Things looked set up for a letdown loss at Fenway on Monday with the Red Sox riding high coming off a sweep of the Yankees. It didn’t help that Boston had Garrett Richards on the mound, who got lit up for three home runs and five runs total over the first two innings. But he was able to settle down in a big way to pitch into the sixth, and the offense was led by Hunter Renfroe for four homers of their own. Renfroe had two of those, including the one that gave them their first lead of the game in the sixth. That cushion was enough for this bullpen as the Red Sox made it four wins in a row.
Coming into this start, all eyes were on Garrett Richards, who had been knocked around a ton of late. That would be bad enough on its own, as all eyes are on the pitching at all times, especially for this Red Sox team. But with the league cracking down on sticky stuff coinciding with this poor performance, and Richards himself not really even hiding how much he’s missing being able to use it, people have rightfully worried if Richards can even stick in a rotation like this.
Those people were not feeling much better about the situation after the first couple of innings, because it was clear right away that again Richards didn’t have it to start this outing. The righty’s fastball wasn’t cutting like it had been back in May, and the breaking balls still didn't have the same bite. And the Royals were making contact early, at first just with a couple of singles, including one on the infield.
Still, even with just singles that put the first two batters on the basepaths to start the game, and it was only going to get worse from there. Carlos Santana came to the plate with the two men on, and Richards did get ahead 0-2. He couldn’t get that final whiff to end the at bat, and eventually he tried to spin a slider by that just floated into the zone. Santana crushed it out to right field, and the three-run shot put the Royals up 3-0 just three batters into the game. Richards would give up a base hit after that, but nothing else in the inning.
The hard contact was going to continue into the second, though. And it started right away. Michael A. Taylor has been one of the worst full-time hitters in baseball this season, but the first pitch he saw was a fastball that didn’t get up high enough. Taylor took it out to straightaway center field for a solo shot, giving Kansas City their fourth run on the night. A couple of batters later, Whit Merrifield got a fastball of his own that stayed over the plate, and he hit another solo home run to make it a five-spot against Richards.
It really looked like the righty might not even make it out of the second, and if he did it wouldn’t last too long after that. Instead, Richards did settle down some. Personally, the settling down was still mildly troubling because he allowed at least one hit in every inning, but there were no runs on the board after that Merrifield home run against Richards, with the righty making it into the sixth before Hirokazu Sawamura came on to record the final out of that inning. There are still questions to be answered by Richards after this outing, but it was ultimately not as bad as it could have been.
And what was even better was that the offense made Richards settling down actually matter, because they were able to get it going against Danny Duffy. The Royals starter has been fantastic at keeping the ball in the yard this season, but the Red Sox had something to say about that. And they started right away. For the second straight game, Kiké Hernández led off the game for the Red Sox with a bang, sending a leadoff home run out to left field to make it, at the time, a 3-1 ballgame.
That was all they got in that inning, and after Kansas City added their two more runs in the top half of the second, it looked like Boston would have no answer after making two quick outs to start the inning. Bobby Dalbec had other ideas. He got a fastball down and in that he was able to turn around on, sending a solo shot out to left field, and now it was just a three-run deficit for the Red Sox.
But it was the fourth when the game really started to feel like the momentum was shifting. Xander Bogaerts was leading things off for Boston, and he smacked a double to start the inning. Kansas City was already starting to get the bullpen up with Duffy on a bit of a pitch limit right now anyway, but it was just a little too late. Hunter Renfroe stepped into the box, and he jumped all over a changeup that stayed right over the zone. The slugger mashed it out to center field, and with one swing he brought the Red Sox to within one.
Boston continued to rally in the inning as well, and after the Royals went to the bullpen with one out in the inning, Dalbec put himself on with a base hit. After then moving up to second on a ground ball, the rookie moved on over to third on a wild pitch before scooting in to score on a Michael Chavis base hit. Suddenly, the Red Sox had tied this game up.
From here, we fast-forward to the bottom of the sixth with the game still tied and Sawamura having just finished the top of the inning for Richards. The Red Sox were back up, and specifically, Renfroe was back at the plate. He’d fall behind 1-2, but Josh Staumont then tried to bury a curveball and failed, catching far too much of the zone. Renfroe did the thing again, sending a solo shot out to left field for his second homer of the day, this one putting the Red Sox out in front 6-5.
Now we were in a brand new ballgame, and Sawamura was coming back out with a lead to protect. The righty got into some early trouble with a leadoff single in the seventh, but that was followed up by a huge double play (one that was originally called safe at first base before being correctly overturned after a review). Throw in a strikeout after that, and Boston was still up a run heading into the bottom of the seventh.
The Red Sox failed to score, and Josh Taylor got the call for the eighth. The southpaw has been on fire of late, and he continued that hot streak here on Monday with another perfect inning to keep the lead intact.
Boston did load the bases in the bottom of the eighth but failed to capitalize and add some insurance, leaving a one-run lead for Matt Barnes to come in and try to protect in the ninth. As he has almost all season, the closer came through with a perfect inning to finish off the win.
The 6-5 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 48-31. With the Rays off tonight, Boston now holds a full-game lead in the American League East.
The Red Sox and Royals continue this four-game set on Tuesday. Boston will have Nick Pivetta on the hill to take on Brad Keller. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.