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Red Sox 7, Blue Jays 8: So about that bullpen

The Red Sox bullpen blows a five-run game over the last three innings.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley /Getty Images

For the first six innings of this game, the Red Sox were in complete control. The offense jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the third inning thanks mostly to a five-run second. Brian Johnson would eventually allow just a run over five strong innings of work, giving his team exactly what they were looking for from the lefty in this game. Then, the bullpen came in. It was a disaster for the relief corps in this game. Mike Shawaryn gave up a pair of homers for three runs in the seventh before Matt Barnes came on for a disastrous eighth. He’d eventually allow the tying run to score before leaving with the bases loaded, when Ryan Brasier promptly walked in two to give Toronto the lead. The bullpen has been solid for most of the year, to be fair, and the offense deserves a cut of the blame for not doing much of anything after that third inning. Still, this is mostly on the bullpen. You can’t blow these kinds of leads against this kind of Blue Jays team. You just can’t.

And the Red Sox just keep rolling. For most of Friday’s series opener, it looked like the hot streak could be in doubt as the team headed back to Fenway. Oddly enough, Boston has struggled a bit at home this year, but they recovered from a rough start with Chris Sale on the mound and eventually won on a walkoff in extras.

On Saturday, they tried something different. They had Brian Johnson on the mound in this game, and during his pregame meeting with the media Alex Cora indicated he hoped to get five strong innings from the southpaw. That’s exactly what he got, but the story here was the offense. The Red Sox have had a habit all year of getting out of the gates slow and spending too much time either losing or playing in a scoreless affair. They made sure that wasn’t going to be the case in this game.

Toronto sent Derek Law to the mound to start this game as the opener, and he wasn’t expected to go much more than an inning. He did his job in that first inning, too. Boston has had trouble doing much of anything in the first innings of games all year, and that continued here with the top of the order going down 1-2-3 with three straight groundouts in the first.

The second inning was a different story, and the game was broken open early. Law stayed in the game longer than most expected, and the managerial mistake ended up proving very costly. The inning started with two walks in the first three batters to put a pair on with one out for Jackie Bradley Jr. The center fielder came through, scraping one off the wall for his team-leading sixth ball off the Monster of the season. That comes courtesy of Joe Castiglione, who tracks that every year. Lourdes Gurriel didn’t do himself or the Blue Jays any favors with the way he played it off the wall, either, and Christian Vázquez took advantage to come all the way around from first to make it a two-run double for Bradley. That brought Michael Chavis to the plate with Law still in the game. The rookie extended his hit streak to eleven games with a ball right through the middle to score another run, and Law finally left with his team suddenly down 3-0.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley /Getty Images

Sam Gaviglio came on to try and get out of the inning with the game within reach, but the Red Sox didn’t stop scoring with the new pitcher on the mound. After Eduardo Núñez hit a ground ball that moved Chavis over to second and Mookie Betts drew a walk, Andrew Benintendi hit the inning’s back-breaker. Boston’s left fielder doubled out to left field to give the Red Sox two more, and by the time the dust had settled it was a 5-0 lead for the home team.

Boston got right back on the horse in the third, too, but this time it was just a one-man show. That man was Vázquez, who was the hero in Friday’s game. He continued his power display with a fly ball the other way out to right that looked like it was going to hook foul. Instead, it hugged the line and pinged off the foul pole in right field, and just like that it was a 6-0 lead for the Red Sox.

While the offense breaking out early and giving themselves a comfortable lead just two innings in was the story of the game, Johnson did his job on the other side to make sure the Blue Jays didn’t keep pace. The lefty has been up-and-down this season and missed a chunk of time to the IL, but he got off to a good start in this game. Johnson retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Gurriel, who moved up to second on an error from Benintendi. He would be left in scoring position, though.

Johnson then got himself an easy 1-2-3 second before sitting on the bench for a while during his offense’s big second inning. He didn’t show any ill-effects from the long time out of the game, though, because he came through with a shutdown inning in the third without allowing a ball out of the infield. The fourth brought about the first real bit of trouble for the southpaw, though. In that inning, he allowed a leadoff single to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who then moved over to second on a wild pitch. Gurriel then hit a ground ball to the left side that Xander Bogaerts did a good job of getting to. However, his throw got by Chavis and Guerrero came around to score on the error, cutting Boston’s lead down to five.

Johnson recovered after that, though, giving up just a single before finishing off that fourth inning before tossing a 1-2-3 fifth. That would be the end of the night as he gave his team the five innings his manager was seeking. Over those five innings he allowed just the one unearned run on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks.

From here we fast-forward to the top half of the seventh as the Red Sox offense had stalled out and the score was still 6-1. Mike Shawaryn was on for his second inning after tossing a 1-2-3 sixth that included a pair of strikeouts. The seventh wouldn’t be as impressive. After a quick first out, Cavan Biggio got the rally going with a base hit before Freddy Galvis came to the plate. The infielder got a fastball on the inner half, and blasted it into the seats in the right field corner, cutting the lead to three. Rowdy Tellez then came up next and he crushed a curveball that stayed too high up in the zone. His ball went out over the wall in straightaway center field, and just like that it was a two-run game and Shawaryn’s night was over.

Marcus Walden came on next to try and stop the bleeding, but he walked the first batter he faced. The righty did strike out the next batter he saw, but Guerrero followed that up with a base hit with the runner going, putting runners on the corners with two outs for Gurriel. The first pitch to him would get through the legs of Vázquez, and suddenly we were looking at a one-run game with the tying run in scoring position. Walden finally got Gurriel for strike three to end the inning, but not before Toronto put four on the scoreboard.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley /Getty Images

After the Red Sox went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, it was Matt Barnes getting the call for the eighth. The righty has been looking better of late, but that trend reversed itself in this game at the exact wrong time. After striking out the first batter he faced, Barnes gave up an infield single to Teoscar Hernandez, who then got to second on a wild pitch. That was big, because in the next at bat Biggio struck a base hit just past a diving Brock Holt, and just like that this game was tied. Barnes would continue to struggle after that, issuing a walk and allowing both runners to move up to scoring position on another wild pitch. He’d then walk another guy to load the bases and end a horrendous outing.

Next up was Ryan Brasier to try and escape this jam with the score still tied, but he couldn’t do the job. He walked Eric Sogard on four straight pitches, and the Blue Jays had the lead. The lead extended with a fourth straight walk from Red Sox pitching to force in another run. Finally, mercifully, Gurriel popped one up to end the inning, but Toronto had an 8-6 lead.

Now it was on the Red Sox offense to get rolling again, but they went down in order in the eighth. After Josh Smith came on for a 1-2-3 ninth in which he struck out the side, the Red Sox had one more chance against Blue Jays closer Ken Giles. Boston did get a runner on a Mookie Betts walk, and he got to second on a stolen base. Then, with two outs, Bogaerts popped one out down the left field line. It ended up falling in no man’s land and bouncing up into the stands, allowing Betts to score and putting Bogaerts on second representing the tying run. That gave J.D. Martinez the chance to be a hero, but he couldn’t come through. The slugger struck out swinging to end a terrible, terrible loss.

The Red Sox will look to come back with a better game on Sunday and wrap up a series victory against the Blue Jays. They’ll send Rick Porcello to the mound for that one with Toronto calling upon Marcus Stroman. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.