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Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 7: Jays steal home (opener)

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Another day, another loss

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that didn’t go as planned. The Red Sox were at Fenway for the first time in 2019, looking for a rebound from the team as a whole and from their ace. Chris Sale did look better this time out, to be fair, as his velocity was up and his overall stuff was solid. This still wasn’t peak Sale, of course, but it was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, he still wasn’t getting swing and misses and the Blue Jays were able to use their contact to BABIP their way into a whole lot of singles. Throw in a couple passed balls and a STEAL OF HOME and Toronto got to Sale in the third and fourth to open up a 5-2 lead. The Red Sox would chip away as the game went on and the bullpen was mostly solid, but they still came up short and fell to 3-9 on the year. Not great!

The Red Sox had some good vibes heading into this game on Tuesday, with the ring ceremony immediately preceding it. Coming off that and a win in their last game, not to mention returning home, everything was pointing to some positive momentum for the first time in this young 2019 season. All they had to do was carry it over into the actual game and get the job done. Of course, that’s easier said than done, particularly with the way things have gone for this team this year.

They did get out to an early lead, to be fair. After a couple of quick outs to start out the bottom half of the first, Mitch Moreland came up and worked a 2-2 count. Blue Jays starter Matt Shoemaker made a big mistake trying to get strike three, though, leaving a splitter right over the heart of the plate. Moreland was all over it, sending it into Toronto’s bullpen for a solo home run to give Boston an early 1-0 lead.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

In the second, they’d keep that momentum going, too. Xander Bogaerts was the beneficiary of some bad defense when he hit a ground ball to first base that should have been an out but Shoemaker stumbled and missed the bag to allow the Red Sox shortstop to reach. Rafael Devers then came through with a single into right field to put runners on the corners with nobody out. That brought Dustin Pedroia up to the plate for his first at bat of 2019 with a chance to really get a big inning going. He got the run in, but it wasn’t how you want to do it. Pedroia grounded one right at the shortstop for a double play, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead but killing a chance at a real rally.

Meanwhile, Chris Sale was out looking for much better results than he got in his first two outings. Early on, it was looking good. His velocity was up, peaking just under 95 mph and sitting around 92, but he still wasn’t getting the swings and misses we’re accustomed to from him. Despite that he did get through a couple of 1-2-3 innings including a strikeout to end the second.

Then, the Blue Jays started piling up singles and trouble started to brew. After Sale started the top half of the third with his second strikeout of the afternoon, Alen Hansen poked a single through the left side, which was followed by another base hit from Billy McKinney. That brought up Freddy Galvis, and the Blue Jays worked a hit and run to perfection as Galvis put the ball right where Pedroia would have been standing for a third consecutive single, scoring a run and moving McKinney to third. The latter portion there would prove important when Teoscar Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly, and the Blue Jays had the game tied by the time their half of the third was over.

That third inning was frustrating, but it was nothing compared to what would follow in the fourth. It seems like every game has had a point where the sky begins to fall for the Red Sox starter, and this was it for Sale. Once again, it was a bunch of singles that started it off when Randal Grichuk and Danny Jansen hit back to back base hits to start the frame. Christian Vázquez then let a ball get by him to allow Grichuk to get to third on a play that was originally ruled an out before being overturned on review. The overturn was huge because it allowed Lourdes Gurriel to knock in another run with yet another single and give Toronto a one-run lead. After a bunt moved the runners over a base each, Sale got a big strikeout to get to within one out of escaping. Instead, yet another passed ball from Vázquez let Jansen score.

Then, Gurriel was at third base with Devers nowhere near him to hold him close. That, combined with Sale pitching in the windup, was an invitation for a team and player who wanted to be aggressive. Toronto and Gurriel accepted the invite and he had a clean steal of home. Just like that, the Jays had taken a 5-2 lead in demoralizing fashion. Sale would eventually get out of the inning, and that would end his night. His stuff looked better than it has all year, but he still allowed too much contact. Bad luck played a role in that contact finding holes, and he didn’t get help from Vázquez behind the plate, but Sale still needs to be better.

So, now the Red Sox were looking for a comeback from their bats, which had slowed down some since that second inning. They did get a leadoff single in the third, but Vázquez inexplicably tried to steal second with Mookie Betts at the plate and was cut down, helping lead to a three-batter inning. In the fourth, they once again had runners on the corners for Pedroia, this time with two outs, but he grounded out yet again.

After a 1-2-3 fifth, the Red Sox started to chip away a bit in the sixth. The deficit was still at three thanks to two strong innings out of the bullpen from Tyler Thornburg, continuing a great run from Boston’s relief corps. Betts was up to lead off the sixth, and Shoemaker threw one right in his wheelhouse. The righty threw a fastball up in the zone and Betts ripped it right into the Monster Seats to cut the deficit down to two. A few batters later Bogaerts would draw a walk, and Toronto brought the left-handed Tim Mayza in to face Devers. He made a good pitch that Devers lunged at and popped out to left field, but Hernandez just straight-up dropped an easy catch. Bogaerts would come all the way around the score, closing the gap to one with Devers at second for Pedroia in yet another big spot. Once again he couldn’t get it done, lining out to right field to end the inning.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The top of the seventh brought Heath Hembree into the game in a one-run situation, and after two quick outs he issued a bad walk to Hernandez. That was enough for Cora, who quickly took the righty out and turned to another in Brandon Workman. He wouldn’t be able to get the job done. Workman has been great all year, but he struggled with his command as well as his velocity a bit here, walking the first batter he faced before giving up a little bloop single to score another run as Toronto pushed their lead back up to two.

The deficit was still at a couple of runs in the bottom of the eighth. There, J.D. Martinez came through with a two-out double, and Bogaerts would cut that deficit in half with a double of his own. That brought Devers up with the tying run in scoring position, and while he put up a tough at bat it ended in an easy ground out to finish off the inning.

Matt Barnes came on for the top of the ninth to try and keep the lead at one, but he got into early trouble. He hit the first batter he saw with the first pitch he threw, and then a wild pitch in the next at bat moved the runner to scoring position. Galvis then came through with a double and Toronto had their lead back at two. Barnes would get a couple of outs and Galvis would move to third on a steal, bringing Colten Brewer in to try and finish the inning and keep the deficit at two. He would do just that.

So, the Red Sox had the bottom of the lineup coming down by two in the bottom of the ninth. Pedroia led off against Ken Giles and he got on with a line drive base hit down the right field line. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed that up with a walk, bringing Blake Swihart up with the tying run on base in a pinch hitting situation. He made the first out on a first-pitch fly out. Andrew Benintendi did the same thing, leaving it all up to Betts with two on and two outs. He couldn’t get it done, striking out in an at bat where he let a hanging slider go by before swinging at ball four and ending the game.

Boston has another off-day on Wednesday before the Sox and Jays finish off this quick two-game set on Thursday. They’ll be sending Nathan Eovaldi to the mound to take on Aaron Sanchez. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.


Courtesy of Fangraphs