Have you ever rejoiced on a Friday night and then realized distant relatives were coming to town, and they were bringing their snot-nosed kid? That must have been what the Red Sox were thinking on the trip to Cleveland before this series. Coming into this game, the Red Sox were struggling to find any action at the plate at the worst time as a 3-game slide against Tampa dropped them to .500 for the first time in a month. Usually, teams would be fine to be .500 at this point in the season, but with the Rays pulling further ahead in the best division in baseball (yeah, I said it) the Red Sox truly don’t have many divisional games to lose. This is more discouraging realizing after this series in Cleveland, the Sox are headed to New York.
Luckily for them, then, the Guardians aren’t in their division! And they’re five games below five hundred! Except, they’re facing Shane Bieber, Cleveland’s ace who won a Cy Young in 2020 (still counts!) This comes one game after the Red Sox had to face Shane McClanahan and, to keep it simple, got shown up. Some good news about Bieber, though: Bieber got shelled in their last game. In that game, Bieber gave 7 runs up in 4 innings and probably hugged all his teammates for a long while when they came back and won, saddling him with a no decision. More intriguing is that Shane Bieber’s velocity has ticked down from 94 miles an hour to just over 91 since 2020. But still, he’s Shane Bieber! And more importantly, unlike the Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah, he hasn’t been sent down to rookie league! Nothing of significance by bringing that up, I just love dunking on Manoah.
Speaking of the mound from Boston’s terms, they had their own question mark in the form of James Paxton, who looked quite impressive after returning from a shopping list of injuries, but also got shelled in the last two weeks, and took the loss in his last outing due to the Sox’s lack of bats. His 1-3 record does not do the fact that he has been a strikeout machine justice. Unfortunately, he gave up two runs in the first inning in this one by way of allowing leadoff man Steven Kwan on with a single and twin doubles from Josh Naylor and Josh Bell. After 2 innings, Paxton’s pitch count was at 42. Have I mentioned how much I wished Chaim went and got Josh Bell in the great first baseman drought of 2022? Anyway, Bieber ensured the Sox bats went characteristically silent in the beginning of this one, as through three Masataka Yoshida had both of their only two hits.
In the top of the fifth, a long-standing gripe reared its ugly head, as Boston failed to drive a lead-off Jarren Duran double home. Luckily, the silence of bats was combatted by Paxton taking matters into his own hands despite the ugly start, as he struck two out in the fifth increasing his total to 6. Yoshida followed this up by knocking an off-speed Bieber pitch into right-center for his third hit of the game, a lead-off double for the second consecutive inning. Justin Turner made the most of a botched throw to second to pick Yoshida off that careened into the outfield, but sadly, Yoshida wasn’t paying attention and he stuck around at second. Devers and Casas recorded outs, but Kiké broke an 0-for-12 with a floater into left-center to score Yoshida and cut the Guardians’ lead in half, and that was all on the inning. There was only so much that Paxton’s gradual recovery - and general command - as the game went on could do for the Sox if no runs were going to be scored.
And so, it came as no surprise to Boston pessimists that even though Paxton was strong through seven, ending his night with a line of 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 9 K. Boston squandered a leadoff fielding error from Gabriel Arias to put Pablo Reyes (pinching for Valdez) on first when Connor Wong (pinching for McGuire) grounded nto a double play. Generally more quasi-intelligent pinch hitting by Cora, you know the drill.
In the eighth, the Red Sox got them loaded with no one out, featuring Triston Casas with a 400-foot single to pretty much dead center. This was followed by Enyel De Los Santos walking Kiké Hernandez to bring Justin Turner home to tie the score among a chorus of Clevelandite... Clevelandian? Clevelander? boos, and Terry Francona came in to pull De Los Santos so quick, he might as well been pulling him to the dugout by his ear. Francona knew better than to put a lefty in against the lefty slayer Rob Refsnyder, but righty Nick Sandlin still put a fastball in the wrong place and surrendered a go-ahead single to Refsnyder with still no outs, and the Red Sox were suddenly in for a big inning. Reyes scored Casas to add another one to reload the bases yet again, Enter James Karinchak, who allowed a Verdugo smack-fly... I mean a sac-fly to drive Kiké home and make it a 5-2 ball game.
Unfortunately, Chris Martin tried his hardest to blow this game, having a Craig Kimbrel 2018-esque (derogatory) inning, giving two runs up. No movement in the bullpen, to my chagrin as well as all of you, too. A bit more fortunately, Martin allegedly got Myles Straw to go after a six pitch 0-2 count that saw Straw battle but eventually fall, and Red Sox nation could collectively exhale.
The Red Sox did not have to face the Guardians’ closer, Emmanuel Clase, instead settling for Eli Morgan, who’s been pretty good himself this sesaon. Morgan made the Sox disappear pretty quietly in the ninth, although Casas did get a rare second hit of the game, putting the game - and Paxton’s deserved decision - squarely on Kenley Jansen’s shoulders. My heart was in my chest on that last out, a deep fly ball to right-center, but Verdugo fielded it securely, and Jansen earned the save and Paxton’s win stayed safe. I understand taking games 1 at a time after a slide like this weekend, but let’s see a successful rest of the series... I have the feeling that we’re going to need it. But hey, a feel good win for a rotation that’s suffered a significant loss this week.... cannot complain about that!
James Paxton: 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 9 K
Masataka Yoshida: 3-5. R, K
Triston Casas: 2-4, R, BB
Chris Martin: 1 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 2 K
Rafael Devers: 0-4, R, BB, K
Connor Wong: 0-2, K
Play of the Game
Some may say the hit by Refsnyder or Casas would be the play, but for me, it has to be Kiké’s walk in the eighth to make it 2-2. It took patience, and allowed a lot more to happen in that inning; an out would be detrimental to the rest of the game, especially considering the near meltdown that happened in the bottom of the same inning. But luckily, we don’t have to live in that timeline where Kiké does not see ball four and the Sox are above .500, in part because of that play.
Who was the Red Sox’s Player of the Game in their 5-4 win against the Guardians on June 6?
This poll is closed
James Paxton, but on another line