The Red Sox pitching was largely fantastic on Tuesday night at Fenway. Michael Wacha was perfect through four, and while the staff had to work out of a few jams as the night went on they allowed just two runs through the whole game. And they were unearned run with Rafael Devers rushing a throw for an ill-timed error, and then Xander Bogaerts trying to make a difficult throw and having it end up past Franchy Cordero at first base. Those plays effectively lost the game, but the defense wasn’t the issue. That would be the offense, which was shut out through eight innings and now has just one run to its name over the last two games combined. It’s not what you want.
More robust game notes below.
Those in attendance at Fenway on Tuesday night (which included a literal prom, for some reason) were treated to a pitchers duel between the Red Sox and Reds, and specifically between Luis Castillo and Michael Wacha. On the positive side, this was by far the best that the latter has looked since returning from a short IL stint earlier this month. The veteran righty looked frankly how he should look against one of the worst teams in all of baseball, not only shutting down each of the first nine batters he faced but doing so without even allowing a ball out of the inning. The out-of-the-infield streak ended in the fourth on a fly out, but the perfect game remained as he shut down Cincinnati’s bats through the first four innings.
As for Castillo, he wasn’t as good in terms of preventing baserunners, but he was at least as dominant as Wacha in this game. The Red Sox were hoping from a bounce back from an ugly loss on Monday, but Castillo was far too much for them to handle. Boston did manage to get a baserunner in the fourth on a Rafael Devers base hit, but that and a walk in the fourth was the only baserunner they’d get through four. Castillo was working mainly with his fastball and changeup, and both pitches were working to perfection as he got through four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
Wacha’s perfect game came to an end in the fifth, and his shutout very nearly went out the window at the same time. In fact, it was about as close to that happening as possible without it. Joey Votto hit one out towards the Red Sox bullpen in right field, but it hit the very top of that short wall and bounced back into play, limiting the Reds first baseman to a leadoff double. Wacha came back and retired the next three to keep the shutout alive before Castillo came out for a perfect bottom half in which he struck out two more.
The sixth brought the first real bout with trouble for either pitcher (or at least more than Wacha had in the fifth), with Cincinnati starting the inning off with a base hit before Wacha threw a wild pitch to move the runner up. Matt Reynolds followed that up with a single to put runners on the corners before Boston caught a break. On a ground ball to third, Nick Castellanos took a step towards the plate and was immediately stuck. He was ultimately caught in a run down for a huge first out. After a pop out it looked like Wacha was going to get out of it, but on a ground ball to third Devers rushed the throw. The error let one run come in, and then Austin Davis came on to face Votto with two in scoring position and two outs. He walked Votto to load the bases, but was still able to escape on a fly ball out to center.
But now the Red Sox offense still had to overcome a one-run deficit with Castillo sitting at 80 pitches. Fortunately they started things off with a four-pitch walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the nine hole, and then Enrique Hernández drew another. It was a huge situation with Devers coming up to the plate looking to make up for his error. Instead, he grounded into a double play and J.D. Martinez went down swinging to waste a prime scoring chance against Castillo.
Davis and Tyler Danish combined to work around three more baserunners in the seventh, but the Red Sox went down in order in the bottom half. Danish held things down again in the eighth (though he did give up a double to Votto on his second time of the night missing a home run by inches), but it was just not Boston’s night at the plate as they once again sent just three to the plate in the bottom of the inning.
The Red Sox pitching then got into a little more trouble in the ninth, with Jake Diekman coming on with out. He gave up a single and then a ground ball to move the runner up to second, which proved to be an important play when Xander Bogaerts made a nice diving stop in the hole. Had he just eaten the ball, the inning continues without any runs yet and runners on the corners with two outs. Instead, he tried to make the big play and it took a hop on Cordero that he couldn’t handle, giving the Reds a 2-0 game.
Now, the offense had to somehow find some life down by two in a game in which they’d gotten basically nothing going. They got off to a hell of a start with a leadoff single from Hernández and then a double from Devers to put a pair into scoring position with nobody out. Neither Martinez nor Bogaerts could get the run home, but hope stayed alive after Alex Verdugo reached on an infield single to bring home Hernández and cut the deficit to one. That left it all up to Trevor Story, who struck out to leave the tying run 90 feet away in a 2-1 loss.
The Red Sox and Reds now finish this quick two-game set on Wednesday, weather depending. If they do go, Garrett Whitlock will take on Hunter Greene, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.