The Red Sox were coming off a really tough weekend against the Rays and could desperately have used a big start to this four-game set against the Rangers that kicked off Monday. Early on, things were golden. The offense scored two runs in the first thanks to an Andrew Benintendi home run and Chris Sale was sailing. The latter continued that, going seven strong innings. The offense, however, fell asleep after the first two batters and failed to score again the rest of the night. That put it all on Matt Barnes in the ninth with a one-run lead, and he couldn’t get the job done. He’s been struggling for a few weeks now, and that continued here as he allowed three straight hits that resulted in two runs and a Rangers lead. The Red Sox would force extras and even get a chance with the bases loaded in the tenth. However, bad base running in the ninth and poor situational hitting in the tenth, along with a poor performance from Ryan Brasier in the eleventh, led to a loss. It was all very 2019.
Chris Sale headed into Monday’s game coming off the best start of his career, at least if you judge that sorta thing by Game Score. Granted, Game Score is far from a perfect stat and if/when you factor in the quality of opponent — Sale was pitching against the Royals — things change. Wherever you want to rank that outing in which the southpaw tossed a complete game shutout with twelve strikeouts and no walks, it was damn good and the kind of momentum he needed. Sale hadn’t been bad before that, to be fair, but he’d scuffled a bit by his standards and had to face the Astros and Yankees for three straight starts.
So, he was trying to carry that momentum into Monday’s game against the Rangers, and he was able to do just that. Just looking at the opponent it seemed Sale had a chance to have a strong night in this one. That’s not a dig at the Rangers, either, because they obviously have plenty of talent in their lineup. It’s just that, while they put up big numbers they are also susceptible to swing-and-miss stuff. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but Chris Sale has shown an ability to miss some bats in his career.
Like I said, he succeeded and succeeded with an exclamation point early, getting through the lineup perfectly the first time. He struck three over those first three innings, too. Sale allowed his first baserunner of the day in the fourth when Danny Santana put a one-out pitch off the Monster for a double, but quickly after that he was caught stealing on an inexplicable and poorly executed attempted steal of third. So, Sale had faced the minimum through four.
It appeared he’d keep that streak going in the fifth as well, though he did allow another one-out double there, too. That one was to Hunter Pence, and the veteran wisely stayed put. However, Asdrúbal Cabrera then lined one right to Sam Travis at first base. The Red Sox had Pence dead to rights at second, but for some reason Xander Bogaerts just...didn’t move. He didn’t cover second base — I don’t know if he thought it was a chopper and not a line drive or what the deal was — so Pence got back safely on an error charged to Travis (he did make a throw that Bogaerts did not catch but, again, he didn’t cover the bag!).
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was trying to get some run support for their ace. That’s something with which they’ve struggled with plenty this season so they decided to get it done early in this one. Going up against Mike Minor, it looked like the Red Sox may be able to put up a crooked inning right away. Mookie Betts started the bottom of the first by drawing a walk before Andrew Benintendi came up. With a runner on the Red Sox left fielder got a fastball up in the zone over the middle of the plate and he put a charge into it, sending it up over the Monster in left-center field for a two-run shot. Two batters into the bottom of the first and Boston had a 2-0 lead.
They quieted down quickly and aggressively after that, however. The next three batters would go down in order in that first inning against Minor, and they wouldn’t get another baserunner until Betts came back around. He put a double into left field and then a couple batters later J.D. Martinez drew a two-out walk. That brought Bogaerts up in a big spot in the third inning, but he grounded out to end the threat and strand the runners. The Red Sox would get another chance in the fifth when Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a single, moved to second on a bunt and stole third base with one out, but again the runner was stranded 90 feet from the plate.
In the top of the sixth, Sale allowed the leadoff man to reach for the first time on the night on what was also his first walk of the evening. Things appeared to be fine after that, however, when the ace got two quick strikeouts after the free pass. Then, with two outs, Rougned Odor broke for second and ended up on third on a bad, bounced throw from Sandy León. Sale then got to two strikes against Santana — and thought he got strike three but Angel Hernandez disagreed that Santana went around on a checked swing — but the Rangers outfielder came through with a base hit through the left side. Just like that, it was just a one-run lead for the Red Sox. The inning kept going, too, as Santana moved to second on the first pitch of the next at bat on a passed ball from León. Sale avoided any further trouble with his ninth strikeout of the day, though.
That was the same score as we headed into the seventh, and Sale didn’t mess around in that one. The Red Sox ace got a 1-2-3 inning there to maintain his team’s 2-1 lead, and that was also the end of his night. In all, the lefty tossed seven strong innings in which he allowed just the one unearned run on three hits and one walk with ten strikeouts.
Now, it was up to the bullpen to get the last six outs with no margin for error. Brandon Workman was up first for the eighth against the bottom of the Rangers order. He would toss a 1-2-3 inning.
From here, it was all up to Barnes in the 2-1 game for the ninth. The righty, who has been struggling mightily over the last few weeks, got into more trouble here. After getting a quick first out, Barnes gave Santana his second hit of the day on a base hit before Elvis Andrus doubled. That brought Nomar Mazara to the plate with two in scoring position, and the Rangers outfielder ripped a line drive into center field. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, Texas had a lead. Heath Hembree eventually had to come and finish off the inning.
So, now it was on the offense to wake back up after a mostly quiet game, suddenly trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth. Martinez got it started with a rocket off the Monster, but it was hit so hard he was held to a single. Bogaerts then followed it up with a double of his own and the Red Sox had their first two batters on. That brought Rafael Devers up, and he hit one about 450 feet. Unfortunately, it was foul and then on the next pitch he chopped one to second base for a double play. Now, pinch runner Michael Chavis was at third with two outs and Brock Holt was up as a pinch hitter to try and extend the game. He came through, dropping a line drive into center field for a base hit, and this game was all tied up. Holt quickly made a massive mistake, though, as Marco Hernandez (also up as a pinch hitter) hit a single of his own into right field. It was a bloop pop up and Holt ran through a stop sign trying to get home, subsequently being thrown out by about 50 feet. I’m only exaggerating a little bit.
We headed to extras from there, where Heath Hembree came back on for the tenth and tossed a 1-2-3 inning. Then, in the bottom of the tenth, the Red Sox got going a bit. They got a one-out single from León that was followed up by a walk to Betts. After Benintendi struck out for out number two, Chavis drew a walk of his own to load the bases for Bogaerts. He couldn’t get it done, though, as he flew out to center field and we headed to the eleventh.
Brasier came on for that eleventh inning, and it was Santana continuing his big day at the plate with a leadoff double. It could have been more, too, but Betts made a diving stop to cut it off and keep it from bouncing around in the corner. Andrus then followed that up with a base hit, and that would give Texas another lead.
Now, it was on the Red Sox to rally one more time to at least force a twelfth inning. Instead, Chris Martin came in for the Rangers and tossed a perfect inning to end the game. That’s four losses in their last five games for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox and Rangers continue this four-game set on Tuesday. Boston’s starter is still not known as of this writing while Texas will start Ariel Jurado. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.