The following simulation and video are brought to you by Out of the Park Baseball 21
Our Fake Sox have been playing mostly good baseball since that terrible opening series up in Toronto, but as they entered a rubber match getaway day game against the Rays on Tuesday they were coming off an embarrassing blowout loss. Things were not lining up well for Boston as their pitching staff was suddenly exhausted and they were facing Charlie Morton and a good Rays team.
With Matt Hall on the mound a day earlier than he should have been, the Rays were looking to strike early just as they did on Tuesday. It looked like they were going to have a similar kind of first inning, too, when Manuel Margot led off the game by ripping one into the right-center field gap for a leadoff triple. However, Hall didn’t let that snowball too badly, getting a ground out and a fly out sandwiching a walk. That did bring one home on the sacrifice fly, but the lefty would leave the inning having allowed just the single run. It was a deficit for Boston, but it felt like a win after the leadoff triple with Tuesday still fresh in the mind.
So, the Red Sox were looking for an early answer against Charlie Morton, and they went with a little bit of small ball to create that opportunity. In the first pitch of the inning, Andrew Benintendi dropped down a surprise bunt and it worked for a leadoff single. Morton immediately tried to pick him off but the throw got away and suddenly the runner was in scoring position. Alex Verdugo would then reach on a weak infield single to put runners on the corners. J.D. Martinez was now up, and he would strike out but Verdguo did swipe second on that strike three to put two in scoring position for Xander Bogaerts. He couldn’t come through either, though, popping out and leaving it all up to Mitch Moreland. After he drew a walk to load the bases, Christian Vázquez hit a weak fly ball out to right field and Boston blew their chance.
The good news is Hall got them right back to the plate because he tossed an easy 1-2-3 inning in the second. Then, the bottom of the order got to work. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been red-hot early in this season, and he took a page from Benintendi’s book with a surprise bunt single to start things off. Tzu-Wei Lin decided to go in the other direction, though, destroying a 2-1 pitch and sending it out over the triangle for a 439-foot two-run homer. Just like that, the Red Sox were in the lead. Morton would get a couple of outs after that, but then Verdugo took a big swing of his own for his first home run in a Boston uniform. That gave his team a little more of a cushion and it was 3-1 Boston after two.
The third was a little bit tough for Hall, as he started things off with a leadoff double to Kevin Kiermaier (who bizarrely started at DH in this game) and then had the runner move over to third on a one-out fly out. Still, he was one out away from getting out of it, and after a walk he got Hunter Renfroe to ground out, strand the runners and keep Boston’s lead at two. The fourth wouldn’t be as successful, though, because Brandon Lowe came up with the bases empty and one out and hit a home run just over the wall in center field. It was still a lead for the Red Sox, but it was cut in half. After a two-out walk, Hall’s day was over and Marcus Walden was in with two outs in the fourth.
Fortunately, Walden was a life-saver out of the bullpen. He got a grounder to end that fourth inning, worked around a leadoff walk in the fifth, tossed a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth and then came back out for a leadoff strikeout in the seventh before leaving the game. It was a bullpen-saving effort for sure. Meanwhile, the Red Sox decided to add a little more insurance back in the fifth. Benintendi and Verdugo made a couple of quick outs to start things off, but then Martinez had a base hit and Bogaerts drew a walk in front of Moreland, who would be Morton’s last batter. Moreland launched one out towards the right field corner and it made it up and over the wall for a three-run shot, opening up the lead to four runs for the Red Sox and giving a hell of a lot more breathing room.
Boston would add on a little more insurance late in the game with a pair of RBI hits in the eighth to make it 8-2. On the other side, Brandon Workman came on after Walden and had a strong day in relief, allowing a couple of singles in 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings. Colten Brewer then got the ninth with a six-run lead, and he did allow a couple of baserunners but kept runs off the board and Boston got their third straight series win, pushing their record to 8-5.
After the game, our Fake Sox called Darwinzon Hernandez back up to the majors with Trevor Hildenberger going back down. Boston heads out to Seattle. Quick note on that: I’m not going to wait until 10:00 PM ET to post those games because that would be dumb. They’ll just go up at 7:00 PM ET and we’ll suspend reality a little bit there.