The Red Sox needed a good start from Garrett Richards in this game, largely because they are facing Jacob deGrom tomorrow so picking up this win was much preferred. But even beyond that, Richards needed a good start from himself. His command has been atrocious this year, and it kind of seems like it’s been getting to him a bit, particularly after being booed off the field at Fenway last time out. Well, he was great on Tuesday. All of the stuff was working, with his curveball in particular looking filthy, and his command was on point. The result was a Red Sox win in a pitching-dominated game.
While things have been mostly positive for the Red Sox this year, especially taking into account preseason expectations, one of the big disappointments in the early going has been Garrett Richards. The righty entered this start with more walks than strikeouts and just generally he looked all out of sorts. If for no other reason than his own confidence, he really needed a strong outing on Tuesday as he went up against a Mets lineup that, frankly, can punish mistakes.
Fortunately, this was the Richards everyone was hoping to see on a consistent basis when he signed. The stuff was crisp and he was putting it where he wanted, resulting in far and away the strongest outing of his season so far. It wasn’t perfect, and the Mets certainly handed him some assists, but it was all in all exactly what we were looking for.
Even going back to spring training, it’s been the early innings that have been the issues for Richards as he’s been able to settle down a bit as the games have gone on, at least relatively speaking. On Tuesday, Richards was perfect in the first inning, needing only 10 pitches to get through the frame. More importantly, of those 10 pitches seven were strikes. It was a good start.
As I said, however, this Mets lineup is one that can certainly punish mistakes if they are made, and Richards did learn that in the second. The good news is the bases were empty, but with Jeff McNeil at the plate Richards threw a first-pitch fastball over the middle of the plate in the bottom half of the zone. McNeil was all over it, smashing it to right field for a solo homer to give the Mets an early 1-0 lead.
This is the kind of thing that can snowball, but that wasn’t what happened here. Richards struck out each of the other three batters he faced in that inning, and he continued to roll from there. He retired all three batters he faced in the third, and then struck out the first two he saw in the fourth. There was a little trouble after that with a two-out double — it was on an excuse me swing that happened to go the other way against the shift, so not a hard-hit one by any means — and a single, but he escaped the inning with his third strikeout of the frame.
Richards would then come back out for the fifth and get some help from the Mets, as James McCann ran into an out on an absurd decision to try and stretch a broken bat single into a double. Later, the inning would end when old friend Kevin Pillar was caught stealing with two outs.
So, the pitching was good, but the offense wasn’t really making the game as stress-free as it had the potential to be. Going up against a young lefty in David Peterson who doesn’t exactly have electric stuff, it was the kind of matchup that has a tendency to get the better of this lineup. They did indeed struggle, going down in order in the first and then managing just a walk in the second.
After McNeil hit the home run in the bottom of the second, there was suddenly a bit of pressure on the offense, but it wouldn’t last long. The Red Sox answered back with a homer of their own, and it was from someone who had yet to hit one this year entering the day. That would be Bobby Dalbec, who finally got on the board by hitting a 2-1 slider out to straight away center field for a solo shot of his own. Just like that, we were all tied up at ones.
The offense would then go back to sleep for a bit, managing just two more baserunners after the home run through the fifth inning. In the sixth, it was still a 1-1 game, but it wouldn’t be for long. Kiké Hernández led things off and he smacked a double into right field to put a runner immediately into scoring position. Rafael Devers came up next, and while he didn’t hit it hard his bloop into left found the grass. Hernández read it perfectly off the bat and came around to score and give the Red Sox their first lead of the evening.
That was all they’d get in the sixth, and now there was a little pressure on Richards as he was pitching with a lead now and the top of the Mets order was coming up. Francisco Lindor led things off with a little swinging bunt down the first base line. It was hit about 40 feet, but it was enough to get on with a leadoff single. Richards came back with a couple outs from there, but then Michael Conforto kept the inning alive with a base hit of his own to put two on with two out and J.D. Davis coming to the plate. Richards one the battle, getting a routine fly ball into left field to strand the runners and keep the lead intact.
After the Red Sox couldn’t take advantage of a one-out double thanks to a great double play by Lindor on a line drive, Richards was back out for the seventh, the score still 2-1. He had no trouble at all, retiring all three batters he faced, finishing it off with his tenth strikeout of the evening. That would do it for Richards, who went those seven strong innings, allowing just the single run on 10 strikeouts and no walks with seven hits.
So now it was up to the bullpen to hold onto this one-run lead, and it was Matt Andriese getting the call for the eighth. It was a little bit of a surprise, but he got the job done with a perfect inning to keep his team out in front.
The offense wasn’t doing the pitching any favors and they had another quiet inning in the ninth, so it was up to Matt Barnes in the ninth to close out the one-run game. He was facing the heart of the order, but once again he had absolutely no issues with a perfect inning that included two strikeouts. That gave the Red Sox win number 15 on the year, pushing their record to 15-9.
The Red Sox and Mets will finish up this short two-game set in New York on Wednesday with Nick Pivetta taking on Jacob deGrom. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.