from home. Xander Bogaerts then came up to pinch hit with a chance to be the hero against Braves closer A.J. Minter. The southpaw wouldn’t give Bogaerts a chance by walking him, loading the bases for yet another pinch hitter. This time it was Mookie Betts, but he would strike out on a borderline pitch and the inning ended with a tie game.

Brandon Workman tried to keep the momentum with a quick bottom half of the eighth, and early on it looked like he could do that after getting two quick outs. Then, Freddie Freeman came up and changed it. Workman left a fastball right over the heart of the plate, and the Braves star put it over the right field wall, and just like that Atlanta had their lead back. Workman would get out of it after that, but the damage was done.

So, the Red Sox had one more chance to at least tie it up again, and they’d get a one-out single from Benintendi. Then, after Steve Pearce struck out to put two outs on the board, Phillips walked up. And he did the damn thing. The veteran crushed one out to left field on a no-doubter to suddenly give Boston a 9-8 lead.

Craig Kimbrel came on for the save chance in the ninth and set down the first two batters he’d face. The closer then walked the third batter of the inning but then got a strikeout to end it. I....don’t know what I just watched.

Somehow, some way, the Red Sox swept the Braves in Atlanta and now they get a much-deserved day off before starting a big three-game set back home against the Astros. David Price will take on Gerrit Cole for game one of that series starting at 7:10 PM ET on Friday.

As for the division, the lead is at nine games for the time being, and will shift a half-game in either direction depending on the result of tonights Yankees-A’s game. That contest starts at 10:05 PM ET.


Courtesy of Fangraphs