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Fake Sox Game 48: Bryan Mata works around trouble in his big-league debut

And the Red Sox squeak by.

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.

Our Fake Sox are coming off a long weekend in Texas in which they played five games in four days. They did, however, win three of those and had a day off on Monday to rest themselves. They also made a pretty wild roster move in that time off, calling up Bryan Mata from Portland — despite the fact that Mata had been more decent than good in Double-A — with Matt Hall getting sent down to Pawtucket. The young Mata was on the mound for his major-league debut on Tuesday against a struggling Rays lineup, but was up against their ace Blake Snell on the other side.

Down in Portland, the biggest issue for Mata all year had been his command, and that was shown off a bit right away in the top of the first as well. Tampa Bay stacked the top of their lineup with lefties against the young righty, and after getting a quick first out Mata got himself into trouble. He issued a walk to Ji-Man Choi, his first of the night, before then giving up a double off the bat of Austin Meadows that was rocketed out to center field. That brought home one run and gave Tampa a quick 1-0 game. That was then followed with yet another walk and then a base hit to load the bases. It looked like Mata’s first start would be a disaster. He beared down in the tough situation, though, and got two huge strikeouts to end the inning and keep the deficit at just one run.

That paid off extremely quickly, too, with the Red Sox not wasting too much time answering back. Kevin Pillar got the start in right field with Alex Verdugo getting an extra day off after the scheduled off-day Monday, and weirdly he was batting second. It worked out, though, because Pillar ripped a one-out double in his first at bat. After J.D. Martinez struck out, it was up to Xander Bogaerts, and he came through. The shortstop jumped on a 2-1 pitch and sent it far down the left field line. His 350-foot shot was his seventh homer of the year and gave the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.

Now, it was up to Mata to hold on to that lead and settle down after a shaky first. That’s not exactly what happened, though. He again got a quick first out, but then issued a walk and hit a batter before getting his third strikeout of the night. He’d then issue yet another walk — already his fourth of the game plus a hit batter — to load the bases for a second straight inning. For a second straight inning, however, he’d escape the danger. Mata got Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to fly out and the Red Sox were still leading 1-0.

It looked like it’d be more of the same in the third, too, when Mata issued yet another walk to lead off that frame, but this time he bounced back with three straight outs for his best inning so far. He did even better in the fourth, coming through with his first career 1-2-3 inning. He’d come back out for the fifth with 81 pitches under his belt, and he recorded two outs but had a base hit in between. Mata grabbed his fifth strikeout of the night on the last batter he faced before giving way to Martín Pérez with a runner on first and two outs. It was definitely not a wildly impressive debut for Mata, but in the end he allowed just one run over 4 23 on five walks, a hit batter and five strikeouts.

Pérez, then, would get a quick ground ball to end that fifth inning. The lefty came back out for the sixth and issued a walk but still only faced three batters thanks to a double play. He’d issue two more walks — giving the Red Sox pitchers eight on the day — in the seventh. I should mention that, to this point, the Red Sox offense had been pretty convincingly shut down by Blake Snell and the score was still 2-1. So it was a tense situation when Pérez threw a wild pitch with two on and two outs in the seventh, all of a sudden putting the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. It wouldn’t matter, though, because Jackie Bradley Jr. saved the day. Nate Lowe hit a line drive into center field that looked like it’d give Tampa the lead, but Bradley came through with a huge diving catch to end the inning and keep the Red Sox out in front.

Pérez came back out for the eighth as well, getting the first batter he faced out before Brandon Lowe reached on a base hit. That brought Matt Barnes into the game with the tying run on base and one out. The righty continued to be fantastic, getting the first out on a sacrifice bunt before leaving the tying run in scoring position with a huge strikeout of Mike Zunino to end the inning.

That left it all up to Ken Giles in the ninth, and he continued to excel himself in that closer role. He also got some help from Bradley in center field when Ji-Man Choi looked to hit a one-out double in the gap. Bradley made another diving grab, though, and it was the second out in a 1-2-3 ninth.

The Red Sox pitching staff worked around eight walks to allow just the one run and Xander Bogaerts’ two-run shot was enough for the Red Sox to pull out the 2-1 victory. It pushes their record to 28-20, and they remain one game back of the Yankees. Down on the farm, Rafael Devers went 2-5 with a double in his first rehab game as the PawSox won their only game in the last two days, Marcus Wilson hit his seventh homer as the Sea Dogs won their only game, Salem split their two games with Devlin Granberg homering twice in the win, and Greenville lost their only game while losing Ricardo Cubillian for a week with a hand contusion and Thad Ward also left the game with an undiagnosed injury.