This is going to be an interesting series for the Red Sox, to put it lightly, as they don’t really have an announced plan for the rotation after Friday’s game. So it was important to get a good start from Tanner Houck in this series opener. Instead, he never really looked totally comfortable, and by the third and fourth innings he was being hit around to the point of coming out of the game before making it through four. That, combined with Carlos Rodoón dominating the Red Sox lineup, put Chicago out in front with an early lead that proved just barely too much for Boston to complete the comeback.
As the Red Sox lost more players to the COVID list on Friday, they were getting Xander Bogaerts back in their lineup and looking to prove they can beat good teams. Things have been a little better the last few weeks, but also against a softer schedule. There’s certainly nothing wrong with beating the teams you should, but it’s nice every once in a while to prove that you can do it against some of the best in the league as well. They had a chance to do that in this series in Chicago against the presumptive AL Central winners.
Unfortunately, the White Sox got Carlos Rodón back on the mound for this start and the lefty was electric. His fastball was getting up in the mid-to-high 90s for most of the night, and Boston’s bats just really had no answer with that being used alongside his nasty slider. Rodón retired the first six batters he faced, and didn’t allow any runs through four as the Red Sox managed just two singles to that point in the game.
And then over on the other side, Tanner Houck just didn’t look right at all throughout this game. On the broadcast Dennis Eckersley noted that the delivery wasn’t as smooth right from the jump in this game, and it showed as the game went along. That said, his first couple of innings were good, with just a walk to his name and no balls allowed in the air.
But once the third came around, the White Sox started to see the ball a bit better and were lifting it. He did get two of the first three batters he faced out, but they were on fly balls, which is not what you’re looking for from Houck. With him, you’re looking for either whiffs or ground balls if he’s going well. And eventually José Abreu came up after a walk and a single with two outs, and Houck tried to get him with a two-strike slider. Instead, he hung it over the middle of the plate and the White Sox slugger hit a laser to left field for a three-run shot, the first damage of the game.
There was a chance for more after that as well thanks to a single and a hit batter, but Eloy Jiménez bailed out the Red Sox by drifting too far off second base. He was back picked by Christian Vázquez to end the inning. And the fourth wasn’t much better for Houck or the Red Sox. The inning started with an error on a grounder in the shift right at José Iglesias, and while Houck did record two outs he also gave up a walk and a single to allow another run to come home. With two on and two out, Alex Cora came to get Houck.
Getting the call from there was Darwinzon Hernandez, who just rejoined the roster before this game after spending a little more than a month on the injured list. He hit the first batter he faced, but then got out of that fourth inning with a huge out against Abreu.
And sure enough, the Red Sox offense did show a little bit of life in the fifth. Bobby Dalbec is one of the hottest hitters on the planet, and he started the inning by blasting a fastball up in the zone for a no-doubt solo shot, cutting the deficit back down to three runs.
After the Red Sox failed to deliver with two men on in the sixth, it was Michael Feliz coming on in the bottom of the inning. The righty came through with a scoreless inning.
As we moved on to the seventh, Dalbec again got things started in a positive way, this time blooping a triple out to right field. Brian Goodwin couldn’t get to a ball down the right field line, coming up short on a sliding attempt, and Dalbec was able to get all the way around to third. He’d soon come in to score on a ground ball to make it a 4-2 game.
Danny Santana kept the momentum going with a base hit, and then quickly moving up to second base on a wild pitch. That brought Alex Verdugo to the plate as a pinch hitter, and he came through with an RBI base hit. With that, Boston was within one. That’s where they’d stay in the inning, unable to get that tying run across.
Adam Ottavino worked around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning to keep the deficit at one, and the Red Sox now had six more outs to at least tie it up. For the eighth, it was old friend Craig Kimbrel on the mound, and he was able to work around a walk of his own to keep Chicago out in front.
It was Ryan Brasier getting the call for the bottom of the eighth, and while he’d need Josh Taylor to finish they job, and things got dicey with the bases full, but Boston got into the final frame still trailing by only one.
They’d now have to get the job done against Liam Hendriks, and they got off to a good start when Christian Vázquez just barely legged out an infield single. Another ground ball would move him up to second base as a the tying run. Verdugo had the first chance, but grounded out. That was supposed to bring up Kiké Hernández, but Alex Cora opted to send Travis Shaw to the plate instead. It didn’t work, with Shaw popping one into center field to end the game.
The 4-3 loss dropped the Red Sox loss to 80-63. The wildcard race is now a tight, five-team affair, with Boston being joined by the Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Athletics. For their part, both New York and Toronto have also dropped their games on Friday. That keeps the Yankees a game back of the Red Sox for the top wildcard spot, and the Blue Jays a half-game behind New York. Meanwhile, Seattle and Oakland each started the day within two of New York. As of this writing, the Mariners and Athletics both hold leads.
The Red Sox and White Sox continue this series on Saturday with most likely Connor Seabold taking on Dylan Cease. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.