One of the themes of Alex Cora’s pressers this year has been the need for his lineup to make contact. Particularly in situations with runners on base, the manager has talked about how the lineup just needs to put the ball in play and let good things happen. They failed at that today. The offense had a few big chances, including three with a man on third and less than no outs, and they struck out in all three of those spots. They managed only one run off Robbie Ray, who to his credit stepped up with men on base, and with Garrett Richards living in the middle of the zone it was not enough.
The Red Sox have made a habit over the last week or so of picking up their victories via comebacks, which are exciting but also stressful. And since Wednesday was a doubleheader, each game on the docket was only seven innings, leaving relatively little runway for a comeback. In other words, it was always going to be smart of the offense to get on the board early and built a lead this time around.
It wasn’t, however, going to be easy against Robbie Ray, who has been very impressive for the Blue Jays this year, though they did get off to a good start in the first. Kiké Hernández led off with a walk, and Rafael Devers followed it up with a base hit up the middle. Even better, Hernández made a nice heads up play on the bases, seeing that Toronto was in the shift and had no one covering third. He advanced an extra bag, and on the throw over to third Devers made his way over to second.
That would prove to be an important play on the bases, as it didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize. J.D. Martinez hit a ground ball over to shortstop, and that was all they needed to get a run across and take an early 1-0 lead. It looked like they may have another one in the next at bat when Hunter Renfroe hit a fly ball out toward the Monster that looked like a potential RBI swing. Instead, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made a leaping catch at the wall, and ultimately Boston would settle for just the one run.
It seemed likely they were going to need more than that with Garrett Richards on the mound, as the righty has not looked quite right for some time now, and he was going up against a Toronto lineup that had given him trouble already this year. And sure enough, George Springer did start off the first with a double, but an outfield assist from Alex Verdugo helped Richards get through that inning without any runs.
He wouldn’t be so fortunate in the second, as he quickly lost the lead for the Red Sox. As Ray did in the bottom of the first, Richards led off the top of the second with a walk, and then after a strikeout Bo Bichette got into scoring position with a steal of second base. After a fly ball moved him up to third, the tying run was 90 feet away, but with two down. When Randal Grichuk hit one hard up the middle, Richards was able to get a glove on it. Unfortunately, it bounced away and Richards couldn’t find it until it was too late, allowing that tying run to come home.
In the following frame, the Red Sox looked like they were going to answer right back, getting the leadoff man on with an infield single, which was followed by a ground-rule double from Kevin Plawecki and Bobby Dalbec’s first walk in over a month. With the bases loaded and nobody out, this was the chance to get that early lead we were talking about before. Instead, Michael Chavis and Hernández both struck out before Devers flew out, and the opportunity was squandered. In a shortened game, this felt like a turning point.
To Richards’ credit, he did get through his best inning of the day in the third, allowing just one runner on an infield single in a scoreless inning. That said, the righty, while showing better velocity than we’ve seen in a long time from him, was having command issues all day. There were a lot of pitches, particularly fastballs, left over the plate and it seemed fortunate he had gotten through three without any big damage against him.
But in the fourth, with the game still tied at one, that changed. The rally started with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who smoked a ball off the Monster and was almost cut down at second because he hit it so hard but J.D. Martinez and Chavis couldn’t connect on the throw in. That brought Grichuk back up, and he got one of those fastballs over the heart of the plate. He didn’t make it far over the wall, but it was out to straightaway center and it did clear it. With the home run, the Blue Jays had a two-run lead.
Boston would go down in order in the bottom of the inning, and with the top of the order coming back around for the Jays, Alex Cora strangely decided to stick with Richards despite the shortened game. There is, of course, another game tonight, but it still felt like an unnecessary risk. Sometimes we overthink these things. Sometimes we’re made to feel right immediately.
This was one of those latter times, as Springer ripped a hanging curveball into the Monster Seats for a solo shot, upping the Jays lead to three. After giving up a base hit, Richards was done for the day with Yacksel Ríos coming in. The latter did throw one wild pitch that put the runner up to second base, but otherwise was perfect in the inning to keep the score at 4-1.
Really, though, it was the offense coming up short in this game, and they were running out of time in the fifth with just nine more outs to play with. The top of the order was leading this inning off, and after a strikeout (coming on a questionable call) to start things off they caught a break. Devers hit what should have been a routine fly ball out to right-center field, but it appeared both Springer and Grichuk lost the ball in the sun and it fell in for a double. Martinez followed that with a little bloop single into left field, and the Red Sox had men on the corners with just one out.
This was another big chance for the Red Sox, but once again they could not put the ball in play when they needed to. Renfroe didn’t even make contact, going down swinging for out number two and leaving it on the shoulders of Christian Vázquez. He hit a lazy fly ball out to right field, and that was another chance squandered.
Ríos got through a perfect sixth, but the Red Sox turned around and went down in order themselves in the bottom of the inning. Brandon Workman then came through with another scoreless inning, giving the Red Sox their final chance in this game.
Jarren Duran came in as a pinch hitter for Chavis to face Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano to start things off, but he went down swinging. The Red Sox would ultimately go down in order yet again to drop the game. The 4-1 loss dropped their record to 62-40. For the time being, their lead in the division stands at 1.5 games with both they and the Rays playing tonight.
The Red Sox and Blue Jays pick things right back up tonight, with Tanner Houck taking on Steven Matz. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.