Coming into the day, the Red Sox were desperate to get Eduardo Rodriguez his 20th win. They fell behind early, but cut the deficit right away before eventually tying and getting the lead at the last possibly moment for their lefty. Of course, in fitting fashion for this team, the bullpen blew that chance. Fortunately, they still found a way to end things on a high note with Mookie Betts scoring the walk-off win on incredible, heads up baserunning. It was Extremely Mookie, and a fitting way for this all to potentially end.
For someone who hasn’t really been following some of the individual trends down the stretch, it might have been a little jarring to look at the lineup and see mostly a full-strength group out there for the Red Sox. Andrew Benintendi, who’s been banged up to end the year, was the only starter not in the lineup, which is obviously not typical for an eliminated team at the end of the year. Of course, this was not a typical Game 162 for Boston, as they had a team goal they were trying to accomplish for the guy who was their best starting pitcher this year.
It’s been clear for a few weeks now that the entire team is invested in Rodriguez’ chase for twenty wins. They’ve had their A-Lineup behind the southpaw in all of his starts this month, and he was pushed a little extra in his last outing to make sure he got through five full innings. At 19 wins on the final day of the season, everyone was looking to do their job and get their 2019 ace a victory.
The first couple of innings flew by, with both teams watching each of the first six batters they’d send to the plate go down. It was good for Rodriguez, of course, but not ideal for the Red Sox going up against an old friend in Chandler Shepherd who not only had a near-8.00 ERA in 14 major-league innings coming into this game but also a 6.18 ERA down in Triple-A.
Then, the third inning rolled around and Rodriguez lost it for that one inning. Stevie Wilkerson started things off for the Orioles with a walk, and then with one out Richie Martin and Hanser Alberto came through with back-to-back singles, the first of which being a bunt single in which the Red Sox tried and failed to get the out at second base. That was followed by a double out to right field for rookie Austin Hays, and it was a 2-0 lead for Baltimore. They’d get one more on a fielder’s choice, and the Red Sox were trailing by three by the time the dust settled.
As I said, though, the team was pushing extra hard for the win today and the offense was indeed able to answer back against Shepherd in the bottom of the inning. Gorkys Hernández, who got the start for Benintendi, started it off with a fly ball that got by a diving Wilkerson for a one-out triple. After Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a walk, Mookie Betts ripped a base hit to put Boston on the board. That brought Rafael Devers — who entered the day with 198 hits on the year — to the plate. He’d hit a single of his own, and things got weird. Bradley was held up at third base, but Betts kept going around to third. That should have resulted in Bradley being cut down easily, but alas the Red Sox were playing the Orioles. Baltimore botched the play and Bradley got home to cut the deficit to two.
With runners on the corners and still only one out, Devers eventually got to second on a wild pitch. Xander Bogaerts then hit a ground ball to Richie Martin at shortstop. The Orioles had the infield in and Betts was off on contact, which is not a good combination for the Red Sox. Betts was cut down at the plate, and that was the end of the inning.
Rodriguez, to his credit, did not let that rough third inning snowball into a bad and/or shortened outing. He came back with a perfect fourth, and ultimately got through the next three innings having allowed just a single between them. Unfortunately, the Red Sox were struggling just as much, so the score didn’t change heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Shepherd was still in the game at this point, but the Red Sox would put forth another rally in support of their pitcher. Bogaerts got the inning started with a walk that led to Shepherd being pulled. With Baltimore’s bullpen now in, J.D. Martinez put a single into right field before Mitch Moreland drew a walk of his own, loading the bases with no outs on the board. Christian Vázquez was up next, and he came through with a base hit to bring one home, tie the game and keep the bases loaded. It was a prime opportunity to get the lead and put Rodriguez in line for the win. Instead, Brock Holt hit a ground ball that resulted in an out at the plate, Hernández popped out and Bradley struck out. The game was tied at three, but it should have been more.
Rodriguez came back out for one more inning in the seventh, issuing a one-out walk but coming back with two straight strikeouts after that. The offense now had to take a lead to ensure the lefty could get the win, with Rodriguez at 115 pitches. Fittingly, it was the team’s two most consistent stars on the year who did just that. Devers started the rally with a double out to right field, not only putting a runner in scoring position with one out but also giving him his 200th hit on the year. That brought Bogaerts to the plate, and he ripped a base hit out to left field to bring Devers home and give Boston a 4-3 lead.
So, now it was up to the bullpen to protect this lead and give their pitcher the win. Matt Barnes was up first, and things got off to a rocky start when Hanser Alberto reached on a Bogaerts error. Trey Mancini would put two on with a one-out single before Barnes came back and induced a pop out for the second out of the inning. That brought Jonathan Villar to the plate, and after it looked like he struck out but it was ruled a foul tip, the at bar extended for eight pitches. On the last one, he snuck a base hit past Holt at second base to bring home the tying run. Just like that, the hopes for twenty wins were dashed and this game was tied.
Rodriguez couldn’t get his twentieth win, but the Red Sox were still looking for a team victory to end their season. Christian Vázquez got things started with a base hit, and after Chris Owings came in to pinch run and stole second, Brock Holt put a base hit through the left side. That put runners on the corners with nobody out, and Hernández ripped a line drive. Unfortunately, it was right at Villar at second base and Owings was doubled up at third base. It didn’t look like it would matter when Bradley drove one that looked like it was going to leave the yard. Instead, Wilkerson made an absolutely absurd Spiderman-like catch to rob the homer and keep the game tied.
Brandon Workman would come on for the ninth and pitched a perfect inning, giving Boston a chance to walk it off. Betts got things off to a good start with a leadoff walk. Devers then followed that up with a ground ball that bounced up and deflected off a glove into right field. It looked like it would put Betts on third, but then Wilkerson lobbed the ball back into the infield. Betts, as he so often does, picked up on it and made a great instinctual play on the bases, coming around to score and end the game. Hopefully that was not the final time we see Mookie in a Red Sox uniform, but it’s tough to think of a more apt way for it to end if this is it.
And, well, that’s a wrap! We’re obviously not going anywhere and will be right back with you as soon as tomorrow morning, but that’s it for Red Sox baseball. Now, we head into a long, long offseason. Look for plenty analysis about what’s to come as well as our player reviews starting next week. But for now, as always, thanks for following along all year. It was disappointing on the field, but you all make it worth it.