The past couple of nights, the Red Sox have won thanks in large part due to some otherworldly performances. On Wednesday, Nick Pivetta went where no pitcher really goes anymore, tying down an excellent Houston Astros lineup for nine full innings in a 5-1, series-clinching win. On Thursday, Trevor Story went supernova, accounting for more than 1,200 feet of homers across three different bombs and seven RBI in 12-6 win over the Mariners.
By comparison, this game was relatively boring. Close, but ordinary.
Trevor Story hit a grand slam and JBJ launched a three-run homer after entering the game in the eighth. Alex Cora hit the right buttons and the bullpen kept things tranquil despite some heavy traffic from the Mariners as the Red Sox won 7-3 over the Mariners on Friday night.
Wacha wasn’t super sharp in the first but still kept the Mariners off of the board. He gave up a one-out double to Ty France and walked J.P. Crawford but induced a fielder's choice and pop up from the next two batters, ending the inning. After that he got into a nice groove, retiring the Mariners on 37 pitches in each of the next three innings.
Offensively, the Red Sox built and added pressure on Mariners starter Robbie Ray until he burst.
In the first inning, they hit Ray hard but couldn’t parlay hard contact into runs. Enrique Hernández took Ray’s first pitch off the far right end of the Green Monster for a double. After a Devers strikeout, J.D. Martinez grounded a single into left. Hernandez seemed intent on scoring when he rounded third base, but Carlos Febles had to put up the stop sign because of how hard left fielder Jesse Winkler charged the ball. The Sox couldn’t take advantage of their first scoring opportunity — Bogaerts struck out and Trevor Story popped out to end the threat. In the second, they went quietly and in order, but the flood gates opened in the third.
Christian Vazquez singled to left — the first hit of his career off Ray — and Hernandez walked to put runners on first and second with one out. After Martinez went down swinging on a devastating, vintage Ray slider, Xander Bogaerts walked to set up Story with the bases loaded and two down.
Boy, did that guy deliver again. Story hit a 106-mph laser that just snuck over the top of the Green Monster for a grand slam, his fourth home run and 11th RBI of the last two games. 4-0, Red Sox thanks to another two-out, run-scoring hit. As if the absolute bullet that skimmed the top of the wall wasn’t enough, Story completed his Dustin Pedroia impression by beating his chest and yelling in celebration as he rounded first base.
Afterward, the NESN broadcast showed an incredible shot of Jonny Gomes, who caught the ball.
With that homer, Trevor put himself into rare Red Sox company. He became just the second second baseman in franchise history to ever homer four times over a two-game span. Bobby Doer did it first in 1950.
It looked like the Red Sox were on their way to an easy win, but the Mariners made them sweat a little bit.
An uneventful fourth inning gave way to the sudden end of Wacha’s night in the fifth. To kick things off in the top half, Christian Arroyo tried — unsuccessfully — to dive after a Eugenio Suarez line drive and Suarez trotted casually into second. The next batter, Abraham Toro, yanked a two-run shot way over the right field wall to cut Boston’s lead in half. That was enough to get Austin Davis and Hirokazu Sawamura up in the bullpen. Wacha couldn’t reclaim his rhythm and the ensuing walk and single both put runners on the corners and forced Alex Cora to call for Davis.
Davis and his nerves of steel calmly struck out Crawford on a slider to close the top of the fifth and hold the score at 4-2. Wacha was responsible for those runners but with that strikeout, his line closed at 4.2 innings and two runs on four hits and three walks.
The Red Sox squandered a chance to reclaim part of their lead in the bottom of the fifth, but with Devers on second — after stealing a base, no less — Martinez struck out looking and a fly ball from Bogaerts fell harmlessly to Julio Rodríguez in center.
With a three-run lead, the consistently unreliable and unpredictable bullpen was really, really good on Friday night.
Davis also pitched the sixth and retired the Mariners without making a big deal of it — Seattle went down on two weakly hit balls and a strikeout.
Jake Diekman handled the seventh and despite struggling with his command, worked around a two-out walk to escape without any damage done. JBJ also made an appearance in right field as a defensive replacement for Arroyo at the start of the seventh.
Then things got hairy in the eighth.
For a second it looked like Bogaerts was hurt and hurt badly. He was backpedaling for a pop fly that drifted into left field and the charging Alex Verdugo slid in to try and make the catch as well. He undercut Bogaerts, who fell awkwardly on his back. After writhing on the ground in pain and speaking briefly with the training staff, Bogearts remained in the game and the collective sigh of relief from Fenway was almost audible on the NESN broadcast.
He did, however, exit the game in the bottom half. Franchy Cordero hit for him (and singled to raise his average to .233, btw). By the time I published this, there was no word about whether that was just precautionary or if something is actually wrong.
But back to the top of the eighth quickly. Bogaerts wasn’t able to hang on to that ball and as it hit the ground, Crawford took advantage. He took second, then scored on a bloop single to left from Winkler. John Schreiber, who had taken over for Deikman, held the damage there, striking out Rodríguez on a sneaky sidearm slider up in the zone.
Alex Cora made what I thought were some weird substitutions in the bottom of the eighth and it quickly became evident why I am not an MLB manager. Not only did Cordero come through for the Sox offense, but so did Jackie Bradley Jr., who hit for Arroyo with two outs in the eighth. With Cordero and Martinez on, Bradley launched his first homer of the season off of a lefty pitcher and over the Monster to give Boston a 7-3 cushion entering the ninth. Hernandez filled in at short, as Cordero took right and Bradley center, and he fielded the game’s closing ground out.
Matt Strahm made quick work of the Mariners in the ninth, retiring them in order to put a neat bow on the win.
Who are these Red Sox? Where did they come from? Clutch hits with two outs and a bullpen that can pitch late innings in close games without drama?
Boston’s played really well in these past two series, both wins, against the Astros and Mariners. They’ve now won seven of 10 and three series in a row. At 17-22, they are rapidly getting themselves back in the playoff AL picture.