What a disaster. The Red Sox won a game on Saturday night that, frankly, they did not deserve. But all wins count the same, and they somehow had a chance to earn a split on Sunday in the finale in Toronto. And it looked for most of the afternoon that they would. The offense finally had a breakout game, scoring seven runs off Hyun-Jin Ryu and eight total, while Garrett Richards was respectable. The bullpen just needed to not implode. That was too much to ask. The entire group had no control, a fact punctuated when Matt Barnes walked the nine hitter before giving up a go-ahead three-run shot to George Springer. And so things go of late for these Red Sox.
In this horrid stretch for the Red Sox, of which they are hopefully in the process of pulling themselves out, we already saw the last start from one starter. That was Martín Pérez, who was moved to the bullpen. Many, including yours truly, have been assuming Garrett Richards’ time was fast approaching as well with Chris Sale set to make his return to the big-league mound next weekend. It seemed the writing was on the wall regardless of what happened in this start given how well Nick Pivetta threw in his last outing, but Richards had one more chance to at least make his case on Tuesday.
Also trying to keep the momentum on his team’s side after their improbable win in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Richards was in early trouble. After his offense went down in order to start the game, the veteran righty gave up a leadoff single but then got the next two batters. It looked like he’d be able to keep pace with Hyun-Jin Ryu and get out of the inning unscathed, but that last out proved elusive, and Toronto took an early 1-0 lead after back-to-back singles.
The good news, however, is that the offense had a different kind of feel in this game, and they were rocking early and often. Ryu got into immediate trouble against the meat of Boston’s order, starting with a Rafael Devers base hit and then followed by an RBI double from J.D. Martinez. The red-hot Kevin Plawecki made it three hits in a row with a single, and with Martinez coming around to score it was already a lead in the hands of the Red Sox.
Bobby Dalbec did keep the party going with a fourth straight single, but after a failed bunt from Jonathan Araúz (thanks to a great play by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) and a Jarren Duran fly out, Ryu was almost out of it. The Red Sox did fail to really put a hurting on the Blue Jays southpaw in the inning, though they grabbed one more before the inning closed out and it was a 3-1 lead.
This time Richards settled in for a perfect second, and the Boston offense got back to work in the third. Again, they put men on early in the inning with back-to-back base hits, and Plawecki once again came through. This time it was a one-out double into the gap in left-center field, bringing in one more and extending the lead to three.
Toronto got that run right back in the bottom of the inning, in part thanks to a throwing error from Devers to put the eventual run scorer on base, but then the Red Sox had another big inning. The fourth started with a Duran base hit, but then two quick outs threatened to make it a wasted opportunity. Instead, they loaded the bases with a single and a walk, and then Martinez brought two home with a base hit before Plawecki brought one more in — thanks to an incredible slide from Devers — to give Boston their second three-run inning of the afternoon, as well as a 7-2 lead.
Essentially, it was just up to Richards not imploding at this point to maintain this lead, and he did answer the three-run fourth with a perfect bottom half. But there was some trouble in the fifth, namely Guerrero. The Blue Jays superstar came up with a man on and one down. Richards did get ahead 0-2, but then he threw a curveball that was just a hair below the zone, and Guerrero went and got it. The slugger smashed a two-run shot out to left field, cutting the Red Sox lead back down to three.
Boston did get one of those runs back on a Dalbec RBI single, bringing Josh Taylor in for the bottom of the sixth with the score at 8-4. The lefty has been a little bit shakier of late, and he got into trouble here, giving up a walk and a base hit while recording only one out before Hirokazu Sawamura came on to try and get out of the jam. He did just that with a pop up and a ground ball.
It was still a four-run game in the bottom of the seventh, with Sawamura coming back on to pitch. But something was up with him in this one. The righty started the inning with a four-pitch walk, and continued to struggle with his control with three straight balls to start the next at bat, the last two of which he yanked into the dirt for two wild pitches, putting George Springer on third base with nobody out. In a 3-0 count, Sawamura would leave with the trainer, bringing Adam Ottavino out mid-at bat.
Ottavino started exactly as Sawamura ended, yanking one to the back stop. Fortunately, Springer didn’t come in, but it was a walk to put the first two men on. Ottavino did finally throw a strike and eventually get an out in the next at bat, though the deep fly ball did bring home Springer to cut the Red Sox lead to three. Guerrero then got himself to second with a stolen base, and Teoscar Hernández brought him home with a base hit. Hernández would get over to second himself, with this one being courteous of a bad pickoff attempt. Fortunately, Ottavino got out of it after that with a ground ball to shortstop that resulted in an out at third base, and then with a successful pick off at second. Somehow, it was still a two-run lead heading to the eighth.
Ottavino came back in for the bottom of the inning, and did give up a single to the second batter of the inning but also recorded two outs. That brought him up to 28 pitches on the day, and Alex Cora didn’t want to push him any more. He called upon Matt Barnes to try and get nine hitter Reese McGuire to end the inning. Instead, the righty issued a walk, bringing Springer back around. The batter won the matchup between college teammates. One pitch after being blown away by a center-cut fastball, Springer got another one and didn’t miss. It was a no-doubt shot out to left-center field, and the three-run shot put Toronto back out in front for the first time since the second inning.
Suddenly, a game that felt pretty comfortable most of the day was in peril with just three more outs to play with. They started with a pair of pinch hitters in Marwin Gonzalez and Christian Vázquez, both of which went down. That left it up to Jarren Duran, who made it a 1-2-3 inning to finish off a brutal loss.
The 9-8 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 65-49. With the Rays winning their game this afternoon against the Orioles, Boston is now four games out of first place in the division.
The Red Sox mercifully have a day off on Monday before starting an absolutely crucial series against the Rays. That one will start Tuesday night with Eduardo Rodriguez taking on Luis Patiño at 7:10 PM ET at Fenway.