Boston’s bats just are not in a good place right now, and it is spoiling some solid pitching performances against key divisional opponents. Tanner Houck got the start for the Red Sox in this one, and with his fastball working extremely well he held the Blue Jays to a respectable two runs over five innings, with the bullpen adding one more over the final four frames. The Red Sox over the first eight innings didn’t manage a single run after scoring just three in the previous two games combined. Now, credit where it is due to Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman, who was lights out in this game. And the offense did turn it on with a rally in the ninth to score two and put another run 90 feet away, but it was too little too late as they dropped back down under .500 with a 3-2 loss.
More robust game notes below.
The Red Sox offense had a frustrating night on Wednesday, starting off that game teeing off on José Berríos with a barrage of hard contact, but only one run to show for it in the first inning. They’d end up with only one run for the entire game, too, with struggles in particular coming with runners in scoring position; they were 1-14 in those situations. Thursday they were up against a somewhat familiar face in Kevin Gausman, who spent the early years of his career with the Orioles as a middling pitcher on his best days. Since then, however, he’s transformed, and the Red Sox learned that the hard way in their series finale against the Blue Jays.
Gausman reshaped the way he pitches in his two-year stint with the Giants, now pairing his fastball with a splitter that has developed into one of the best singular pitches in all of baseball along with a slider with good movement that he locates well. The result is, well, a lot of trouble for opposing lineups. Throw in a Red Sox batting order that screams getaway day (which it was), and the results were about what you’d expect. Through the first three innings, Boston managed just one baserunner on an Alex Verdugo single. They got another base hit in the fourth too, but it was quickly canceled out by a Verdugo double play, and Gausman ultimately cruised through those first four innings with only 40 pitches.
That put a lot of pressure on Tanner Houck, who was coming off a strong start last time out against the Twins. He once again looked good, with his fastball in particular giving the Blue Jays fits with its movement and its location. He struck out the first two batters he faced with that pitch before getting a pop up to complete a perfect opening frame. Houck also kept the Jays off the board in the second, working around a two-out double from Matt Chapman in the process.
So it was still a scoreless game heading into the third, and the Blue Jays were able to strike first in this inning. Gosuke Kotah started the inning off with a leadoff walk, and a couple batters later he moved up to second on a base hit before Bo Bichette put one through the right side just out of reach of Trevor Story’s glove, bringing home Kotah and giving Toronto the first run of the day. With runners now on the corners, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came through with an easy sacrifice fly, and it was a 2-0 lead for the Blue Jays.
From there, Houck was able to get out of the inning and keep that score at 2-0 through five when he left the game. It was overall a positive start for the righty, who is expected to be back on the mound on Sunday in a piggyback role as he won’t be able to start in Toronto next week due to his not being vaccinated against COVID. Weirdly, he did not get a single whiff on his slider in this game, but his fastball was effective enough to keep his numbers above water in the outing.
After Houck exited the game, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the bullpen and he got into some quick trouble when Guerrero smacked a double off the bullpen wall in right field. A two-out walk put a pair on, but it looked like trouble was averted when Chapman popped one straight up in front of the mound. Key words there are “looked like.” The wind took the ball for a ride and Christian Vázquez — who had ended the previous inning trying to stretch a wall-ball single into a double — couldn’t get under it. The ball fell on the infield, and Guerrero was running hard from contact and came around to score, making it a 3-0 game. Austin Davis was able to come in after that and finish the inning without any more runs being added on by the Jays.
Davis and Hirokazu Sawamura then combined to work around a pair of baserunners in the seventh, giving the offense nine more outs to get their act together and, at the very least, show some signs of life. They did get a base hit from Xander Bogaerts to start the inning, the first time the leadoff man reached in this game. But on brand for this game, Verdugo followed it up with his second double play ball of the game.
Sawamura came back out and worked around two singles in the eighth, thanks in part to an outfield assist from Verdugo, and the offense had another crack at getting some momentum in this game, with Gausman still in for Toronto. Instead, they went down in order.
That brought Gausman out for the ninth with only 87 pitches under his belt. He only threw one more pitch, though, giving up a leadoff, first-pitch single to Trevor Story before being removed for Toronto closer Jordan Romano. He would walk Devers to start off his evening, and suddenly Bogaerts was stepping up to the plate with nobody out, representing the tying run. He came through, too, pulling a base hit through the left side to bring one run home.
Suddenly it was only a two-run game, and Verdugo was coming up with two runners in scoring position, still with nobody out. They didn’t get the hit they were looking for, but a ground ball to the right side was still enough for Devers to come in to score and Bogaerts to move 90 feet away from tying this game. Bobby Dalbec swung at the first pitch he saw, but while he hit it hard it was a ground ball right to Chapman at third base, who was playing in enough that Bogaerts had to stay at third. So that left it all up to Jackie Bradley Jr., coming up with two outs and the tying run at third. He worked a full count, but ended up rolling one over to first base for the third out and to end the game with a 3-2 loss.
The Red Sox now head south to take on the Rays for their first series against Tampa of the season. Things will kick off with Michael Wacha facing his old team as the Rays counter with Corey Kluber. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.