That’s about as frustrating as a loss can get. The Red Sox and Dodgers both got off to hot starts in the first inning on Sunday night in the rubber match of this three-game set. The starting pitchers settled in as the game went on, but Boston was trailing 4-2 heading into the eight. Back-to-back homers from Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez tied it up, but then the offense failed to cash in on multiple prime scoring chances over the next few innings. The bullpen did its job pretty much all night, but then Hector Velázquez came in and gave up the lead (and then some) in the twelfth. He was awful in this outing and deserves criticism for that, but if you’re looking to dole out blame don’t forget about this offense squandering multiple chances and making some really bad, basic mistakes.
Heading into this game, the billing for Sunday’s matchup was all about the starting pitchers. On one side, it was Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers lefty has been the best starter in the National League this year and was rewarded with the starting gig in the All-Star Game. He has a sub-2.00 ERA since the start of last season, too, though due to injury it’s about one full season’s worth of innings. Ho hum.
On the other side, it was David Price. He hasn’t been quite as good as Ryu, but that’s a pretty impossible standard for just about any pitcher. Price has easily been Boston’s best starting pitcher this year, and while there wasn’t a guy on the roster he definitely should have replaced he put up an All-Star caliber first half in his own right.
So, essentially, it was a matchup of these teams’ best pitchers to this point in the season. That’s why it was a surprise when the first inning was loaded with offense. To be fair to Price, he wasn’t exactly crushed in the top half of the inning. It did start with a walk, which is never a good sign. That was followed with a ground ball to shortstop. Xander Bogaerts had to go to his right and wouldn’t have had the double play, but the out at second seems reasonable. Instead, he couldn’t squeeze the grounder and Los Angeles had two on with nobody out. Price did come back with two big outs after that, but then A.J. Pollock found one of Fenway’s quirks. The outfielder hit a weak pop fly, but it snuck around Pesky’s Pole in right field for a short, cheap three-run homer.
With Ryu on the mound, falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first sure seemed like a death sentence, but the Red Sox had different ideas. They came out of the gates smoking the ball against the Dodgers southpaw, with Mookie Betts ripping a single off the Monster and Rafael Devers lining out hard to third base. After that, the Red Sox started taking advantage of the shift. Bogaerts reached on an infield single against the shift when no one was able to cover second on the potential double play, and then Christian Vázquez later loaded the bases with a two-out infield hit. That brought Andrew Benintendi to the plate, and he’d bring two more home on a third straight infield single. On this one, David Freese couldn’t hold on to the throw from Chris Taylor, and Bogaerts came around from second to score on an aggressive play. Boston would load the bases again later in the inning, but they settled for just the two runs in the frame.
So, after just an inning of play it was 3-2 in what was supposed to be a pitchers duel. It seemed as though it would actually be the offenses to dominate, but the pitchers turned it on after that initial inning. Price never quite got the efficiency down in this outing. Part of it was a lack of strikes, but the bigger issue was an inability to finish off batters. The Dodgers were fouling balls off all night, and by the end of his outing the number of foul balls he allowed was more than double his previous season-high. The results were there, though, and he got through three scoreless innings after that three-run first.
On the other end, however, we got a peek at how Ryu has been so effective over the last couple years. The lefty started showing off impeccable command and the Red Sox bats were totally shut down. He matched Price with the three scoreless innings.
We fast-forward, then, to the top of the fifth with Price starting to get up in pitch count but still mostly getting outs. The lefty got a strikeout to begin that inning, but David Freese followed that up with a double to get the Dodgers their first runner in scoring position since the first. Price did get one out away from escaping the inning without allowing a run, but Pollock struck again. This time he ended a tough at bat with a ripped single through the left side, making it 4-2 Dodgers.
In the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox threatened for the first time against Ryu since that first inning as well. It was all with two outs, too, and Devers started it off when Max Muncy had to rush a throw on a slow chopper. The throw ended up out of play, and Devers got to second. Boston got two runners on for J.D. Martinez after Bogaerts drew a walk, and the Red Sox slugger singled hard through the left side. It should have been a bases loaded, two outs situation for Vázquez, but Carlos Febles sent Devers on a poor decision. He was out by a mile as he was just rounding third as Alex Verdugo — who has a great arm — was picking up the ball in shallow left field. So, the Red Sox left the inning without any runs.
