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Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 6: A great start wasted

It’s going to be a long weekend.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox and Blue Jays played their first of five games over a four-day stretch, so of course it went to extras. Boston was actually in control of this one for most of it with Martín Pérez tossing a gem for the first six innings. In fact, he didn’t allow a hit over those six frames. He lost the no-hitter in the seventh, and that’s when things started to unravel. After the offense only gave him two runs of support to work with, the bullpen came on and gave up a run in each of the seventh and eighth innings, the offense continued to prove ineffective against Blue Jays pitching. The only silver lining is this was not exactly a marathon loss, as Phillips Valdez gave up a three-run homer to Teoscar Hernandez in the tenth, and that was the difference. The Red Sox are now 12-26.

With the Red Sox and Blue Jays playing five games in the next four days and the Red Sox pitching staff being what it is in that they have exactly one (1) pitcher who can confidently go more than four innings in an outing, they needed a long outing out of Martín Pérez, who is that aforementioned starter. Even with the two games tomorrow each being seven innings, they needed some length in this one. Pérez, to his credit, has been largely and surprisingly effective this year, though there had to be a little concern coming into this game since the southpaw was coming off his worst start of the season.

As it turned out, Pérez brought his A-game and then some to Fenway Park on Thursday. He started off the game with a scoreless first in which he allowed a two-out walk and then nothing else. Then, he was perfect in the second and the third with a strikeout in each of those frames, putting him at just 39 pitches through three innings.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth was his toughest inning to that point in the game when he allowed his second walk of the game, also with two outs. Pérez then induced a pop up into shallow right field from Lourdes Gurriel, but with the infield shifted to the left side of the infield things got a little dicey. Michael Chavis, playing second base in this one, did get under it, but it bounced off the glove for an error. That should have put runners on the corners, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. inexplicably made a break for home and was cut down easily to end the inning. After Pérez got through a perfect fifth inning, people started noticing the ol’ goose egg in the hits column on the scoreboard.

Pérez’s first five innings weren’t just big in the context of the rest of the series, either. Going up against Taijuan Walker, who was just acquired at the trade deadline, the Red Sox offense wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard and providing a big cushion for their starter. They went down in order in the first, and then they recorded a couple of quick outs to start the second. Fortunately, Jackie Bradley Jr. came up with two outs, and he’s been heating up at the plate. Walker tried to finish Bradley off with a 2-2 cutter, but he caught too much of the plate and Bradley sent it into the bullpen for a solo homer, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 cushion.

That was all they’d get in the early parts of the game, though. They did get a runner into scoring position after the Bradley homer thanks to a Chavis single and stolen base, but Bobby Dalbec left him there with a strikeout. They’d also waste a pair of singles to start off the fourth in part thanks to an inning-ending double play from Bradley.

So, Pérez was still throwing his no-hitter heading into the sixth and was also trying to help his team keep the narrow 1-0 edge. The southpaw struck out the first batter he saw, but then issued his third walk of the night to put a runner on with just one out. Pérez made the pitch he needed, though, getting a ground ball to start an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play to keep the no-hitter in tact through six.

The Red Sox now were looking for a little bit of insurance for their starter, and Alex Verdugo started the bottom of the sixth with a single. After J.D. Martinez kept the inning alive with a two-out single, Christian Vázquez drew a walk to load the bases and end the night for Walker. Anthony Kay came on to face Bradley, and the latter drew a huge walk, bringing home the Red Sox second run.

So, now Pérez had a two-run lead heading into the seventh. Unfortunately, the no-hitter wasn’t going to last even one more out. Teoscar Hernandez led off the inning for the Blue Jays and he smacked a base hit on a liner into left field. Now, the focus was on simply holding onto the lead. Guerrero popped out after that for the first out, but then Gurriel smacked the second hit of the night off Pérez, and suddenly there were two men on with just one out. That left things up to Joe Panik, and he came through with the Jays’s third single of the inning, this one bringing Hernandez home and bringing Toronto to within one.

It also ended the night for Pérez, who was fantastic in this game but did leave two inherited runners on for Austin Brice. To counter that move, Rowdy Tellez came on to pinch hit looking to continue his terror on Red Sox pitching. Instead, Brice hit him in the elbow with a pitch to load up the bases for old friend Travis Shaw. Brice would win this battle, getting Shaw with a high fastball to leave ‘em loaded and keep the Red Sox up by one.

After the Red Sox left two on in the bottom of the seventh, Brice came back out for the eighth. He started the inning off by giving up a double to Cavan Biggio, putting the tying run in scoring position, and then walking Randal Grichuk. That was all Brice would get as Ryan Brasier came into a tough situation with two on and nobody out in a one-run game.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Brasier did not get off to the start he wanted. He went to make a pickoff attempt at second base but didn’t complete his spin around, instead stepping towards third. That is what we call a balk, putting the runners on second and third. Then, his first pitch went through the legs of Christian Vázquez, and just like that we were all tied up in just a comically 2020 Red Sox kind of way. To Brasier’s credit, he did get out of the inning after that without any more runs despite having the man on third with nobody out, partially thanks to Xander Bogaerts making a really nifty play at short to end the inning.

Now, the Red Sox were looking for more offense in the bottom of the eighth, and Martinez got things started the right way with a big double out to left-center field. That would be followed by a strikeout and a grounder, though, leaving Martinez as the go-ahead runner on third base with two outs for Chavis. He had a long at bat, but it ended with a pop out and Martinez’s double was wasted.

With the score still tied in the ninth, the Red Sox turned to Matt Barnes. He started off the inning with a strikeout, but then put the go ahead run on with a base hit. That’s all Toronto would get, though, as he finished things off with two more strikeouts to give his offense a chance to walk it off in the bottom of the inning.

Bobby Dalbec got things started with a four-pitch walk, and then had Tzu-Wei Lin come on and run for him. The Red Sox would get a couple of outs after that, but then Devers drew a walk, bringing Bogaerts to the plate with the winning run in scoring position. Bogaerts couldn’t end it, instead flying one out to right field and we headed to extras.

The tenth would belong to Phillips Valdez, and of course the inning started with a runner at second base. Valdez then issued a walk before Randal Grichuk hit a ball to Chavis, who was now at first base. It wasn’t a sure double play ball, but they should have at least gotten the out at second. Instead, Chavis booted the grounder and could only get the out at first, leaving two in scoring position with one out for Teoscar Hernandez. It wouldn’t matter where the batters were standing, though, as Hernandez hit one out to right field that snuck into the Red Sox bullpen. Just like that, it was a 5-2 lead for the Jays. Toronto would add another one on a towering homer from Gurriel, too, to extend the lead to four.

So, now the Red Sox offense had some major work to do in the bottom of the tenth. They did get a walk in the inning, but that was all and that was the game. The 6-2 loss dropped their record on the year to 12-26.

The Red Sox now get set for their first doubleheader of the year on Friday. Remember, each of these games are only seven innings long. The first one starts at 4:10 PM ET, with Zack Godley taking on Tanner Roark.


Courtesy of FanGraphs