The Red Sox offense was in a rut coming out of the break, limping their way through a rough series in the Bronx. They’ve, uh, broken out of it. After blasting six homers on Monday, they came back here today to hit five more, making it 11 across the two games they played in Buffalo. That was enough to grab another win, with Garrett Richards mostly pitching well before ruining his line in the sixth. Still, while things got away from him at the end the stuff looked crisp, with the slider in particularly impressing.
While the Red Sox remained in first place heading into Wednesday’s game in Buffalo, they were in danger of having to share it with Tampa Bay if they lost. And there was plenty of reason to be nervous about that potential outcome given the pitching matchup. For the Red Sox, Garrett Richards was on the mound. The veteran has gone through his ups and downs all season long, but of late it’s been particularly concerning. After a tough middle of June, he’s settled down more recently in terms of results, but the stuff just hadn’t looked all that sharp. On Wednesday, the stuff looked as good as we’ve seen since the middle of May, at least for most of the outing.
Things were pretty clearly looking better for Richards right off the bat, as he threw a couple of sliders in that first frame that looked better than any he’d thrown in at least a month, and probably longer. Two of those sliders resulted in strikeouts, too, with both Marcus Semien and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. succumbing to the breaking ball.
That success continued over the next couple of innings as well. In the second, the Blue Jays did get their first baserunner of the night with a one-out single, but that was all they’d get there. They got another runner on in the third when Rafael Devers made a throwing error, but again that was all the Blue Jays would get as Richards made it through the first three innings without a run.
Going up against Richards was arguably the ace of this Blue Jays staff right now in Robbie Ray. The southpaw has always had elite stuff for a starter throughout his entire career, but prior to 2021 his control had just been too erratic for him to really consistently put up results. He’s cut way back on his walks this year, however, and it’s led to a huge presence at the top of this Toronto rotation.
On Wednesday, the Red Sox tried to counter by stacking their lineup with righties. Devers was the only starter who swung exclusively from the left side. Early on, that didn’t really work as Boston struggled as much as Toronto in the first two innings, managing just one runner in those opening frames.
But in the third, things started to take a turn. Bobby Dalbec got things started with a double on a line drive he ripped down into the left field corner. A couple batters later, Kiké Hernández came to the plate. He’s been the hottest hitter in this lineup, and he showed off the power yet again. On an 0-2 fastball that just didn’t quite get up high enough, Hernández hit an absolute laser beam to left field for a two-run shot, giving the Red Sox the first lead of the day.
After hitting six home runs on Monday, the Red Sox continued the power outburst in Buffalo as this game went on as well. It was still a 2-0 game in the top of the third when Rafael Devers led things off. As I said, he was the only lefty in the lineup, but it didn’t matter because he got a slider that stayed right over the middle of the plate and he launched it out to left field for a solo shot, extending the lead to three.
The bad news now is that Richards did make one mistake in the fourth, and Guerrero reminded everyone how terrifying his power is. The slugger led off the inning, and on a fastball that was just a little up from the middle of the zone, and a shade to the outer half, he launched a no-doubt bomb the other way. The only good news here is that the bases were empty, so the Red Sox were still up by two. Richards didn’t let that change the course of his night, retiring the next three batters to end the inning, with the last two striking out.
Boston would answer right back with yet another long ball, this one from Michael Chavis. The righty’s role on this roster hasn’t really been entirely clear of late, but he did remind the world he can run into one every once in a while. After swinging through a 3-1 fastball up in the zone, he got another one on the next pitch from Ray, but he was ready for this one. He drove it out to right field for a solo shot of his own, and the Red Sox were back up by three.
Richards came back out for yet another perfect inning in the fifth, and the Red Sox offense just kept adding. They didn’t use the long ball this time around, however, instead starting with a double from J.D. Martinez, who would then come home on an RBI base hit from Christian Vázquez.
So the score was now 5-1, and Richards came back out in the sixth with momentum on his side, though the scary part of Toronto’s order was coming to the plate. He got the top two hitters in the lineup out, but Guerrero kept the inning alive with a four-pitch walk. That brought George Springer to the plate, and after a first-pitch ball he was ready for Richards to just force a fastball over the plate. He jumped all over the 1-0 offering, launching yet another opposite field home run. This one drove in two, and made it a 5-3 game. Things just continued to go downhill for Richards, as Teoscar Hernández came up next and he made it back-to-back shots on a hanging, 0-2 slider.
The solo shot brought Toronto to within one, and it ended the night for Richards. Over the course of most of this game, it appeared to be a turnaround start for the veteran off of which he could build. That last inning put a sour note on the whole evening, however. Garrett Whitlock would come in for the end of the inning, and got out of it with the lead still in hand, needing only two pitches.
He came back out for the seventh as well, still trying to protect a one-run lead after the offense failed to add insurance in the top half of the inning. Whitlock got the first two outs of the inning quickly, but then Danny Jansen hit a line drive into left field. It looked like a routine single, but Danny Santana couldn’t cut it off, allowing Jansen to get to second on a double. On the play, both Jansen and Santana appeared to have pulled something, and both left the game with Alex Verdugo coming in to play left field for the Red Sox. After the dust settled, Whitlock had to deal with the tying run in scoring position with the top of the order coming up. He was able to come through, getting a line drive to end the inning and keep the lead in hand.
The Red Sox offense finally got some insurance for themselves in the eighth, though it looked like they’d fail again. They went down quickly for two outs, and then J.D. Martinez fell behind 0-2. He was able to work his way back to an even count, and then on an 2-2 fastball that was up and away, he sent it way out to right field for a solo shot, the fourth on the night for the Red Sox. They’s quickly make it five, as Hunter Renfroe got a hittable fastball of his own that he sent the other way to make it back-to-back shots, giving them a three-run lead.
With the heart of Toronto’s order coming up in the bottom half of the inning, Adam Ottavino got the call for Boston. He did issue a walk to Guerrero, but it was immediately followed by a double play to get out of the inning with just three batters coming to the plate.
The offense couldn’t add any more to the lead in the top of the ninth, bringing Matt Barnes out for the bottom half with a three-run lead. The closer got the job done without much trouble at all, retiring all three batters he faced for the save.
The 7-4 win pushed the Red Sox record to 58-38. The Rays also won on Wednesday, keeping the Red Sox lead in the division at one game.
The Red Sox now head home for yet another series against the Yankees. This is a four-game set in Boston, starting with Tanner Houck taking on Jordan Montgomery. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.