The Red Sox of last year were the kind of team that basically wilted at any sign of trouble. They would fall behind in a game and then lose basically every time, and a couple of losses would turn into a bona fide losing streak in the blink of an eye. It’s too early to say too much about this team, but it seems safe to assume they are not going to be that kind of club in 2021. They came back strong on Friday after two straight losses, including a particularly ugly loss on Thursday. For this victory, it was Xander Bogaerts leading the way, including with a two-run homer that would give Boston a lead they would not relinquish.
The Red Sox had lost two in a row coming into Friday night’s game against the Mariners, and while it is overly simplistic to place it all at a lack of control from the pitching staff, that is certainly the biggest factor. That presented some reason for apprehension with Martín Pérez on the mound. Although the lefty has put up decent enough results more often than not over the last two seasons, he’s also not exactly a control artist. As it turns out, his performance here against the Mariners followed a similar pattern.
The bad news is he did end up showing some of the problems with his command right off the bat and as a result Seattle were able to grab an early lead. This wasn’t an issue of a control in the first inning, but instead just leaving hittable pitches over the plate. Two of the first three batters to come to the plate for the Mariners hit doubles, and three batters in it was a 1-0 lead for Seattle. Fortunately, Pérez was able to work his way out of trouble and allow only that single run. This would become a pattern for the evening.
The good news is the Red Sox were up to the task of keeping pace, and they answered right back in the bottom half of that first inning. Alex Verdugo got the rally going with a one-out single, putting a runner on eventually for Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox shortstop took a while to get going in the power department, but since he hit his first homer he’s been raking at the plate. He was able to keep up that hot streak in the first when he got a pitch right in his wheelhouse down and in. Bogaerts was all over it, putting it up over everything in left field for a two-run shot, and just like that the Red Sox were out in front.
Now it was just about Pérez trying to settle down a bit to keep his team in front. The second didn’t really look all that pretty as his control got away from him, walking two batters. Once again, though, things could have been much worse as the southpaw was able to get out of that inning without any runs crossing the plate beside the pair of free passes. He also followed that up with a perfect third.
The good news is that the Red Sox offense was able to get a little bit more of a cushion in the bottom of the third thanks to a solo home run out the other way from J.D. Martinez, who had been in a bit of a power slump after his hot start. The less good news that Pérez needed that extra run as the control started to fail him again.
He did get two quick outs in the fourth, but then he issued a two-out walk, allowed a steal then issued another walk. Suddenly, after a J.P. Crawford base hit, the Mariners were back to within one and the night was over for Pérez . Hirokazu Sawamura came in with two on and two out, but he was able to keep the lead in hand with a huge strikeout.
From here, we move up to the bottom of the fifth where it was still a 3-2 game after Sawamura came back out for a scoreless frame. Here, the Red Sox offense was able to open up a little bit of separation. They got the first two men on with a Bobby Dalbec base hit and Kiké Hernández walk, and then the bases would fill up on a base hit from Verdugo. It looked like they were going to spoil their chance at a multi-run inning when Martinez hit into a double play. They did get one run there, but they wanted more. Bogaerts was able to salvage a bit more with a base hit of his own and it was a three-run lead for the Red Sox.
After Thursday’s game where things fell apart as the game went on, so now it was on the bullpen to avoid that from happening. Garrett Whitlock got the call starting in sixth, and he continued to dominate as he has for pretty much the entire season. He did give up a single in the sixth, but nothing else. And then after the offense squandered a chance in the bottom of the inning, he came back out for a perfect seventh.
The Red Sox would add another run in the bottom of the seventh on an error from Evan White, and then Whitlock would come back out for a third inning of work in the eighth. This inning was not quite so easy, as he gave up a leadoff double and then followed that up with a walk. He’d finally get a first out, but then his night was over as Adam Ottavino came in with a pair in scoring position and one out, Boston still holding onto the four-run lead. Ottavino did the job, striking out both batters he faced to stop any potential rally in its tracks.
After the Red Sox went down without a run in the eighth, it was Matt Barnes coming on to protect the four-run lead and close out this game. The Red Sox closer has been lights out this year, but he did not have a strong outing this time out. He led the inning off with a walk, and then after a strikeout he gave up a base hit to put two men on. That brought Kyle Seager to the plate, and the veteran third baseman hit a shot out to right field for a three-run shot, and suddenly it was just a one-run game. Barnes was able to avoid total disaster, coming back with two straight outs to finish off the win and push their record to 13-8.
The Red Sox and Mariners continue this series with two more day games on Saturday and Sunday. Tomorrow’s game starts at 1:10 PM ET, with Nathan Eovaldi taking on Chris Flexen.