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Red Sox - 1, Blue Jays - 2 : So Close, Yet So Very Pillar

Well darn.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Alex Verdugo was the hero last night. With two home runs, and a stellar defensive play that robbed a Blue Jay home run, it was clear that Verdugo was about to be thrust into a more important role. He was paid immediately for his service with a shift to the leadoff spot.

Chase Anderson didn’t care about any of that. Anderson struck him out on 5 pitches, getting Verdugo to reach outside the zone for strike three. Chase Anderson was a bad man for the first inning, getting Rafael Devers to ground out weakly to second, and J.D. Martinez to fly out to center-field.

Andrew Benintendi was the goat last night. With a few more strikeouts to his name, and a drop in the batting order to match, Benintendi was at his low. Then he made a tremendous diving catch in the top of the second inning, that brought back memories of his dive in the 2018 ALCS against the Houston Astros. With any luck, this would serve as a spark to get him going this season.

The Red Sox offense did end up threatening in the bottom half of the second inning, on the back of shaky control from Chase Anderson. Both Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland walked to lead off the inning, and then Christian Vazquez squeezed a dribbler up the middle to drive Bogaerts home, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

Then stepped in Benintendi with a chance to redeem himself from the 7th slot in the order. He had a decent pitch to hit for the second pitch of the plate appearance, but fouled it backwards. After a pair of non-competitive pitches to even the count at 2-2, Benintendi swung at a pitch that was at the very bottom of the zone (hands were tied, that would have been called a strike), and grounded into a frustrating double play. What was a promising rally, ended in a whimper, as Jackie Bradley Jr flew out to shallow left field.

Throughout all this, Zack Godley was also pitching a game, by the way. And he looked a lot more like the guy we had in his first outing than the guy we had in his second outing. Through the first three innings, only one player even reached scoring position, and the inning ended shortly thereafter. His fourth inning was a little more shaky, but he was able to tightrope out of danger there, too.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Red Sox threatened again in the bottom of the fourth. This time, courtesy of a J.D. Martinez walk, followed by a Xander Bogaerts single. Mitch Moreland hit a ball into the gap in right center field, but Teoscar Hernandez was there to get the out, and hold the runners at first and second.

In steps Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox have already moved Verdugo into a higher spot in the order, following his hitting display, and there’s an argument Vazquez warrants the same shift, given his own hitting (perhaps to give Rafael Devers a break, some have suggested). Vazquez struck out (swinging at ball four - mind it may have been called a strike because who knows with umpires this year), but he had a competitive at-bat, and kept the pressure on for the pitcher, forcing the Blue Jays to bring out their third pitcher of the game in just the fourth inning.

The Benintendi redemption story ended for the day, as Ron Roenicke decided he’d seen enough, and brought in Kevin Pillar as a pinch-hitter. You know you are struggling at the plate when Kevin Pillar is brought in to pinch-hit for you. He hit a weak grounded to the pitcher, but at least it wasn’t another strikeout. Gave the players a chance at least.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Zack Godley’s day was also done, as he was replaced by Josh Osich to begin the 5th inning. Looking at Godley’s line today, you have to be somewhat satisfied with the performance, even if you wonder if he could have gone another inning. Godley threw 67 pitches, gave up three hits, two walks, and got three strikeouts on the evening. Most importantly, he held the Blue Jays to zero runs. It would fall to the bullpen to close this one out. Osich did his job in the fifth, and the game continued.

The fifth inning had some drama, as Alex Verdugo grounded out to end the inning. Or so it appeared. Replay showed a conclusive view of the play, however, that showed Verdugo had been safe. The challenge ended up going in favor of the Red Sox, and Verdugo took his place at first. Unfortunately, Anthony Kay was too filthy for Devers to handle, and Devers struck out, stranding Verdugo.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Phillips Valdez started the sixth by nearly taking Bo Bichette’s head off. After dusting himself off, Bo Bichette drew a walk, after taking strike three on the corner. Because Valdez was all over the place, and missing spots though, the umpire called strike three as ball four. Rough, but it happens. Travis Shaw then grounded the ball to short, and Bogaerts and Jose Peraza attempted to turn two, but the play developed too slowly and awkwardly for it to work out. With one out, Teoscar Hernandez fouled a ball into the face of the umpire, causing a delay in the game. Then he laced a ball into right field for a single, advancing Shaw to second base. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. flew out, setting up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for a two out, two on situation, in a one run ball game. Vlad laced the ball into right field too... and as Shaw came rounding third the throw met him. Kevin Pillar threw a bullet to Christian Vazquez, who applied the tag. A heart attack of an inning, to be sure, but an inning in which the Red Sox maintained their lead for at least one more frame.

