The Red Sox are officially on perhaps the ugliest winning streak known to mankind. This two-game win streak also seems incredibly on-brand for how poorly this team has been playing since July. Monday’s 8-4 win included horrible defense and a blown save from closer Matt Barnes, and today’s nearly included the latter part at least as well.
The Red Sox needed these two wins, needed it like how a human needs oxygen. That might be a tad bit overdramatic, sure, but they really needed some sort of positive momentum. Tonight the Red Sox went ahead and nearly lost a baseball game, thanks again to poor defense and a complete and utter bullpen meltdown.
But we can start with the good, and that’s the offense, which was hitting at an elite level in this game. Travis Shaw picked right off where he left off on Monday, smashing his second home run in as many at-bats in the third inning of this one, and in the process knotting up the score at one. Hunter Renfroe was the MVP in this game, hitting not just one, but two behemoth home runs. The first in the fourth inning, a three-run dinger, with Rafel Devers and Alex Verdugo on the bags, off starter Griffin Jax. That gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead, their first of the game.
The second home run occurred in the fifth inning after Kiké Hernández reached on a throwing error by third baseman Luis Arraez. Rafel Devers then doubled in Hernández, J.D. Martinez walked, and Alex Verdugo cracked a two-run double off the Monster to make it a four-run game. Griffin Jax is still in the game, and Renfroe demolished his second home run of the night. The look on Jax’s face really said it all. All in all, the Red Sox offense did exactly what they were supposed to do in this ballgame.
On the mound, Tanner Houck was called back up to make this start, but the righty was not sharp. There were quite a few hard-hit balls, some that were not home runs for the fact that he was pitching in Fenway Park. Fenway taketh, and sometimes Fenway can giveth. Tonight Fenway Park was Tanner Houck’s best friend. Houck was able to get through 4 2⁄3 innings, giving up three earned runs, eight hits, one walk, and striking out three. While it was not the prettiest start, Houck did well enough and kept his team in the game for five innings.
But then the bullpen came into pla, and seventh inning is where it began to be all kinds of ugly for the Red Sox bullpen. Martín Pérez, since his demotion to the bullpen, has not even sniffed an important inning. Tonight, he entered in the sixth and was handed a comfortable 9-3 lead. The lefty proceeded to do what Pérez has done best in 2021: Giving up runs. He gave up a run in the sixth to make it a 9-4 game, and then the 7th inning was... Well, it was something.
It began with Travis Shaw making an error at first, allowing Max Kepler to reach. Then things quickly became reminiscent of that elevator scene from the Shining. The Sox were unable to turn a double play, as Brent Rooker reached base, and then Jorge Polanco proceeded to absolutely demolish a Pérez pitch into the Monster Seats, making it a 9-6 ballgame.
The inning went from bad to worse as Hirokazu Sawamura entered the game with just one out. The righty walked Josh Donaldson and gave up a single to Luis Arraez before getting the second out. The Red Sox setup man nearly captured an inning-ending strikeout of Nick Gordon, but luck was not in Sawamura’s favor tonight. After Gordon foul tipped what was thought to be strike three swinging, he proceeded to smack a two-run single right up the middle to cut the lead down to one. Polanco mercilessly grounded out to end the inning.
Did you think I was done just yet talking about how bad the bullpen was tonight? I’m sorry, I apologize, not done, not quite yet. Ottavino pitched a scoreless eighth inning, though it came with a little bit of luck. Jake Cave singled to begin the inning and was quickly thrown out trying to steal second, but not with a Minnesota review, where it darn well could have gone either way, Cave looked pretty safe. Max Kepler flied out to Kyle Schwarber on left. Brent Rooker walked on four straight pitches. Everyone watching came close to having a collective heart attack as Jorge Polanco nearly wrapped a two-run home tun around the Pesky Pole. Ottavino wad visibly fired up coming off the mound after striking out Polanco. The top of the 8th inning ended up scoreless, but it was not without a little drama.
But now we get to the part where we’re going to talk about Matthew Barnes. Matt Barnes, as mentioned above, blew the save on Monday. Tonight, it looked like more of the same. Thanks to a two-run home run in the bottom of the 8th from Kiké Hernández, Barnes entered the ninth inning with an 11-8 lead. Josh Donaldson greeted him on the second pitch with a towering blast over the Monster, making it 11-9 Red Sox.
Barnes then proceeded to completely unravel, walking Arraez on four straight, and then walking Garver as well. Cora clearly had seen enough, yanked Barnes, and brought in Hansel Robles. Fortunately, Robles pitched extremely well for the Red Sox. He struck out Nick Gordon and Miguel Sanó, and was able to get Jake Cave — after a lengthy at-bat — to line out to Christian Arroyo at second to end the game. A collective breath was released.
The game was not pretty. It was not pretty in any way, shape, or form. The game however does go into the win column for the Red Sox. A much-needed win. The Red Sox now owns possession of the second Wild Card spot by two games over the Oakland Athletics. The Red Sox are in the playoff picture, very much so, but if this team truly wants to make a push into October they cannot afford to have more games like the last two. A win might be a win but wins like the last two are not sustainable. The Red Sox as a whole, need to wake up. The team needs to wake up fast.