Well, that’ll do. The Red Sox fell into some early patterns early in this game with the offense failing to convert an early chance to build an early lead and Nathan Eovaldi continuing a brutal start to the year for this rotation. However, some other early trends continued as well with the lineup coming around for some late rallies and the bullpen coming through with a big performance. They did allow one run as a unit and the top of the ninth was very scary, but ultimately the relief corps held firm. That was all Mitch Moreland and company needed as the first baseman had two massively clutch swings and Rafael Devers hit the chopper to walk it off. One win at a time.
Earlier on Thursday I wrote a bit about the Red Sox offense, which certainly hasn’t been the most frustrating part of this horribly frustrating start to the season, but they’ve still caused some stress in their own right. The main crux of the post was about the aggressive approach, or lack thereof, but in it I mentioned how there had already been many instances early in 2019 in which the Red Sox offense had a chance to put an early, crooked number on the scoreboard but instead have settled for one or two runs, if any at all. With the way the pitching has looked, there’s far from any guarantee that cashing in on these chances would have changed any outcomes of these games, but it’s hard to argue that they couldn’t have at least changed some dynamics.
With two days off in three days heading into Thursday’s game, the hope was that they’d reset themselves and get back on a roll. Instead, they started the day off with just about the same scenario I described above. Everything looked great in the top of the first when Andrew Benintendi singled, Mookie Betts was hit by a pitch and J.D. Martinez drew a walk. The bases were loaded with one up and Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers were coming to the dish. They did not capitalize. Bogaerts had an ugly strikeout before Devers grounded out and Boston left them loaded without getting a run. Things went from looking like a big, early lead to a scoreless game.
So, with the offense putting on their usual show, it was up to Nathan Eovaldi to change what has been a familiar pattern for the rotation. That is, looking mediocre but getting through a couple of solid innings before getting roughed up in the third or fourth inning. Folks, he did not avoid the pattern. It was pretty clear he still wasn’t the Eovaldi we saw in 2018 right off the bat. Last year, even more than his eye-opening stuff it was the impeccable control that always stood out for Eovaldi. It hasn’t been there this year, and he was walking a lot of players and just generally allowing baserunners all game long. Fortunately, he was bailed out by a couple of double plays in the first two innings to keep the game scoreless. This also served as a nice reminder that Dustin Pedroia, even at his age with so much time off the last two years, is one of the best we’ve seen at turning double plays.
Then, the third inning happened. Like I said, Boston’s rotation has had a tendency to fall apart in this portion of the game, and Thursday was no exception. It was a similar kind of struggle as some of the others we’ve seen, too, at least in the back-breaking at bat. Before we got to that point, though, Eovaldi started the inning off with a walk before allowing a two-out single to Freddy Galvis. That brought Justin Smoak to the plate, who has traditionally destroyed the Red Sox over the years. Eovaldi got to two strikes, but like Chris Sale the other day in the home opener he just couldn’t finish him off. Smoak fouled off a couple of tough pitches before Eovaldi tried to blow a fastball by him. He tried to sneak one down and in, but it was neither down nor in enough and Smoak blasted it out over the wall in straight-away center for a three-run shot. Then, after issuing yet another walk, Eovaldi served up another one. This time it was Rowdy Tellez demolishing a ball to right field for a two-run homer that Statcast said went 505 feet, which it definitely didn’t but it was a no-doubter nonetheless. Just like that, Toronto had a 5-0 lead after the top half of the third.
So, now it was on the offense to try and mount a comeback while the pitching staff had to dig in and keep the Blue Jays at that five-run mark. The lineup, to their credit, did get something going right after that. They got some help from Toronto when Mookie Betts reached on an error when Toronto’s outfielders failed to communicate on a routine fly ball, and he’d come in on a J.D. Martinez double that just missed going over the center field wall. Then, a couple batters later Rafael Devers poked a double into the right field corner which was quickly followed by a base hit from Pedroia, and just like that it was back to a two-run lead.
To Eovaldi’s credit as well, he smoothed things out in the next inning. Another trend from the Red Sox early this year has been the offense mounting a comeback only to see the pitching staff give up a back-breaking rally to put the game out of reach. This time, Eovaldi faced just three batters in both the fourth and fifth innings, once again getting a double play in each frame. Those five innings would be all he’d get, and the overall line was still disappointing, but it was still nice to see him end strongly. The bar is low right now, you know?
So, now the team was in the familiar position in which the offense needs to rally and the bullpen needs to hold strong. The latter group has done well in that role all year, surprisingly being the best and most consistent portion of the roster. They did their job in the early going here as well, with both Heath Hembree and Colten Brewer coming in for perfect innings.
The offense did their thing this time around as well. It started in the fifth inning right after Eovaldi’s final pitch of the evening. Boston got back-to-back baserunners when Bogaerts hit a single and Devers drew a walk, and then with Pedroia at the plate Aaron Sanchez threw a pair of wild pitches to allow a run to score and get Boston to within one. Then, fast-forward to the seventh and Mitch Moreland did the damn thing again. With one swing of the bat he tied up this contest with a solo home run, his fifth of the year.
The bullpen’s run of shutdown performances ended in the eighth when Ryan Brasier took the mound. The righty had picked up right where he left off in 2018, dominating in the late innings as the 1B to Matt Barnes’ 1A. After getting a big strikeout to start his eighth inning, though, Galvis got to him. Toronto’s infielder has been red-hot to start the year and he’s all over any mistake any pitcher makes right now. Brasier’s pitch wasn’t even that bad as he threw a 1-0 changeup at the bottom of the zone, but it was a bit flat and Galvis was all over it. He sent it over the wall in right field for a solo homer, and Toronto was back out in front with a 6-5 lead.
After Boston went down in order in the eighth, Alex Cora opted to use Marcus Walden in the top of the ninth, a decision that seemed questionable at best in a one-run game with the Sox due to send the top of the order up for the bottom of the ninth. Walden would struggle, loading the bases with one out. Fortunately, he’d escape the jam with a strikeout and a ground out, giving the Boston one last chance to at least force extras. They got a one-out baserunner with a Betts walk, and then Moreland did it again. Well, not that but he ripped a double out to straightaway center to score Betts and tie this game right back up. Eduardo Núñez then came in to run for Moreland, and immediately stole third base. After J.D. Martinez was intentionally walked, and Bogaerts drew a regular ol’ walk, the bases were loaded with one out for Devers. Our son came through, chopping one over the infielders’ heads for a walk off single. Put it on the board.
The Red Sox will look to carry this momentum into their upcoming four-game set against the Orioles this weekend. That series will kick off Friday with Eduardo Rodriguez matching up against David Hess. First pitch comes at 7:10 PM ET.