The Red Sox threatened again in the 6th inning, as Martinez reached on a Bo Bichette error to lead off the inning. Xander Bogaerts slapped a weak grounder that almost resulted in a double play. Almost being the operative word, as Rowdy Tellez could not handle the ball at first, and Bogaerts was ruled safe. Moreland rapped a single into right field, and Bogaerts advanced from first to third on the play. With runners on the corners and only one out, all the Red Sox had to do was hit the ball, and not get a double play. So naturally, Christian Vazquez grounded into a double play. Still 1-0 Red Sox, after six innings.

Are you getting tired of heart attack innings, deep fly balls, and insane plays in the outfield? I hope not, because Kevin Pillar made what may go down as a game saving play out in right field in the 7th inning. Heath Hembree took the mound, and gave up a single to Randal Grichuk, before Rowdy Tellez attempted to make up for his poor defensive play at first base with one swing. Kevin Pillar tracked the ball down, took a couple steps, and crashed hard into the right field wall. It was a loud, painful out, but an out all the same.

Hembree committed the cardinal sin of walking the #9 hitter in Danny Jansen. Then Cavan Biggio hit a ball about a million miles, out to center field. Thankfully, center field in Fenway is about a million and one feet deep, because it was just a really long fly out. Grichuk advanced to third, and the tying run was only 90 feet away, as Bo Bichette came up to the plate. After falling behind, 0-2, Bichette rallied to get the count back to 1-2, and 2-2. Then Bichette hit the ball a million and one feet to center field off the wall. This tied the game, and made everybody really sad. Hembree compounded this sadness by walking Travis Shaw. Roenicke would not let Hembree throw his 30th pitch tonight.

With the bases loaded in a key game, and the score tied, the Red Sox turned to Ryan Brasier. With my palms sweating more than they ever have, including on my wedding day, I sat and waited for the disaster to happen. But it never came.

Ryan Brasier struck out Teoscar Hernandez. Just like that. The game was tied, but there was still a chance.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Red Sox put up no resistance in their half, and then Marcus Walden put up little resistance to the Blue Jays bats in the top of the 8th inning. He walked Gurriel, got Vlad to fly out, and gave up a sharp single to Grichuk. Rowdy Tellez stepped in and grounded to second as well, but the runner was clearly going to score from third, so Peraza threw to first to retire Tellez. Blue Jays lead 2-1, having control of the game for the first time tonight at the worst possible time. A groundout to third by Danny Jansen stopped the bleeding, but the damage was done.

The bottom of the 8th was a pretty lame duck inning, where nobody threatened. If the Red Sox are going to pull this one out, it’s going to be in a walk-off spot.

The top of the 9th was simple enough, nobody scored, and it fell to the Red Sox in the bottom half to make up one, single, solitary run. They had three outs to work with. Their offerings? Christian Vazquez, Kevin Pillar, and Jackie Bradley Jr. If there is to be a hero tonight, it’s going to have to be an unlikely one.

Christian Vazquez? Down on three pitches. Kevin Pillar? Gave it a ride, but a spectacular catch by Hernandez in right field meant the Red Sox were down to their last out. All hopes rode on Jackie Bradley Jr. He was not helped out by the umpire calling strike one half a foot off the plate. The next pitch got popped up down the left field line. Gurriel caught it, and the game was over. Red Sox lose, 2-1.

The Red Sox fall to 5-9, while the Blue Jays rise to 5-7. You know what that means... the Red Sox are right back in the basement of the standings. Kumar Rocker, here we come.

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Good!

  • Bullpen was mostly good, outside of Heath Hembree tonight.
  • Kevin Pillar is an outstanding athlete.
  • Alex Verdugo gave it everything he had.
  • Zack Godley was pretty good in four innings.

The Bad!

  • Rafael Devers has looked pretty bad for a while now. Might need the Benintendi treatment.
  • Benintendi pulled for Pillar in the 4th inning tells you all you need to know about his season.

The Meh!

  • Xander Bogaerts looked pretty good on offense, but made a few weird plays defensively today.
  • Phillips Valdez got successful results, but did it in the weirdest way, have no idea where the ball is going.
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