Less than a day after suffering their first loss in nearly two weeks at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox were back it against Toronto Saturday afternoon, looking to start a new winning streak heading into the All-Star Break.
Making his 19th start of the season on Saturday, Eduardo Rodriguez came out guns blazing against a team he has had issues with in the past.
Over the first five innings of this one, Rodriguez looked like a man who could not be stopped, as the lefty retired 15 of the 17 batters he saw while needing just 59 pitches to do so.
Things were looking great for the Red Sox heading into the sixth inning. With a 1-0 lead and Rodriguez dealing on the mound, it seemed as if win #67 was right around the corner.
Unfortunately, it was not that easy, and after getting the first out of that sixth inning, Rodriguez would have to leave the game with a right ankle sprain following an ugly collision with Lourdes Gurriel at first base.
The good news here, if any, is the fact that, according to Alex Cora, Rodriguez did not damage his surgically repaired right knee to any extent.
Finishing with a final pitching line of 5.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, and 5 K on 67 pitches (47 strikes), it was certainly disappointing to see the Venezuela native’s day come to an end in the manner it did.
In what could have been his best outing of the season, we are left to hope that Rodriguez’s sprained ankle will not take all that much time to heal. The All-Star break could play a role in his timetable to return as well. Just have to wait and see for now.
Coming into a game he was initially not prepared for, Heath Hembree got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen.
With Gurriel already at first, Hembree did walk a man to put the go-ahead run on base, but escaped any real damage by getting Justin Smoak to fly out to center for the third and final out of the top half of the sixth.
A struggling Joe Kelly got the next call to begin the seventh inning, and he allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
After inducing two straight ground outs, one that drove in the tying run from third, Kelly walked Luke Maile, the Jays’ number nine hitter, on four straight balls, thus ending his day before it could even really get started.
That made way for Matt Barnes to enter and try to get out of this mess, and although it’s not entirely his doing, he did give up what was the go-ahead run on a Lourdes Gurriel RBI single, closing the book on what was another miserable appearance for Joe Kelly.
From that point on though, Barnes held things in check by striking out Yangervis to retire the side in the seventh. And in the eighth, the UCONN product worked his way around back-to-back two out walks to punch out Randal Grichuk on three straight strikes, retiring the side and keeping it a one run game.
An inning later, Brandon Workman was given the responsibility of keeping his team within striking distance going into the bottom of the ninth. In response to this, Workman needed only 12 pitches to retire the only three batters he faced in order, which proved to be beneficial for the Red Sox a few minutes later.
With this contest now tied and headed into extra innings, Craig Kimbrel came out for a non-save opportunity in the tenth. Having seen his fair share of action these past few days, Kimbrel nonetheless still impressed with a two strikeout performance to keep things knotted up at two runs a piece. Thanks to his efforts, the Red Sox closer notched his second winning decision of the season.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup did not have themselves the best of days at the plate on Saturday, and it looked as if that was ultimately going to cost them in the end.
JD Martinez got the scoring started for Boston in the fourth inning, as he led the bottom half of the frame off by launching a 389 foot missile into the Monster seats off Jays starter Sam Gaviglio for his 29th big fly of the season.
Fast forward to the eighth inning now, and scattered amongst other opportune scoring chances, the best one up to this point in the day probably happened in the eighth.
A one out single off the bat of Mookie Betts, followed by an E5 committed by Yangervis Solarte, allowed Betts to reach second, representing the tying run.
With Brock Holt at the plate, Betts was able to catch Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini sleeping, and easily swiped third to put the tying run just 90 feet away.
Unfortunately, Betts could not advance, as Holt hit a hard ground out to second with the infield playing in, and JD Martinez struck out to end the inning. At that point, I’m thinking this thing is over. Get it done with, go home, and come back to split the series tomorrow, or so I thought.
From the middle of the ninth inning on, Xander Bogaerts was the star of the show for the Red Sox.
Facing off against long time late inning man Tyler Clippard, Bogaerts led his teams half of the ninth off by ripping a double down the left field line, once again putting the tying run in scoring position.
Two pitches into the next at bat, Jackie Bradley Jr. lined another double, this one hit to right field and allowing Bogaerts to easily score from second. And just like that, we had ourselves a 2-2 game.
In the tenth, a four-run rally was started by another fielding error committed by the Blue Jays. This time, in what looked like a routine ground out off the bat of Mookie Betts for the second out of the inning, turned into the go-ahead run being on first after Toronto’s shortstop, the aforementioned Lourdes Gurriel, could not come up with the ball cleanly.
That allowed Betts to reach first, and three batters later, after Jays reliever Chris Rowley had intentionally walked JD Martinez to load the bases, Xander Bogaerts sent the Fenway faithful home happy.
2-0 hitters count, 87 MPH fastball, 104 MPH and 392 feet off the bat, grand slam, ballgame over with a final score of 6-2.
The Toronto Blue Jays and giving up dramatic grand slams, name a more iconic duo.
Some notes from this win:
The Red Sox are 67-30. They have hit two grand slams in the past three days and have not lost consecutive games since June 19-20th.
From @SoxNotes: Xander Bogaerts is the first Red Sox player to hit a walk-off grand slam since Rico Brogna on August 14, 2000 vs. Tampa Bay.
In the month of July, Xander Bogaerts has a 1.142 OPS with 3 home runs and 18 runs driven.
JD Martinez collected his 80th RBI this afternoon, the most in all of baseball.
Going for the series win tomorrow afternoon, it will be Brian Johnson making his first start since being placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his left hip back on July 8th. As of this time, no corresponding roster move has officially been made, but I would guess it would be Tzu-Wei Lin or Bobby Poyner.
Johnson will be matched up against Jays righty Marcus Stroman. Stroman, 27, owns a 5.90 ERA in 11 games started this season, but has looked better on the mound as of late.
First pitch of the final game of the first half of the season is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.