[insert platitudes about it being better for the Red Sox to lose games but also not understanding the value in rooting for players that are part of the 2021 picture to fail here] Okay, with that out of the way, let’s just talk about the game. Chris Mazza started things off by giving up a bananas home run (495 feet!) to Ronald Acuña Jr., but was able to limit the damage to just that one very long solo shot. Jackie Bradley Jr. eventually tied the game with a homer of his own, and the Red Sox would even bring a lead into the eighth. Ryan Brasier coughed that up in the eighth before Mark Melancon allowed Boston to tie things back up in the ninth. But, don’t worry everyone. While the Red Sox offense did their very best to get a win, scoring two in the tenth and one in the eleventh, Jeffrey Springs would not be denied and eventually gave up the game-winner in the bottom of the eleventh.
The Red Sox are on the road to finish off their season, playing a Braves team with similarly low stakes in this series, albeit for different reasons. Atlanta has clinched their spot atop the NL East and only have seeding to worry about, a matter that is even less important in an NL picture that won’t become unjumbled on the bottom half of the standings until Sunday. Despite all that, they still sent out a very good lineup to face Chris Mazza on Friday, with Freddie Freeman the only big name on the roster to hit the bench for the day.
Mazza was welcomed to Georgia right away with an introduction to Ronald Acuña Jr., one of the very best and most exciting players in the game. He was leading off for the Braves, and he worked a 3-1 count against Mazza. The Red Sox righty tried to spin a cutter by Acuña. Unfortunately, the pitch didn’t move at all and stayed right down the heart of the plate. Acuña didn’t miss it. All he did was hit the longest home run we saw all year for or against the Red Sox, going into the books at the time as a 495-foot bomb. One batter into the bottom of the first, it was a 1-0 lead.
It certainly looked at that point like it was going to be a long night for Mazza, but he actually was able to settle down from there. He did give up a one-out double later in that first inning to Marcell Ozuna, but he limited the Braves to just the one run. He followed that up with a 1-2-3 second before having a little bit of trouble again with the top of the lineup. This time Acuña was hit by a pitch and quickly stole second, and Ozuna would reach on a walk to put two on with a walk, but Mazza worked around the runner in scoring position yet again to keep the Braves run total for the game still at one. Two more batters would reach against him on the fifth on a pair of singles, but he continued to walk the tightrope.
On the other end, the Red Sox were going up against Kyle Wright, a young righty who had struggled early in the year but was carrying some momentum into this outing. He kept it going early on with a perfect first turn through the rotation, and then a 1-2-3 fourth to make it 12 in a row to start his start.
You’re not reading about a perfect game, though, and you have Jackie Bradley Jr. to thank for that one. Hitting in the cleanup spot for this one, the impending free agent came up to lead things off in the top half of the fifth with his team trailing 1-0. Wright left a 2-0 fastball right over the heart of the plate and Bradley sent it right back up the middle a whole long way. The solo shot tied the game up at one run apiece.
That was all Boston got in that inning, but Mazza answered back with another scoreless frame in the bottom half. That ended what ended up being a really solid night for him in which he allowed just the one run over five innings.
After Wright came through with a perfect frame of his own in the sixth, it was Darwinzon Hernandez coming out of the bullpen first for Boston. The southpaw had a bit of an issue with his control, giving up a one-out walk and then hitting a batter with two outs, but worked around that trouble to keep the game tied.
Meanwhile, Wright was still in the game for Atlanta and he started to lose the zone a little bit here, following a quick first out with three straight walks to load the bases with just one down. The Red Sox then went to their bench, somewhat surprisingly to be honest, and called upon Rafael Devers as a pinch hitter. It looked like he came through with a big double down the first base line, but Austin Riley made a huge diving stop to get the out at first. Boston did take the 2-1 lead on the play, but Riley saved at least one more run on top of that. The Sox would end up settling for just that one run in the inning.
