The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.
After an embarrassing 19-2 loss to start this four-game series against the Indians, the Red Sox rebounded with a pair of comeback victories in the middle game, giving them a chance with a series win on Monday if they could come through on Patriots Day. They had their number one pitcher in Collin McHugh on the mound, but Cleveland had theirs as well in Mike Clevinger.
In a change of pace from the rest of this series to this point, it was Boston who actually got on the board first. After both teams went down without much doing in the first and then the Red Sox escaped danger in the second partially thanks to a brilliant relay from Andrew Benintendi to Xander Bogaerts that got Jake Bauers at home, we were scoreless as we headed to the bottom of the second.
After a quick first out, Alex Verdugo got things started for the Red Sox, and he did so in a big way. The outfielder fell behind 0-2 but he was ready on that third pitch, blasting it 401 feet out to the right field corner for a solo homer to put Boston up 1-0. The Sox caught a break later in the inning, too, as Kevin Plawecki hit a grounder to shortstop for what should have been the third out, but Francisco Lindor booted it for a big error to keep the inning going. Ryder Jones took advantage, hitting one almost to the same spot as Verdugo just a few feet further, and Boston had a 3-0 lead after the inning.
Red Sox starters in this simulation have been bad about shutdown innings, but McHugh came through with a 1-2-3 third, and the Red Sox had a chance for more in the bottom of the inning. Clevinger started things off by walking the first two batters before Bogaerts smacked a single, and they had the bases loaded with nobody out and a chance to really take a comfortable lead. Instead, they only got one run on a sacrifice fly, and while they held a 4-0 lead there was an ominous feeling in the air that they would come to regret not getting more in that inning.
Sure enough, Cleveland’s bats got going a bit in the fourth. After a quick first out, McHugh gave up a single and a walk to put two on in front of Tyler Naquin, who came through with an RBI single to cut Boston’s lead down to three. McHugh settled down from there, though, and Cleveland stranded two and settled for just the one run.
It was still 4-1 in the top of the sixth, and this is where things started to go bad. Franmil Reyes came up with one out in the inning, and he found the shortest part of the park. He hit a fly ball down the right field line that dinked towards the bottom of the foul pole, but it all counts the same and it was a solo homer for the Indians to make it 4-2. A couple batters later, Naquin was a little more emphatic, crushing one 447 feet out to left-center field for a solo homer of his own and just like that the Indians were suddenly within one.
After the Red Sox left a man in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth, McHugh came back out to start the seventh. He got two quick outs, but then gave up a single to Oscar Mercado, and that ended his day with Kevin Shackelford coming out of the bullpen. Red Sox relievers have been outstanding early in this season, but this was not their day. With two outs, Shackelford gave up a big triple to José Ramírez, and that would tie the game up. Fortunately, that was all Cleveland would get in the inning.
The game was still tied heading into the bottom of the eighth, where we had a little bit of a flashback to the bottom of the third. Verdugo started things off with a single, then moved over to second on a bad pickoff throw. After a couple of walks, the bases were suddenly loaded with just one out. Unfortunately, Jones couldn’t come through as he hit a grounder to Christian Arroyo at second base, who was playing in, and that cut down the runner at the plate. The Red Sox didn’t come away completely empty handed, though, as one run came across in the next at bat on a wild pitch. It was all they’d get, but it was a 5-4 lead as we headed into the ninth.
Matt Barnes had pitched a couple days in a row for the Red Sox, so they were giving their closer the day off, and that did not work out well. Brandon Workman came on instead and quickly gave up a leadoff double. After a ground ball moved him to third, a sacrifice fly would bring Jake Bauers home and it was a blown save for Workman as Cleveland tied the game at five. Boston would then waste a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth, and we headed into extras.
After Cleveland went down in order in the tenth, Mitch Moreland started the bottom of the inning with a base hit. After a couple of outs, a base hit moved Moreland up to second, and then Benintendi came through with a hit of his own to potentially win the game. However, Moreland just didn’t have enough speed and tried to score anyway. The result was an out at the plate that ended the inning and kept this one going into the eleventh.
Red Sox pitching worked their way out of trouble there, as Cleveland had the bases loaded with one out but could not score. Things wouldn’t go as smoothly in the twelfth. Once again the bases were loaded with one out, but this time the Indians got two doubles and a sacrifice fly for four runs and it was suddenly 9-5. The Red Sox offense did come alive in the bottom of the inning, getting two runs across and having the tying run get one base, but it just wasn’t enough. Wasted opportunities and poor performances throughout the bullpen led to a loss and a disappointing series split.
The loss dropped the Red Sox record to 14-10 as they remain a half-game up in the division. Following the game, Boston agreed to a four-year contract extension with Jackie Bradley Jr. worth a little more than $46 million. It doesn’t matter much for our purposes, though, with it being just a one season simulation. Also, Marcus Walden was called back up with Colten Brewer heading back down to Pawtucket. Around the league, Zack Greinke threw a complete game shutout and Mike Leake suffered a season-ending injury.
Down on the farm, Josh Ockimey hit homer number six and Tanner Houck tossed six good innings in a loss for Pawtucket, Marcus Wilson had three hits in an extra-inning loss for the Sea Dogs, Noah Song tossed five solid innings in a win for Salem and Greenville’s bats were shut out in a loss.