The Red Sox entered this evening trailing the Tampa Bay Rays by 9.0 games in the American League East. After dropping the first two games of a four-game set, the Red Sox looked to salvage a split against Shane McClanahan and the Rays. On paper, Tampa Bay probably should have won this game tonight, but thankfully wins aren’t built on paper, and the Red Sox were able to snag a win thanks to some strong pitching and quite a few clutch singles.
Thursday started out with a win, even before the team actually won a game, as it was announced that there were no new positive COVID cases. As you well know, the Red Sox have been smacked harder with COVID than Rafael Devers by third base coach, Carlos Febles. The Red Sox played this evening without Kiké Hernández, Martín Pérez, Josh Taylor, Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura, Christian Arroyo, and Xander Bogaerts. Most of the men on the COVID IL are critical to the success of the Red Sox. The bottom four in the lineup tonight consisted of Christian Vázquez, Danny Santana, Jack López, and Jonathan Araúz, not exactly the bottom four the Red Sox were looking to roll into September with. But nonetheless, it is what it is, and the Red Sox persevered to a win.
Eduardo Rodriguez looked to build off his last start in Cleveland in which he pitched seven strong innings, giving up eight hits, walking just one, allowing three earned runs, and also striking out three. Rodriguez’s last start was one of the best he’s thrown all season. Tonight, it could be argued he looked even better, regardless if he needed to be bailed out by Garrett Richards in the seventh inning.
Rodriguez’s fastball usually sits right around 92 mph, but this evening he added some extra bite, as the fastball zipped consistently around 95 mph. The lefty started his night out by pitching a perfect two innings, before allowing a leadoff single to catcher Mike Zunino in the third. Rodriguez faced the minimum through three after Jordan Luplow grounded into a double play, and Taylor Walls struck out swinging. The only real struggle the Red Sox starter faced came in the seventh when he began the inning with a walk to Wander Franco. Yandy Díaz then singled, and the night was over for Rodriguez with manager Alex Cora calling to the bullpen. Rodriguez finished the night with six innings pitched, four hits, one walk, six strikeouts, and zero earned runs.
Rodriguez looked sharp tonight, but Richards looked even sharper. The newly-converted reliever came into the game in the seventh and struck out Manuel Margot and Brandon Lowe before Mike Zunino flied out to center field to end the inning. Richards pitched the final three innings, earning his second save of the season, and helping to save the bullpen. The line on Richards was outstanding, one hit, one walk, four strikeouts, and zero earned runs.
Reliever Garrett Richards is the antithesis of starter Garrett Richards. In 13 1⁄3 innings pitched since being relegated to the pen, Richards has a 0.68 ERA. The Red Sox might truly have unlocked something in Richards as he’s been nothing but pure filth since coming out of the pen.
Are you ready for something wild? No, the Red Sox did not explode offensively tonight, in fact, are you ready for it? The Red Sox had nine hits, and all nine hits came via the single. Yes, you read that correctly. Only singles. Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Schwarber, J.D. Martinez, and Bobby Dalbec each hit two, and Rafael Devers with one.
Renfroe started the first inning with a single, and Devers proceeded to single Renfroe to second, and then Dalbec singled Renfore home. Simple, one run on three singles. Whatever gets it done, gets it done. Danny Santana, in his first game back off the IL had some rather decent at-bats this evening, leading off the second inning with a walk. Jack López laid down a sacrifice bunt, and yep, you guessed it, a single from Renfroe scored Santana.
The Red Sox led the game 2-0 at the end of the second inning. In the fifth , Jonathan Araúz battled against pitcher Shane McClanahan and won out with a walk after an 11 pitch at-bat. Kyle Schwarber joined the party and singled, followed by J.D. Martinez with, yes, another single to score Araúz. Bobby Dalbec smacked his second single of the night, and the Red Sox took a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning. The Red Sox managed to score four runs on nine singles and four walks.
The Red Sox did not score in the top of the seventh inning, but there were some fireworks. Rafael Devers was absolutely adamant that he foul-tipped what was called strike three swinging, and needed to be restrained by third base coach, Carlos Febles. Devers was so animated, maybe the most we’ve ever seen, that he was physically held back by Febles and accidentally smacked in the jaw during the struggle. Febles was able to successfully calm Devers down enough that he was thankfully not thrown out of the game.
The game this evening consisted of a total of 14 hits, and with a deep dive, it can be confirmed that not just the Red Sox recorded singles, in fact, the five hits the Rays had in the game we also all singles. If you were penciled into the lineup for either the Tampa Bay Rays or the Boston Red Sox tonight, it means you safely reached base by a single, or a walk. The offense was not potent tonight, but they did hit in the clutch, and four runs crossed home plate, four more than the Rays. No matter how it is sliced, a win, is a win, is a win. Tonight the Red Sox won a game against the best team in the American League in a ballpark of horrors.
The Red Sox victory means the team has a new record of 77-59. 77 wins are tied with the New York Yankees, and the Red Sox sit 1.5 games behind the first Wild Card, due to a three-game differential in the loss column. The Red Sox return home with a two-game win streak to face Cleveland. Last week the Red Sox took two of three from Cleveland and nearly swept, so look for the Red Sox to ride the high of the split into Fenway.