This matchup between the Red Sox and Blue Jays at Fenway was supposed to be a showcase of offense with two of the most potent lineups in the game facing off. Each side did have their chances on Tuesday, combining to go 1-16 with runners in scoring position, but it turned out to be a low-scoring affair. The Red Sox got a good performance from Nathan Eovaldi, who worked around a bunch of singles, and a great performance from their bullpen, ensuring that the two runs their offense scraped across was enough to take game one of this series 2-1.
More robust game notes below.
After a disappointing loss on Monday in which the Red Sox found themselves into an early hole of which they could not dig out, the good news was that they could turn to their ace, Nathan Eovaldi, in the second game. It’s been a bit of a weird start for him so far this season, looking at strong as ever with his strikeout and walks, but seeing an early spike in his home run rate compared to 2021, a career year for the righty. It’s obviously a small sample with just two starts under his belt heading into Tuesday’s action, but hard contact was something to watch for in this game against one of the most impactful lineups in the game.
It turns out we would see yet another home run, and there were some jams that led to less-than-efficient moments from Eovaldi, but he got the job done while he was able to stay in the game, quieting the Jays. After a relatively quick first inning, the home run came in the second to give Toronto the early 1-0 lead. Zack Collins, who was acquired by the Jays shortly before Opening Day, got a slider that hung right over the middle of the plate. He jumped all over it, sending it out to right field for a no-doubt homer. It’s worth mentioning that now three of the five homers Eovaldi has allowed this season have been on that slider.
It looked like a bit of an inauspicious start with the homer coming to lead off the second, but it turned out that would be the only run allowed by the Red Sox starter in this game. He was impressive working out of jams, specifically in the third and fourth. In the third, Toronto had a pair of runners on with just one out thanks to a single and a walk, but Eovaldi came back with two outs to leave the runners stranded. Even more impressive was that fourth inning when back-to-back singles led off the inning, but they wouldn’t advance beyond first and second thanks to two huge strikeouts followed by a fly out to right field, which was manned admirably by Christian Arroyo in this game.
Eovaldi ultimately went only 4 2⁄3 innings because the Blue Jays were able to get his pitch count up, but he only allowed the one run on six strikeouts and a walk.
Unfortunately, as has been the case far too often early on in this season, the Red Sox offense just failed to come through with big hits when they needed it, failing to pick up Eovaldi with his strong showing. It seemed they’d have a chance against new Blue Jay Yusei Kikuchi when the southpaw started his day with two straight walks. But Rafael Devers followed that up with a frustrating at bat that ended with a double play, and Xander Bogaerts failed to get the runner home from third and the opportunity was wasted.
After failing to convert a leadoff walk into a run in the second, the offense did look again like they were coming alive in the third, and they were able to tie the game there when Enrique Hernández and Trevor Story combined for back-to-back doubles out to left field, scoring the first run of the night for Boston. With the middle of the lineup coming back around and a runner at second with one out, there was a chance to take a lead again, but again Devers and Bogaerts failed to get the run home.
The most frustrating moment for the lineup in this game, however, came in the fourth when J.D. Martinez and Alex Verdugo started the inning off with an error and a double to put runners on the corners for the bottom third of the order. Boston’s lineup has been the third worst in baseball for the seven through nine spots by OPS to start this 2022 season, and they had gone 0-3 to start this game. Bobby Dalbec tapped out to the mound, Arroyo struck out looking (on a pitch off the plate, though close enough that he probably should be swinging), and Connor Wong grounded out to Kikuchi, and again no runs came across.
After Eovaldi exited the game, the bullpen did its best to give the Red Sox lineup time to get back on the board. Matt Strahm got the call first, recording the final out in the fifth before coming back out for a perfect sixth. It was Hansel Robles after him, coming on for the seventh and retiring all three batters he faced.
The lineup was not obliging, though, with the game still tied as we headed into the bottom of the seventh where, again, they gave themselves a chance. It was the bottom of the lineup starting it this time, thanks to Toronto’s defense, as Dalbec reached on Bo Bichette’s second throwing error of the day. He was moved from second to third on a ground ball, and then Connor Wong came through with a fly ball deep enough out to right field to bring Dalbec home, giving the Red Sox their first lead of the evening.
Now trying to protect a lead, Robles came back out to start the eighth, getting both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel with strikeouts before exiting for the left-handed Jake Diekman. The southpaw gave up a single to the first batter he faced, but he bounced back with a pop up to end the inning and keep it a 2-1 ballgame.
After the offense went down in order in the bottom of the inning, Alex Cora turned to Garrett Whitlock for the ninth in the righty’s first “traditional” relief outing of the year. He looked just as strong as he has in the other roles, retiring the side in order, locking up his first save of the year, and giving Boston the 2-1 win.
The Red Sox will look to clinch this three-game set on Wednesday with Nick Pivetta taking the mound against José Berríos. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.