After Price exited the game, the Red Sox did get some good work from their bullpen. Josh Taylor, Colten Brewer and Ryan Brasier all came in for scoreless innings in that order.
Meanwhile, the offense was struggling with Ryu still in the game. They went down quietly in the sixth, but in the seventh Betts hit one well with two outs. It hit high off the wall, just missing a homer and he’d have to settle for a double. He’d be stranded at second, though, with Rafael Devers unable to get him home.
In the eighth, Ryu was finally out of the game with the middle of the order coming in to face Pedro Baez. They were happy to see anyone other than Ryu. Bogaerts led off the inning and he took a fastball up in the zone and put it way out over the wall in left field. Then, Martinez came up and did what he does, driving a hanging breaking ball the other way into the bullpen. Just like that, two batters in to the inning we were all tied up at fours. That was all they’d get in the inning as Baez came back with three straight strikeouts, but the damage was done.
With the game now tied it was Brandon Workman for the ninth, and he was great, striking out the side to keep the game tied and give his offense a chance to walk it off. On that quest, Jackie Bradley Jr. started the inning off by drawing a walk, leading to Marco Hernandez to come in as a pinch hitter. He would drop down a sacrifice bunt to put Bradley in scoring position for the top of the order.
For some reason, Dave Roberts did not bring Kenley Jansen in for this situation, instead sticking with Yimi Garcia. Betts wasn’t intentionally walked with first base open, but did get four straight balls to bring Devers to the plate. At that point, Jansen did come in. Devers worked a nine-pitch at bat, but it ended with a line drive right at Verdugo in left field. That left if all up to Bogaerts, but he couldn’t come through. The Red Sox shortstop struck out, ending the inning and forcing us to extras.
For the tenth, the Red Sox turned to Matt Barnes on the mound. He did not get off to a great start, allowing Freese to rip a leadoff single into right field. The righty recovered from there, needing 24 pitches in total but getting three straight outs against the middle of the order to keep it tied heading into the bottom of the tenth.
After the Red Sox got a runner on second base in the bottom of that inning but stranded him there, it was Heath Hembree in the eleventh. The righty would walk Verdguo with one out before hitting Taylor with two. That gave Justin Turner a chance to be the hero, and he did poke a single through the left side. Benintendi came up throwing, though, and nailed Verdugo at the plate to end the inning with the score still tied.
In the bottom of the inning, Bradley started things off well with a double off the Monster in left field. That brought Hernandez back to the plate, but he didn’t bunt this time. Instead, he hit a ground ball to shortstop. One would think it would end with just a routine out at first, but Bradley inexplicably broke for third on contact and was easily thrown out there. Hernandez would move up to second on the next play when Betts flew out to deep right field, and after an intentional walk to Devers it was up to Bogaerts with two on and two outs. He hit a ground ball up the middle that looked like it was going to win the game, but Taylor made a nice stop behind the second base bag to save a run. So, now the bases were loaded with two outs for Martinez, but he grounded out and we were heading for the twelfth.
Now, it was up to Hector Velázquez. He started off the eleventh by walking Joc Pederson in front of Bellinger. The NL MVP favorite then hit a ground ball towards first base, which was now occupied by Brock Holt. He booted the grounder in front of him, and Velázquez tried to go for it. Instead he obstructed the base paths and nobody was out. So, now there were two men on with nobody out, and Pollock would load the bases with no outs on a line drive single to left field. The one thing Velázquez had to do now was throw strikes, but of course he would walk the next batter to give L.A. the lead. The Dodgers would end up scoring three in the inning and had a 7-4 lead.
So, the Red Sox had one more chance at a big inning. Vázquez did start the inning off with a walk, and Joe Kelly would eventually come in with the runner on and one out. He would get the final two outs the Dodgers needed, though, and the Red Sox went home with a very disappointing series loss.
The Red Sox will remain at home after this series and look to get back on track against the Blue Jays. That series starts on Monday, with Boston sending Rick Porcello to the mound to take on Trent Thornton. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.