The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.
After our Fake Sox dropped a tough game on Wednesday, they were in danger of dropping their second series of the year to the Blue Jays, needing a win on Thursday to avoid that fate. They had Nathan Eovaldi on the mound for this one while Toronto countered with Tanner Roark.
Eovaldi had not been pitching very well heading into this matchup, carrying an 8.39 ERA into the start and coming off an outing in which he recorded just one out in the fourth and allowed six runs on four hits. He was looking for a bounce-back, and the Red Sox were looking for a rare strong pitching performance from their starter, as they have been squeaking by with a solid record despite the worst rotation in the American League.
This time, though, the righty was up to the task. It wasn’t a perfect outing for Eovaldi, but he got the job done, at least in the early going. He was perfect in the first before getting into a bit of trouble in the second. There, he allowed a one-out double to Travis Shaw, who made it to third with two outs, but stranded him 90 feet away to keep Toronto off the board.
On the other end, the Red Sox went down in order themselves in the first and made two quick outs in the second. Then, some depth players came through. José Peraza started the two-out rally with a base hit as he continues to be a hits machine this season — he’s hitting .362 — before Kevin Pillar walked to the plate. Getting the start in Alex Verdugo’s place, the former Blue Jay hit his first homer in a Red Sox uniform and giving Boston a 2-0 lead. Kevin Plawecki came up next, another bench player getting the start, and he followed Pillar’s lead, going back-to-back and pushing the lead to three.
One of the biggest issues for Boston starters this year has been their inability to prevent opponents from answering back after their lineup hands them a few runs. Eovaldi bucked that trend, in the third, though, allowing just a two-out single in a scoreless inning of work. He’d come back with perfect innings in the fourth and the fifth as well.
Unfortunately, Boston’s offense was stalling out, so it was still 3-0 as we headed to the sixth, and this was Eovaldi’s speed bump for the evening. Danny Jansen started things off by ripping a double into right-center field, and a couple of batters later Teoscar Hernandez had a two-bagger of his own to put the Jays on the board. Eovaldi then made a big mistake by balking to move Hernandez to third, which came back to bite him when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. brought him home with a sacrifice fly. Suddenly, it was a 3-2 game.
After the Red Sox wasted a leadoff bunt single in the bottom of the inning, Eovaldi would once again strand Travis Shaw on third. As we headed into the eighth, it was still 3-2 and Eovaldi was still on the mound for Boston. He got a ground ball to start the inning, but after making a diving stop Ryder Jones threw the ball away and Toronto had their leadoff man, and tying run, on second base.
That ended the night for Eovaldi, and Kevin Shackelford came in with the top of the Blue Jays lineup coming up. After a big strikeout of Bo Bichette, he walked Hernandez to bring Guerrero back up with the go-ahead runner on base and one out. In a huge spot, Shackelford got the ground ball for which he was searching and it resulted in a massive inning-ending double play.
Boston would come back out and get some insurance in the bottom of the inning as Jones and Andrew Benintendi smacked back-to-back doubles. However, Benintendi had to leave the game with an injury after getting in safely at second base. The good news is the injury is not serious, and the mild ab pull won’t force him to hit the injured list.
So, with it now a two-run lead for the Red Sox heading into the ninth, Matt Barnes was coming out looking for his ninth save. He had a chance in his last outing but was inexplicably lifted with two outs. This time, he was allowed to stay out there and continued his great April with a perfect inning to shut the door and finish off the series victory.
With the win, the Red Sox move to 16-11 on the year, remaining a half-game behind the Yankees in the division. Down on the farm, Pawtucket was off, Jarren Duran homered in a Sea Dogs loss, Trenton Kemp homered in a Salem loss, and Yusniel Padron-Artilles led Greenville to a 3-1 victory.