The Red Sox won emphatically to start their second half on Friday, continuing some of the momentum they had gained heading into the break. It seemed like it was possible they were ready to turn the corner with their ace on the mound on Saturday. As has been the case so often this year, the momentum quickly dissipated and Sale had another struggle on his hands at Fenway Park. The staff ace gave up five runs for the third consecutive outing, failing to get out of the fifth inning. The bullpen struggled equally and the offense failed to make a game of it before it got out of hand. It was a bad night, is what I’m saying.
The Red Sox were in the need for a big weekend at home against the best team in baseball as they kicked off a second half that followed up a disappointing and inconsistent first half. They certainly got off to a good start in pursuit of that goal with a big win on Friday. It was a strong all-around performance, but it was the stellar work from Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound that drove everything. If they were to repeat that on Saturday, they were going to need a big night from the struggling Chris Sale.
Instead, they got a very similar outing to the ones they’d gotten before the break. The staff ace had allowed five earned runs in consecutive outings before the end of the first half, having never had three such outings in a row in his career. In the first inning, we saw some of the good and some of the bad in what was sort of a sign of things to come. Sale was pumping a big fastball that was sitting in the 94-96 range and he was near the edges of the zone, but he still wasn’t really getting the bad swings you look for from him.
As a result, the Dodgers did some damage and were able to get to the southpaw early. Sale started his outing off by walking Chris Taylor in the leadoff spot, but followed that up with back-to-back strikeouts and looked like he may have found a groove. That brought Cody Bellinger to the plate, and he tapped one out towards the mound on the left side of the infield. Bellinger is good at so many things it’s easy to forget how fast he is down the line, and Sale just didn’t get to the ball quickly enough. His throw was late, and Christian Vázquez playing first base did not quite stretch as well as he could have, resulting in an infield single. That was a big play to extend the inning and with two runners on A.J. Pollock came through with an RBI single, and the Dodgers had a 1-0 lead after the top of the first.
Sale did come back with a 1-2-3 second, but then he made a big mistake in the third. It was Justin Turner coming through here, with the Dodgers third baseman hitting second in the inning. When Sale struggles, we often see hard contact early in counts, which was exactly the case here. Turner jumped on the first pitch he saw from the Red Sox ace, a fastball right down the heart of the plate. He crushed it way out to left field for a solo home run to put his team up 2-0. Sale did get two straight outs to finish the inning after that before facing only three batters in a quick fourth inning.
On the other side, the Red Sox offense had been scorching hot heading into the break and picked up right where they left off in Friday’s game. On Saturday, they were going up against Ross Stripling who hasn’t exactly been lighting it up of late. It was a chance to keep the hot streak going, but they couldn’t really get much positive momentum in this one. Over the first three innings, they managed just a pair of singles with no runners advancing beyond first base.
In the fourth, they finally got on the board. At this point it was a 2-0 game that was still very, very much within reach. Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter on the team in the first half and he’s continued his great season in this series. Here, he came up second in the frame and on the second pitch of the at bat Stripling left a curveball up in the zone over the middle of the plate. You can’t do that against Bogaerts, as the shortstop ripped it out over the wall in left field for a solo shot, cutting the deficit in half.
Now, with the score sitting at 2-1, the Red Sox needed Sale to have a quick fifth and give their offense another chance to at least tie the game. Instead, the lefty wouldn’t make it out of the inning. He allowed the first two batters of the inning to reach on a single and a hit batter, and a couple batters later it was Turner at the plate again. He did more damage this time, smacking a double out to left field to score one more run, making it 3-1 Dodgers. David Freese was up next, ripping a double of his own to score two more and suddenly Los Angeles had a four-run lead. On top of that, Sale had his third straight outing in which he allowed five runs. After getting Bellinger, Sale’s night was over with Heath Hembree coming on to finish off the inning.
After Colten Brewer came on for a scoreless sixth, the Red Sox offense was going up against old friend Joe Kelly in the bottom of the inning. Mookie Betts got that inning started off right with a base hit. He would later steal second base and move on up to third as the throw down got into center field. Bogaerts came through again with one out, singling out to right field to get the run home. A couple batters later, Andrew Benintendi kept the inning going with a walk to put two on with two outs for Vázquez. The batters would each advance a base during the at bat on a wild pitch, too. Vázquez put together a great at bat, but Kelly finally got him swinging on a high fastball on the ninth pitch of the at bat. Boston would leave a pair in scoring position still trailing 5-2.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers didn’t waste much time getting that run back and then some. Steven Wright was on the mound for Boston in the seventh, and after a quick first out Bellinger showed why he’s the NL MVP favorite. The outfielder destroyed one out to right field for a massive solo shot, making it 6-2 Dodgers. A.J. Pollock then followed that up with a very 2019 home run to the first row of the Monster Seats, extending the lead to five.
Wright then had to leave the game after an infield single deflected off the knuckleballer’s foot, forcing Marcus Walden into the game. Corey Seager was the first batter he’d face, and he hit a routine ground ball back to the mound. It resulted in an easy out at first base, but with the defense in the shift no one was covering first. Max Muncy noticed and headed over there. Instead of just eating the ball and conceding the base, Vázquez made an ill-advised through to Rafael Devers that ended up in left field, scoring another run. The Dodgers would get one more on a triple that could have been ruled an error on Benintendi — it bounced off the top of his glove at the wall — and they had a 9-2 lead by the end of the inning.
Ryan Brasier had the eighth, and he’d allow one more run. Finally, it was Hector Velázquez for the ninth. He allowed yet another run on a solo home run from Max Muncy.
The Red Sox still have a chance to win this series if they can get a victory on Sunday. They’ll have David Price on the mound with the Dodgers starting Hyun-Jin Ryu. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM ET.