The Red Sox had a chance for their third sweep of the season on Wednesday, a pretty remarkable feat more than a week away from the second month of the season. Alas, it was not in the cards as the Blue Jays were able to salvage a split in this little two-game series. There were two main culprits for the loss today, the first being Garrett Richards. He just had no semblance of control, and while at the end of the day things could have been worse, he still put his team in an early hole. On top of that, the offense just couldn’t string together hits when they needed them. It wasn’t a terrible game — the bullpen was mostly solid, and Xander Bogaerts homered for a second straight night — but it was a loss all the same.
While the Red Sox have been rolling for much of this start to the season, there have certainly been some blemishes, particularly among some of the new faces to arrive this season. Among them has been Garrett Richards, who just hasn’t gotten off to the start this season that he was hoping for. After a disastrous first start, he has righted the ship a bit, but there are still some control and contact issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, he was bitten by poor control once again here on Wednesday and put his team in the early hole.
It was clear right from the get-go that this was going to be a struggle for Richards. After having to wait around for an extra 30 minutes due to weather, the righty finally got things started at 7:40 local time and kicked off the game with a four-pitch walk before hitting the next batter he faced. That brought Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to the dish, and he smacked a base hit into left field. Just like that, it was a 1-0 deficit for the Red Sox and there wasn’t even an out on the board. Fortunately, Richards was able to limit the damage thanks to a double play (which was started nicely by Bobby Dalbec) and another ground ball.
For a lot of his starts this year, Richards has gotten off to a tough start before turning things around after the first inning. On Wednesday, the control continued to suffer in the second. He gave up a leadoff single, had Marcus Semien swipe second base without a throw immediately after two pickoff attempts (which Dennis Eckersley accurately classified as “embarrassing”) and then issued a walk before throwing a wild pitch. Now with two in scoring position, Toronto got their second run on a sacrifice fly, and then after yet another walk the Jays would get two more on a ground out and a base hit. Richards also gave up a double before the inning ended with the Red Sox now trailing 4-0.
The good news is Richards did settle down a bit after that, picking up a couple of strikeouts in a perfect third inning. In the fourth, he did issue a walk and make an error on a pickoff attempt, but no other runners reached base to make it two straight scoreless innings off the righty.
The bad news is the Red Sox were struggling to get the bats going against what was essentially a bullpen game from the Blue Jays. Trent Thornton started things off for them, and Boston sent only seven to the plate in his two innings of work, with just one runner going beyond first base. Tommy Milone came in next, and they were similarly stymied by the lefty in his first inning, managing just a single in the third.
Finally, in the fourth they started to show a little bit of life and climbed back in a bit. J.D. Martinez got things started with a leadoff double, and then moved over to second on a ground ball. That brought Rafael Devers to the plate with a double already under his belt in the game. He couldn’t get another one, but he did bring home the first run of the game for Boston on an RBI ground out.
With his offense showing a little bit of life, Richards was looking to keep the momentum on his team’s side, but the control issues came back in the form of a leadoff walk. He did get a couple of outs after that, but then lost a battle with Semien that ended in his sixth walk of the night. That would also be his final batter, with Hirokazu Sawamura coming in to face Josh Palacios with two on and two out. Sawamura won the battle with a strikeout, and the score remained 4-1.
It was the fifth where the Red Sox really looked like they were ready to take control of this game back from the road team. Marwin Gonzalez started the rally with a leadoff double, and that was followed by an infield single from Bobby Dalbec. With two on and nobody out, Christian Arroyo came in to pinch hit in a very aggressive move. The sense of urgency was nice to see, but it didn’t work out as Arroyo struck out. Kiké Hernández was ready to pick up the slack, though, coming through with an RBI double to bring Boston to within two with a pair in scoring position and only one out.
Even better was that the heart of the order was coming up, starting with Alex Verdugo. He couldn’t pull the trigger on a fastball on the inner half, and he went down with a backwards K. After Martinez drew a walk to load the bases, Xander Bogaerts had a big opportunity to change the course of this game. Instead, he rolled over the first pitch for a routine ground ball, and the Red Sox settled for just the one run.
After neither side had much of anything going in the sixth, with Sawamura coming back out for a scoreless inning, and then Phillips Valdez tossing a perfect seventh, the Red Sox did get the leadoff man on in the bottom of the inning. That was thanks to a leadoff walk from Arroyo, but a fly ball and a double play nipped any chance at a rally in the bud.
The eighth belonged to Austin Brice, and while he allowed the first two batters to reach he was able to escape trouble without any runs coming across. That gave the offense six more outs with the two-run deficit with the heart of the order due up for the bottom of the eighth.
Martinez didn’t get the start to the inning they were hoping for with a quick first out, but Bogaerts was able to follow it up nicely. He didn’t exactly get a pitch to hit with a breaking ball down and in, but somehow he was able to square it up and hit it on a line, just barely clearing the top of the Monster for a solo shot to cut the deficit down to just one.
They’d also start to show a little bit of life with two outs, in part thanks to the Blue Jays. Christian Vázquez was first able to keep the inning alive with a walk, bringing Gonzalez back to the plate. He hit what looked like an easy ground ball to third base, but Cavan Biggio’s throw was off the mark and suddenly there were a pair in scoring position with two down and Bobby Dalbec coming to the plate. He swung at the first pitch, but it didn’t work out as he grounded out to third base to end the potential rally.
Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t keep up its scoreless streak into the ninth. Josh Taylor got the call for the inning, and after leading things off with a strikeout he gave up a single, issued a walk and then gave up another single. On the second base hit, Verdugo bobbled the ball in right field to lead to an easy fifth run for Toronto. They’d make it six on another base hit after that, and it was a 6-3 game heading into the bottom of the ninth.
That pretty much spelled the end of the game. Boston did get the leadoff man on in the inning, but they couldn’t get anything else. The loss dropped their record to 12-7.
The Red Sox will look to bounce back on Thursday as they start a four-game set against the Mariners. For the series opener it’ll be Nick Pivetta taking on Justin Dunn, with first pitch set for 7:10 PM ET.