Coming into the season, one of the clear weaknesses for the Red Sox was the lack of top-end talent in their bullpen. There were enough interesting guys on the depth chart that you could feasibly see them piece together the middle innings on a regular basis, but aside from Garrett Whitlock there was no one you could trust every time out in close games. The thing about Whitlock, of course, is that they want him to be a starter, which he was in this game and was phenomenal. But the offense was once again too quiet, and the bullpen blew their fourth save of the year. The game was eventually pushed to extras, where the Angels quickly jumped out to a lead they would hold and even up this three-game set.
More robust game notes below.
The Red Sox still haven’t quite figured out their plan for the rotation moving forward, and Alex Cora has said that they will make that plan after next week, which includes two days off on the schedule. One of the questions at hand, presumably, is whether or not Garrett Whitlock will stick in the rotation or head back to the bullpen. The righty continues to make the case that they should keep him in this role, and he emphatically made the case on Wednesday.
Facing an Angels lineup that features a ton of intimidating talent at the top of the order, he calmly went out and blew fastballs by Brandon Marsh, Mike Trout, and Shohei Ohtani to strike out the side in the first. He’s the only pitcher this year to have struck out both Trout and Ohtani in the first inning of a game. Whitlock slacked off a bit in the second, only striking out two of the three batters he faced, with the other grounding out. He became the second pitcher in baseball to twice strike out five batters through the first two innings of a start. This was his third start of the season.
The dominance would continue through the next two innings as well, as Whitlock remained perfect through four. His fastball was pumping in at 96 consistently and blowing by some of the game’s best hitters, and he struck out one in each of the third and fourth innings.
Now it was just up to the offense to actually give him some support. They gave themselves a good chance in the second, starting with a J.D. Martinez leadoff single. Enrique Hernández then caught a break when Anthony Rendon dropped an easy pop up in foul ground, extending an at bat that ended with a second straight single. But two ground balls later, the inning was over and the game was still scoreless.
The third wouldn’t have the same troubles. Angels starter Reid Detmers got himself into some trouble there, walking Bobby Dalbec and Christian Arroyo at the bottom of the lineup (though Arroyo may have caught a break on ball three, which could have been strike three). Trevor Story didn’t waste the chance, ripping a double into the left field corner to bring both runners home and open up a 2-0 lead. The heart of the order was up following the double, too, still with nobody out, but they couldn’t bring home that extra run.
This ended up hurting them when we got into the fifth, with Whitlock still on the mound. He’d get the first out to retire 13 in a row as the start of his night, but Jared Walsh broke up both the perfect game and the no-hitter with one swing, smacking a double off the Monster in left-center field. Whitlock answered back with a strikeout, but this was his longest outing of his career and it showed in the next at bat. He’d been blowing two-seamers by hitters all night, even when thrown right over the plate, but by the fifth the velocity was down and when he threw a 93 mph fastball right down the heart of the plate to Max Stassi it was crushed out to left field. With that swing, the score was tied at two.
Whitlock did get out of the inning from there, and while things went sour a bit at the end it was still an incredible outing. The righty got through five full innings, just allowing the two runs and striking out nine while not issuing a walk. He also didn’t allow a ball into the outfield until that Walsh double.
And the good news is the offense didn’t waste time getting back out in front. Once again it was Detmers putting the bottom of the order on, this time hitting Arroyo with a pitch. Story then followed that up with his second double of the night, this one just missing being a home run high off the Monster, and Arroyo came around to score.
That gave the Red Sox bullpen a 3-2 advantage to protect, and Austin Davis got the first call for the sixth. He was dominant, striking out the side in order and finishing that off by setting down Trout. Davis came out for the seventh as well and got Ohtani to start the inning, but then Rendon stepped to the plate. The southpaw left a 1-2 fastball over the plate, and Rendon hit a rocket into the Monster Seats, tying the game up at three.
This time, the offense failed to get the run back, and they turned to Matt Strahm for the eighth to try and keep this game tied. He did just that, retiring the side in order. And then the offense came through in the bottom of the inning. More specifically, Xander Bogaerts came through. On a cutter that broke middle-in, he hit a no-doubt shot over everything in left field, putting the Red Sox back out front by a run.
That just left three more outs for the bullpen to get, and Hansel Robles got the call for the ninth. He’d let Trout get on as the potential tying run with a one-out walk, and then Ohtani drew a second straight walk to both put Trout in scoring position as well as putting the go-ahead run on base. Robles got Rendon to fly out for the second out of the ninth, and then Alex Cora turned to the lefty Jake Diekman to face Walsh, another lefty, to try and close this one out.
He couldn’t get it done. Diekman just couldn’t get the final strike against Walsh, and on the ninth pitch of the at bat Walsh ripped a single into right field, with Trout coming around to score and tie this game up once again with a 4-4 score. Diekman would load the bases, too, after a walk, but mercifully got out of the inning with the score still tied.
The offense now still had a chance to walk it off in the ninth, and they got the winning run on base with a one-out walk from Christian Vázquez. But it wouldn’t matter, as Bobby Dalbec struck out (on what should have been ball four but was called a strike) and Vázquez was caught stealing, ending the inning on an ill-advised steal call.
So, we headed into extras with Matt Barnes taking the mound and a Manfred runner on second base. The righty looked good early with two quick outs, but then the red-hot Taylor Ward put one into the first row of the Monster Seats in left-center field, and the Angels were up 6-4. It only got worse from there, with Barnes allowing two more batters to reach before Rendon knocked in another run on a Fenway single off the Monster. That just left the dagger for Jared Walsh, who smoked a three-run homer, and suddenly it was a 10-4 game.
The Red Sox offense, as one would expect, did not make up that deficit in the bottom half (though they did score one), and that was that. The 10-5 loss evened up the series at one game apiece.
The Red Sox now have to win on Thursday to win their first series since the second of the year in Detroit. They’ll be facing Ohtani while Rich Hill gets the ball for Boston. First pitch is set for 1:10 PM ET.