Well, that sucked. In the first of two in a strange doubleheader that is both preceded and followed by an off-day, the Red Sox took us on a rollercoaster ride. They fell behind early, then tied it, then had a wildly terrible defensive inning to fall back behind, then came all the way back to lead it heading into the seventh only to watch Matt Barnes blow the save. Such is life in 2020. Martín Pérez was a little shaky but worked around major control issues for much of his five-inning start, Rafael Devers had two homers and what was the go-ahead double, and Christian Vázquez had four hits. But, you know, pain.
Although the Red Sox are obviously out of the playoff race and have been for quite some time, they do have a chance on this upcoming road trip and really through the rest of the season to play spoiler. That started today against a surging Phillies team and they had their best active starter going in Martín Pérez, who also happened to be coming off an outing in which he carried a no-hitter into the seventh. He got off to a good start here, too, tossing a quick, scoreless first inning.
On the other side, the offense was looking to get to Zach Eflin, whose results are much worse than his peripherals would suggest. The righty gets a ton of strikeouts, but he’s also shown himself to be vulnerable to left-handed pitching all year. They managed just a single in the first, but did get something going in the second. It started with a Christian Vázquez infield single. Eflin got a couple of outs after that, but Bobby Dalbec kept the inning alive with a walk and Christian Arroyo reached on another infield single. Suddenly, the bases were loaded for Alex Verdugo, but he couldn’t come through. The Red Sox leadoff man grounded one over to second base to keep the game in a scoreless tie.
Pérez, meanwhile, was looking to keep things rolling in the second, but the command started to come and go at this point in the game. The southpaw got a grounder for a quick first out, then got up 0-2 on Didi Gregorius. Pérez left his putaway fastball right over the heart of the plate, though, and Gregorius ripped it out to right field for a solo homer, giving Philly the early 1-0 lead. Pérez would eventually load the bases in frustrating fashion on a bunt single, infield single and walk later in the inning, but only the one run came across.
The Red Sox offense wasted absolutely no time getting back in this game, though. Rafael Devers was up to lead things off in the top half of the third, and we saw Eflin’s struggles against lefties in one at bat. He tried to sneak a high fastball by the Red Sox third baseman, but Devers wasn’t going to let that happen. He hit an absolute laser beam of a home run — clocked at 116.5 mph, the second hardest-hit homer by a Red Sox hitter since 2015 when Statcast started tracking exit velocity — that left the yard in about a second. It tied the game up at one run apiece.
It was now up to the Red Sox to keep the momentum, but what happened instead was just an embarrassment of an inning, to be frank about it. Things started with a walk to Bryce Harper, but Pérez got a ground ball to Arroyo over at second. He stopped the ball right in Harper’s path to the bag, and could have easily tagged the runner. Instead, he inexplicably threw it over to first and Harper made it to second safely. It was one of the worst defensive plays I’ve ever seen. Harper then moved on up to third on another grounder, and more defense brought him in. Vázquez tried to get too cute with a back pick at third base that ended up in left field, and just like that it was a 2-1 lead for Philly.
From there, Pérez took over, more than likely extremely frustrated by what his defense was providing for him. The lefty totally lost the zone and issued two straight walks after Harper scored, then put both in scoring position on a wild pitch. That was costly as Alec Bohm poked a base hit through the middle to bring both runs home, and the inning would eventually end with a 4-1 lead for the Phillies.
That was still the score heading into the fifth, and the Red Sox got back to Eflin. It started off with Verdugo, who had a tough first couple at bats. On his third time seeing the Phillies righty, he got a slider on the inner half a bit down in the zone, and that is Verdugo’s sweet spot. He launched it way out to right field for a no-doubt shot to lead off the inning, cutting the deficit to two. Devers came up after that and decided to see what the left field seats were like this time around. He took a sinker down and away — it was actually a pretty solid pitch from Eflin — and smashed it the other way for a solo homer, giving Boston back-to-back dingers and bringing them to within one.
After Pérez came back for a scoreless fifth, the offense had six more outs to try and at least tie this game back up. The Phillies went into the bullpen for the sixth with Tommy Hunter coming in. It wouldn’t take six outs for the offense. Dalbec continued to stay hot at the plate and gave Boston their fourth solo homer of the game, driving a 3-2 curveball that stayed in the middle of the zone and tying this game up at four runs apiece. A few batters later Devers came up to the plate with Verdugo standing at first. He was looking for his third homer of the game, and almost got it. Instead, he settled for a double high off the wall in right field that brought Verdugo home and gave the Red Sox a 5-4 lead.
With the lead suddenly in hand, it was Ryan Brasier coming on to try and hold things into the seventh. The righty got the quick first out he was looking for, but then issued a walk and a base hit to put two on with just one out and the heart of the order coming up. Brasier came back with a big strikeout to get Rhys Hoskins, leaving things up to Harper. The slugger couldn’t come through, flying out to center field to leave a pair on and keep the Red Sox ahead.
After the offense got the first two on in the top of the seventh but couldn’t add to the lead, it was Matt Barnes coming on to try and close things out. He got off to a brutal start, walking the leadoff man on four pitches. He came back from there with a big strikeout (in part thanks to a gift strike one call) for the first out, but then Gregorius followed that up with a base hit through the right side. Suddenly, the tying run was just 90 feet away with one out. Barnes came back with another strikeout for a huge second out, though Gregorius did make his way over to second on a stolen base on strike three to put the winning run in scoring position. He almost escaped the jam, getting to a 2-2 count against Bohm, but the rookie smacked a base hit through the left side. Both runs would come in to score, and the Phillies won on the walk off.