The last time that Jameson Taillon faced the Red Sox, he twirled seven innings of beauty, holding the Red Sox to eight base runners, and keeping the Sox to a nice round zero in the runs column. Compounded with Eduardo Rodriguez’s recent struggles against... well, everybody, this game had a somewhat foreboding feeling for some fans. Even though Taillon has struggled mightily this season, his May was slightly better than his April, compiling a 4.45 ERA in 30 1⁄3 innings.
Taillon was going to need help, and he sure got it. In the first inning, with Alex Verdugo at second, and Xander Bogaerts at the plate, a ground ball barely stayed fair down the third base line. Gio Urshela made a ridiculous play, throwing across his body in foul territory, because of course he did, and he ended up against the fences for his effort. The throw beat Bogaerts by about two steps, because again, of course it did. Verdugo didn’t even get over to third. Then Rafael Devers laced a liner over the head of DJ LeMahieu, except he jumped higher than he has ever jumped before, knocked it down, and was able to fire over to first to end the inning.
The Yankees weren’t the only ones to get some incredibly lucky defense. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Aaron Judge rocketed a hit to Bogaerts, which flew off of his glove into mid-air, and held up in zero gravity long enough for Marwin Gonzalez to barehand a throw over to first base. It was some Major League style baseball on display in the first inning, that’s for certain.
The Red Sox had an opportunity to score in the second, after a Marwin Gonzalez walk, early in the frame. After a pop-out, the chance looked to be slipping away, until Christian Vázquez roped a ball down the left field line, seemingly setting up a first and third situation. Unfortunately, Vázquez decided to get greedy and tried for second base on a play that wasn’t even all that close. Just like that, the rally was up in flames via the TOOTBLAN.
The Yankees struck first in this unlikely pitching duel. After an Urshela single, Rodriguez’s arch-nemesis, Gleyber Torres stepped in and ripped a ball over the left field wall, to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the 4th inning. The Red Sox were never going to win if they couldn’t score, and now they had to score at least two runs to knot it back up.
The Red Sox had to wait until the 6th inning for their next chance to score. Alex Verdugo got the rally started with a single through the shift, and Bogaerts almost copied Torres’ blast with one of his own, as his flyball bounced off the left field fence for a double. Miguel Andújar could have caught it, but was positioned poorly and lost it in the lights. Rafael Devers tied the game with one swing. No, it wasn’t a home run, but a two run single in a 3-2 count is priceless, especially against the Yankees. Even better, it knocked out Taillon, forcing the Yankees into their bullpen first.
Then, something truly miraculous occurred. Marwin Gonzalez hit a single to first that the Yankees could not corral. The ball was just out of reach, and it resulted in a double that scored the third Red Sox run of the inning. Baseball, it is a game of inches. Tonight more than usual.
Rodriguez came out for the 6th, but like Taillon before him, was removed after only getting one out. After walking Aaron Judge and giving up a double to Urshela, Alex Cora saw enough. Rodriguez departed with runners on second and third, with a one run lead. Entering to hopefully preserve the lead? Former Yankees farm-hand Garrett Whitlock.
Whitlock did his job. Unfortunately, he entered in a near impossible situation, and allowed one of his inherited runners to score on a sacrifice fly into right field off the bat of Torres. The run was charged to Rodriguez, whose final line came out to 5 1⁄3 innings pitched, five hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts. He gave up three earned runs, in what was his best start in a good long while.
The Red Sox needed to get a run back, and they had a chance to get it back in the very next inning. Danny Santana started the rally with a single past a shifted Torres, and Verdugo drew a four pitch walk (none of the pitches were competitive) to push Santana over to second. Unfortunately, this is still a game of inches. A Bogaerts missile to third base was reigned in by Urshela, and he doubled off Santana at second to end the threat.
The Red Sox wasted that opportunity. They didn’t let it happen again. In the 8th inning, with two outs, and Devers on first base, Enrique Hernández fired a hit down the left field line to drive in the go ahead run. Devers was running prior to contact, which gave him the boost he needed to score, proving once more that this was a game of inches. Speaking of inches, Vázquez hit a dribbler down the first base line that barely stayed fair, which pushed in Hernández from 2nd to make it 5-3.
Bobby Dalbec wanted to push the lead to 7-3. He did just that on a ball that was positively crunched into deep left field. It was gone when it left the bat. The ball traveled 5,436 inches. Sometimes it’s close. Sometimes it really isn’t. This was one of the latter cases.
The rest of the Red Sox bullpen to pitch in this one, besides Whitlock (who pitched a very solid 7th inning to boot), were Adam Ottavino, Brandon Workman, and Matt Barnes. All told, the bullpen combined for 3 1⁄3 innings pitched, and gave up one hit and two walks, striking out three. Workman started the ninth well enough, but couldn’t get the final out, walking the two final batters he faced, forcing Cora to bring in Barnes to get the final out. Which he did. Because he’s Matt Barnes. Duh.
As an aside, Whitlock threw a few pitches 98 miles per hour, the fastest we have had him clocked at in a Red Sox uniform. So that’s exciting.
The Red Sox improved to 35-23, to hold at a game behind the Rays in the AL East. They finish the series with the Yankees tomorrow at 7:08 ET.