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Fake Sox Game 87: One bad inning gives Sox another loss

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A bad stretch of baseball continues on the road.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

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

Our Fake Sox had been playing well leading up to Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Mariners, but things turned on a dime there with a tough extra innings loss in the first game followed by a blowout in the nightcap. They had a day off Thursday to recuperate before starting a three-game set against the Pirates, a team that had started the year as one of the worst in baseball but have ridden a hot six-week stretch into the second wildcard spot in the NL. This matchup featured Bryan Mata going up against Hector Noesi, leading to the possibility of a whole lot of offense. Also, the Red Sox made a couple of roster moves this week, designating Oliver Pérez for assignment before he even pitched for them and calling up Marcus Walden, and also demoting Matt Shoemaker with Ryan Weber coming up from the majors.

As far as this game goes, though, the offense-heavy matchup proved to be right on the money extremely early on, with the Red Sox jumping all over Noesi in the first. José Peraza started the game with a base hit, and Alex Verdugo had a single of his own to put runners on the corners right off the bat. Unfortunately, it looked like the rally would be squashed thanks to a Rafael Devers double play. It did get one run home, but it seemingly ended the chance at a big inning. Except then J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts hit back-to-back homers to make it a 3-0 game. And then Jackie Bradley Jr. smacked a single, Michael Chavis drew a walk and Christian Vázquez hit a single of his own, and the Red Sox handed Mata a 4-0 lead before he threw a single pitch.

Mata was coming off his best start of his young major-league career and was looking to build off that here in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Jarrod Dyson welcomed him to the game with a leadoff triple. Mata did recover well after that with three straight outs, but one of those was a sacrifice fly to make it a 4-1 game.

After the Red Sox went down in order in the top of the second and Pittsburgh hit into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners in the bottom, the score was still 4-1 heading into the third and Boston’s bats got back to it. The inning started with some control issues for Noesi, as he hit Bogaerts and issued a walk to Bradley to put two men on with just one out. Eventually it was all up to Christian Vázquez, but he came through with two outs, smacking his second RBI single of the game to make it a 5-1 game.

This is where the game turned on a dime and Mata just totally lost it. He did get a fly out right off the bat in the inning, but then couldn’t get another out. The Pirates got two straight singles, a triple, and a two-run homer off Mata following that leadoff out, instantly tying the game up at five apiece and knocking the young righty out of the game. The newly called up Walden came on next, and he was somehow even worse as everything just fell in for Pittsburgh. The righty faced seven batters, allowing six singles and walking another while tossing in a couple of wild pitches for good measure. All told, he didn’t record a single out and it was suddenly a 10-5 Pirates lead when he left. Remember, the inning started with the Red Sox leading 5-1. The good news is Kevin Shackelford came on and got an inning-ending double play to finally close out the inning. The bad news is all of the momentum was with the Pirates now.

On the positive side, after that rough inning the Red Sox pitchers did come through and stop the leak for a while. Shackelford an Josh Taylor would combine for 3 23 shutout innings out of the bullpen with just one baserunner between them.

On the negative side, the Red Sox just never really got back in the game. The closest they came was in the seventh with the score still 10-5. They got a legitimate rally going here with a Devers double to lead things off, and then a couple batters later Bogaerts brought him home with a base hit. They would eventually load the bases with two outs, too, and Mitch Moreland came on as a pinch hitter and drew a walk to make it 10-7. Peraza couldn’t keep the rally going, though.

The Pirates got another run in the eighth, too, as Dyson smashed a solo home run off Parker Markel. Dyson, by the way, was a double shy of the cycle in this game. Boston did get that run back in the ninth thanks to a moonshot of a home run from Bradley, but that was all they’d get.

The 11-8 loss was the third in a row for the Red Sox and dropped their record to 46-41. They are now 5.5 back in the division. Following the game, Darwinzon Hernandez was called back up with Walden getting demoted back to Pawtucket. Around the league there were a couple of trades with the Mets trading for Kirby Yates and the Rockies trading for Danny Salazar.

Down on the farm, Chad De La Guerra homered in a loss for the PawSox, Juremi Profar had a double and a homer in a Sea Dogs loss, Salem’s offense was limited to just two hits in a loss, Greenville got a team effort 5-2 win, the Spinners couldn’t get an extra base hit in a loss, and the three complex teams went 3-1.