The Red Sox pitching staff needs some serious help. The rotation has not been pitching up to its capabilities, and they don’t even really have a true fifth starter. That once again revealed itself to be true on Thursday as Hector Velázquez was knocked out without even making it through three innings. The bullpen allowed four runs in their own right, including another blown save late in the game. Despite all of that, the Red Sox beat a bad team and won a series they needed to win thanks to clutch homers from the offense. Specifically, it was Michael Chavis and Marco Hernandez getting the big ones in this game. Something needs to be done about the pitching, but for now we can enjoy a win.
When the Red Sox announce that Nathan Eovaldi would come back to the team as a reliever rather than rejoining the rotation, the biggest and most valid criticism that the help to the bullpen would be cancelled out by the damage to the rotation. Since the righty hit the injured list, Boston has struggled mightily to find anyone to consistently fill that final rotation spot. Far too often, these turned into de facto bullpen games with the starter lasting only two or three innings and the bullpen being wrecked for a few days as a result. For a team with enough bullpen issues as it is, it’s not an ideal situation!
It’s a trend that continued on Thursday, with Hector Velázquez getting the start. Brian Johnson was just recently placed on the injured list, leaving the Red Sox scrambling to find a starter yet again. Velázquez was not quite up to the task. The righty was handed a 1-0 lead before even taking the mound for his first pitch, but he wasn’t up to the task of holding that lead. He did get a strikeout to start his outing, but that was followed by a double to the left-center field gap by Freddy Galvis. After getting the second out of the inning, Velázquez lost his control and walked two straight batters to load up the bases. He was still just one out away from escaping the inning, but Rowdy Tellez had other ideas. He put a base hit into center field, scoring a pair and putting the Blue Jays up 2-1.
Things didn’t get any better in the second, either. Velázquez came out and had to face Danny Jansen to start that frame. The Blue Jays catcher has been hot of late and has destroyed the Red Sox in this series, which continued here. He worked a full count against Velázquez before getting a two-seamer that stayed up in the zone and he put it way out to straightaway center field. Just like that, it was a 3-1 lead for Toronto.
Velázquez would also allow a single in that second inning, but allowed no more runs. In the third, he got a quick first out before giving up a double. That extra base hit would end his day, forcing another long day for the bullpen in which they’d need to complete 5 2⁄3 innings just to get through regulation. Colten Brewer was up first there, and he did get out of the third without allowing that runner on second to come around to score.
Brewer then came back out for the fourth inning, and the game took a turn for the worse for the Red Sox. Starting this inning was, once again, Jansen, and he did the same thing. This time he jumped on the first pitch he saw and blasted it out to center field for his second homer of the day, pushing Toronto’s lead to three. Brandon Drury followed that up with a double before moving to third on a wild pitch, but it wouldn’t matter where he was standing. A couple of batters later Galvis came up and drove a first pitch cutter out over the wall in left field, making it 6-1 Blue Jays.
On the other side, as I mentioned above the Red Sox did get off to a good start on offense. That was because of Rafael Devers, who has taken to the second spot in the lineup extremely well. He came through in the first inning once again, putting a solo home run just over the wall in right field to give his team the 1-0 lead.
Obviously, though, we know that wouldn’t last. The pitching was certainly frustrating, but it didn’t help that the offense didn’t do anything for a few innings after that. In fact, nothing would happen against Blue Jays pitching again until the sixth. That would turn into a big inning, though. Boston had the top of the lineup to start that one, and they kept the line moving. Mookie Betts drew a walk, Rafael Devers singled, Xander Bogaerts singled and J.D. Martinez singled as well. That gave Boston two more runs, and cut the deficit to three.
That led to a pitching change, with lefty Tim Mayza coming in to face Brock Holt with runners on first and second. As he’s done so often this year, Alex Cora opted to use Eduardo Núñez as a pinch hitter in this situation, a move I’ve made pretty clear I hate. Núñez popped up to the catcher. Fortunately, the rest of the lineup had his back. Christian Vázquez drew a walk to load the bases before Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded into a fielder’s choice to get one more run in. Suddenly, it was a two-run game with two on and Michael Chavis at the plate representing the go-ahead run. He took advantage of that representation, blasting a three-run shot way out to left field. Just like that, the Red Sox somehow had a 7-6 lead.
Now, it was up to the bullpen to preserve the one-run lead. Ryan Brasier had the sixth and he tossed a 1-2-3 inning. The seventh belonged to Matt Barnes. The righty did issue a walk and then, with two outs, he tossed two straight wild pitches to allow the runner to get over to third. He was able to escape, though, with a huge strikeout of Tellez to end the inning.
The Red Sox were still up one heading into the eighth, and that inning would go to Brandon Workman. Once again, it was Jansen doing the damage for the Blue Jays. Or, at least, part of it. The catcher stayed in the yard this time, but he came through with a one-out double out to left-center field. Workman did get a second out after that, but Eric Sogard came through in the clutch with a double of his own, tying the game and giving this Red Sox bullpen another blown save.
Fortunately, the offense didn’t waste much time getting that run back. Chavis, the hero from earlier in the game, started this inning with a strikeout. Sandy León was due up next, but Marco Hernandez came in to pinch hit. The move resulted in Boston forfeiting the DH as Vázquez was serving in that role, but the move paid off. Hernandez blasted a solo home run, giving the Red Sox their lead right back.
With his team back ahead, Workman came right back out for the ninth. It was a strange move with him having thrown 17 pitches in the eighth and blown the lead, particularly with Heath Hembree having just been activated. Alas, Workman did walk two batters with one out. After getting Tellez to fly out, it was pinch hitter Vladimir Guerrero Jr. up with two on and two out in the one run game. The young slugger hit a slow chopper to the left side and Devers made a really nice play to get the out and end the game. It got scary, but it’s a win.
The Red Sox now head out to Detroit to start their final series before the All-Star break. That series starts on Friday with Eduardo Rodriguez taking the mound against Gregory Soto. First pitch for that one will be at 7:10 PM ET.