With the lead now in hand, it was Ryan Weber getting the call in the bottom half of the seventh. He got a quick first out, but even more quickly found himself in trouble after that. Weber hit two batters with a single being given up in between, and just like that the bags were full for Dansby Swanson. Trying to work some magic to escape this inning, Weber won that battle with a huge strikeout, and then Riley got a taste of his own medicine. He went the other way with the Red Sox loading up the inside on the right side, but Bobby Dalbec (who moved over to first after Devers came in the game) made a diving stop to save a couple runs and end the inning with Boston still up 2-1.
After the Red Sox failed to add any insurance in the eighth, it was Ryan Brasier coming out for the bottom of the inning. He quickly put a runner on with a single from Nick Markakis, but came back with a strikeout. Adeiny Hechavarría put Brasier into more trouble, though, smoking a double out to right field that just barely got by Alex Verdugo, and after an intentional walk to Acuña the bases were loaded with just one out. Brasier fell behind 3-0 on Ozzie Albies, but the latter had the green light and couldn’t come through, hitting a shallow fly ball out to left field for the second out without being able to get the tying run home. That left everything up to Ozuna, The Braves slugger came through. He smacked a base hit back up through the middle, bringing two home and giving Atlanta the 3-2 lead. Devers would then make a throwing error in the next at bat, bringing one more run home to give Atlanta a 4-2 lead.
That was the score heading into the ninth with old friend Mark Melancon coming in to try and close things out. J.D. Martinez got things started with a base hit on the first pitch he saw to bring the tying run to the plate. A fielder’s choice swapped out Martinez for Bradley at first base before Boston caught a break when Melancon couldn’t handle a ground ball back up the middle.
After walking Dalbec, suddenly the Braves closer was dealing with a bases loaded situation and just one out with Devers coming up. The Red Sox third baseman was extremely upset with himself after his error and now had a chance to make up for it. He got some help from the Braves defense. Devers hit a weak ground ball to the left side that was picked up by Hechavarría, who slipped when he picked it up. He should have just held the ball and let one run score. Instead he tried to make the throw to first mid-fall and threw it about 60 feet over the head of Riley, allowing the tying run to come in and score.
Suddenly, the Red Sox had a chance to take the lead with Jonathan Araúz coming up with the bases loaded following an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Xander Bogaerts. The rookie hit a ground ball to Riley that resulted in an out at the plate, leaving things up to Verdugo. He also couldn’t come through, and we were tied up heading to the bottom of the ninth.
With the tie score, it was Matt Barnes coming on to pitch for the Sox. He did well early to get two quick outs, but then the control went and he walked the next two. Suddenly, the go-ahead run was at second base and Acuña was coming back up to the plate. Barnes won this battle, getting a ground ball over to third base to end the inning and send the game into extras.
It was Verdugo starting the tenth on second base after making the final out in the ninth, and Martinez would head to first base with one out on an intentional walk. Eventually, it was up to Kevin Plawecki with two on and two out, and he came through with a base hit to give the Red Sox their lead back. Dalbec added a little bit of insurance with a single of his own, and it was a 6-4 game heading to the bottom of the tenth.
Now it was up to Jeffrey Springs to finish it off in the bottom of the tenth. It didn’t start well, as Albies immediately brought home a run with a base hit to close the gap to one. The southpaw came back with a big strikeout against Ozuna for the first out, and then got a pop up for out number two. Springs made things a little uncomfortable when he threw an 0-2 fastball to the backstop to put the tying run in scoring position. It wouldn’t really matter where the runner was, though, because Dansby Swanson smashed a double off the righty field wall to tie the game up at six.
And so we’d head to an eleventh inning. That inning started with a bunt to move the runner over to third, and that would pay off as Verdugo brought home the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly. Springs then came back on for the eleventh, and it took him no time at all to solidify the loss. On his second pitch of the inning, he served up a two-run shot to Freeman, sending both sides home happy.
The Red Sox play their penultimate game on Saturday as Tanner Houck takes the mound for his third and final start of 2020. First pitch is set for 7:30 PM ET.