I don’t know what to say. Baseball is a weird spot. Bad teams beat good teams. That’s a thing that happens regularly in a way that it doesn’t in, say, the NFL and the NBA. It’s part of the game. But at the same time, it can’t happen in this situation. It can’t happen when the Red Sox control their own destiny for a postseason spot, just needing to not collapse. It can’t happen when the team you’re facing has one of the worst pitching staffs in recent memory. It can’t happen while you’re fighting for your postseason lives against an organization that has not put any discernible effort in winning in a half-decade.
Allowing rallies to be started with a bottom of the lineup that would barely fit in Triple-A can’t happen. Consecutive quick innings against a pitcher with an ERA over 7.00 can’t happen. Two runs against a bad pitcher with the same repertoire as the other two bad pitchers you faced earlier in the series can’t happen. The season isn’t over. The Red Sox still have a share of a postseason spot, and they have another chance against a bad team to finish the season. And what we’ve seen so far this week? It simply cannot happen this weekend.
Even beyond just winning the game on Thursday, which was clearly the only real goal of the evening, the Red Sox also wanted to get their offense going. The group has been wildly frustrating for five games now, especially in this series against the worst pitching staff in all of baseball. They did end up scoring six runs on Wednesday, but the game was still closer for longer than it should have been. They wanted some early offense here and some actual momentum to carry them through the night.
And right off the bat it looked exactly like that was what we were going to get. The very first pitch of this game was a fastball up in the zone to Kiké Hernández, and the Red Sox leadoff man jumped all over it, blasting a leadoff homer out to center field to give Boston the earliest lead possible. And even better, they’d make more traffic after that. Xander Bogaerts drew a one-out walk before Rafael Devers ripped a base hit to put two on with one out.
This was a chance to really build up that early momentum and potentially give themselves an early day. Instead, J.D. Martinez flew out before Hunter Renfroe popped out, ending the inning with just the one-run lead. And then from there, they just got shut down by a guy in Alexander Wells who not only entered the day with an ERA over 7.00 but also features a pitch mix very similar to the last two pitchers they faced.
It should have been an opportunity to find a groove at the plate. Instead, over the next four innings they sent the minimum 12 batters to the plate, managing just a single that was immediately canceled out by a double play. It was pitiful.
Over on the other side, Nick Pivetta started out looking extremely sharp in this game. He had his main pitches working, and as a result struck out the side in the first and retired the first six batters he faced.
But when he came out in the third, he just suddenly did not have it anymore. Facing the bottom of the order, Pivetta’s command had suddenly gotten away from him. He walked the first batter he faced, who quickly moved up to second on a wild pitch. After giving up a base hit to the next batter, he’d throw another wild pitch (both on breaking balls in the dirt) to put two men in scoring position.
To his credit, the Red Sox righty did answer back with two straight strikeouts, but the second one was on an absolutely atrocious strike three call from Manny Gonzalez, whose strike zone in this game very well may have been the worst and most inconsistent we saw all season. And in a true ball don’t lie moment, Pivetta’s very next pitch after the strikeout was a fastball middle-in to Ryan Mountcastle. Baltimore’s slugger sent a no-doubt shot to left field, putting his team up 3-1.
Pivetta would ultimately make it through 4 2⁄3 innings, putting another couple of runners on in the fourth before handing things off to Ryan Brasier to finish things off. He was able to do it to keep the deficit at two heading into the sixth.
Nothing was going to matter without some offense, though, and Wells had retired seven in a row entering the inning, including an eight-pitch fifth with three straight weak ground balls. Kyle Schwarber did draw a walk with one out in the sixth to break up the streak of eight in a row, but it was still another scoreless inning.
That brought us to the bottom of the sixth, and here is where the wheels truly fell off. Garrett Richards got the ball for the Red Sox here, and he flat out did not get it done. Trey Mancini jumped on the first pitch he saw for a leadoff single, and then a coupe batters later Kelvin Gutierrez had a single of his own. Richards then threw a wild pitch to put two in scoring position and also bring the infield in, which would prove costly when Tyler Nevin ripped a grounder through the left side for a two-run single. Nevin moved up to second, then went to third on yet another wild pitch before coming home on a sacrifice fly.
Suddenly it was a 6-1 game and the Red Sox desperately needed some life from an offense that had shown no such thing for most of this game. J.D. Martinez started the inning off on the right foot with a leadoff double, and Hunter Renfroe followed it with a walk. They’d each move up a base on a ground ball from Alex Verdugo that effectively served as a sacrifice bunt, and Martinez would come home on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to four. Travis Shaw was at the plate as a pinch hitter, now with a runner at third and one out, but he couldn’t get the ball in play. He’d strike out and then José Iglesias popped out to end the inning with the Red Sox settling for just the one run.
Adam Ottavino did his job in the bottom half, using a caught stealing to his advantage to face only three batters in the inning. But the offense had to make up a four-run deficit and had only six more outs with which the play. They had the top of the order coming up for the eighth, too, but they’d send only three to the plate thanks to a Bogaerts double play immediately following a one-out Schwarber walk.
After Matt Barnes tossed a scoreless bottom half of the eighth, Boston had one more chance to mount a rally. Instead, they’d go down without adding any runs, and that was that. The 6-2 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 89-70.
The Mariners were off tonight, which means that they are now in a tie with the Red Sox for that second wildcard spot. Meanwhile, the Yankees hold a late lead over the Blue Jays as this is being written. If that holds, Boston will maintain their one-game lead over Toronto for the second wildcard spot while their deficit behind New York for the top spot would grow to two games with three to play.
The Red Sox now head to our nation’s capital to finish off the season against the Nationals. They’ll have Eduardo Rodriguez going against Josh Rogers. First pitch is set for 7:05 PM ET.