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Fake Sox Game 73: Too little too late

The Red Sox miss out on a chance for a little two-game sweep.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

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

Our Fake Sox have two off days in the span of four days, but that of course leaves two days for games in between, and that is in the form of a little two-game series against the Braves. Boston got a win in the first of those two on Tuesday thanks largely to Atlanta shooting themselves in the foot in one inning. They were looking for the small sweep with another win on Tuesday, though with Bryan Mata taking on Mike Soroka the pitching matchup was in the road team’s favor at Fenway.

Soroka is certainly the Braves’s best pitcher, though he’s been a little more up and down than they’d like this season, largely due to some inconsistent batted ball luck. He was on one for this game and, frankly, dominated the Red Sox in this game and threw very few pitches in the process. Boston was swinging early in a whole lot of counts, and for the most part hitting it right into the ground. They did get base runners in each of the first three innings, but still only sent ten batters to the plate. The next two innings were perfect frames for Soroka in which he tossed a total of 13 pitches.

Meanwhile, Mata was having a fairly typical Mata outing, which is to say he was giving up a few more baserunners than you’d like but generally keeping runners off the board. In the first, for example, he issued a two-out walk and had a man on second base after a stolen base. The rookie got some help from his defense, though, as Andrew Benintendi robbed Freddie Freeman of a single, ending the inning and likely keeping a run off the board.

After a 1-2-3 second it looked like another perfect inning was coming Mata’s way in the third, but his defense let him down when José Peraza let Cristian Pache reach on an error. Pache then immediately stole second, once again putting a runner in scoring position. Once again, though, Mata got out of trouble.

So the game was still scoreless heading into the fourth, but the luck would run out for the Red Sox rookie. He started the inning by issuing a walk to Ronald Acuña, who then very aggressively moved up to second base on a fly out to left field, which you basically never see. Two batters later, Johan Camargo smacked a single into center field, and just like that it was a 1-0 lead. Ender Inciarte kept it going with a double, too, and the Braves had a 2-0 lead with a dominant starter on the mound.

The score was still 2-0 in Atlanta’s favor heading into the sixth, with Mata still on the mound and coming off a perfect fifth. This time, though, he once again started things off with a walk to Acuña, who quickly stole his second base of the game. After getting the first out against Freeman, the Red Sox surprisingly decided to intentionally walk Marcell Ozuna. That brought Camargo back up, and he came through again, this time with a single to right field that brought Atlanta’s third run home. Fortunately, Mata did get a double play after that to end the inning and keep the deficit at three.

So, the Red Sox offense desperately needed something to get going in the bottom of the inning. Mitch Moreland got things started with a leadoff walk, and after a fielder’s choice switched the first baseman out for Peraza, a Benintendi single put runners on the corners with one out. It wasn’t a big rally for Boston, but they did get one in the inning on an Alex Verdugo sacrifice fly.

The 3-1 score was not going to last too long, though. Mata came back out for the top of the seventh and after a leadoff strikeout he issued his fifth walk of the night. That would also be the end of his outing, as Ryan Brasier came on with a man on first and one out. He quickly got the second out on a fielder’s choice, but then Starlin Castro ripped a double out to right field and Pache easily came all the way around to score, giving Atlanta their three-run lead right back.

Given how poorly things were going for the Red Sox offense, that felt like the end, but it wouldn’t quite be that exactly. They did make two quick outs in the heart of the order to start the bottom of the seventh, but then Jackie Bradley Jr. kept the inning going with a little infield single. That brought Christian Vázquez to the plate, just in time for one of his random clutch home runs. The catcher worked a full count and then blasted a 3-2 pitch 391 feet out to left field for a two-run homer, and just like that it was just a one-run ballgame.

With the new game in hand, Brasier came back out for the eighth, but immediately got into trouble with an infield single and a more standard single to put the first two runners on. It seemed like that was the time to take him out, but he stayed in and quickly got two strikeouts to put himself on the verge of getting out of the jam. It was at this point, though, Matt Barnes came in. He has been up and down over the last few weeks, and here he was welcomed into the game with an RBI single from Tyler Flowers to make it 5-3. Barnes did get out of it after, but it was a crucial insurance run for Atlanta.

In the bottom of the eighth, it was a little two-out rally for the Red Sox with Verdugo starting it off with a single to end Soroka’s night and bring Will Smith in. Boston then got another single from J.D. Martinez to put runners on the corners before catching a break as Rafael Devers reached on a Freeman error that also let Verdugo score and make it a one-run game once again. That brought Xander Bogaerts to the plate in a huge chance with two on, two out and his team trailing by just a run. He couldn’t come through. Bogaerts hit a routine ground ball out to second base, and that was that.

Barnes did come back out for a scoreless ninth, but the Red Sox would go down in order in the bottom of the ninth and that was the game. The 5-4 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 39-34. In worse news, the Yankees picked up a win, so the deficit in the division is back to 2.5 games.

Down on the farm, Brian Johnson got knocked around in a PawSox loss, Andrew Politi tossed seven very good innings in a Sea Dogs win, Garrett Benge hit two homers in a Salem victory, Greenville combined for a shutout win, and the two DSL squads split their games.