After utterly dominating the Royals behind Chris Sale’s comeplete game shutout Wednesday night, it was a completely different story for the Red Sox in Kansas City on Thursday, as they had to battle their way to a gritty 7-5 victory in the series finale to complete the three-game sweep.
Making his third start of the season for Boston and first since May 29th was Ryan Weber, who had never pitched against the Royals or inside Kauffman Stadium in his career before Thursday.
Working into just the second inning of this one, the right-hander yielded more hits than he recorded outs, as he surrendered two runs, both earned, on five hits and no walks to go with one lone strikeout on the afternoon.
A scoreless first was not the problem for Weber, but a string of four straight one-out Royals hits was.
It began with a solo home run from Cheslor Cuthbert and was followed up by back-to-back singles before Billy Hamilton ripped an RBI double to left to make it a 2-0 game early on.
Only facing nine hitters in total, Weber’s day would come to a quick close after giving up that run-scoring two-bagger to the speedy Hamilton.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 33 (23 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his sinking fastball nearly 64% of the time he was on the mound Thursday. He also topped out at 88.5 MPH with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw twice and got one swing and miss on with Christian Vazquez behind the plate.
Having allowed nine runs to cross the plate in his last 5 1/3 innings of work since that wonderful job he did in Toronto on the 23rd of May, Weber’s time in Boston’s rotation may be done for the time being. With Nathan Eovaldi still out for the foreseeable future though, spot starts are needed, so who knows? If I were to guess, I would say the righty makes an appearance out of the Sox bullpen in their upcoming doubleheader against the Rays this coming Saturday.
Anyway, in relief of Weber, the Red Sox bullpen had their work cut out for them in this one, and Colten Brewer got first dibs at that by coming on with runners in scoring position and two outs to get in the second.
Fortunately for Boston, he got out of the jam just fine, as he stranded said runners at second and third before tossing a 1-2-3 third inning as well.
In the fourth, three of the first four hitters Brewer faced reached off the right-hander, meaning the Royals had the bases loaded with one out in a contest they now trailed by two.
So, in came Marcus Walden looking to put out another fire, and he, like Brewer before him, retired Whit Merrifield and Adelberto Mondesi on a combined five pitches to put an end to the fourth with the bases left full of stranded runners.
Walden continued on by working through the fifth, where he served up a one-out solo shot to Jorge Soler in an otherwise clean frame of relief.
From there, Ryan Brasier scattered two singles in a shutout sixth inning, Josh Taylor worked his way around an Alex Gordon leadoff homer in a one-run seventh for KC while also allowing a leadoff double to Nicky Lopez in the eighth, making way for Heath Hembree.
Hembree, making his 29th appearance of the year, stranded that runner in scoring position by getting Cam Gallagher, Hamilton, and Merrifield out in order to set up Matt Barnes in the ninth.
Coming on in what was initially a 7-4 contest, Barnes did allow the tying run to come to the plate for Kansas City after giving up an RBI double to Soler to make it a two-run game, but ultimately settled in by fanning the last two Royals he faced to pick up his fourth save of the seasn and his side’s fourth straight win.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a fairly familiar opponent in the form of Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, who had faced off against the Sox seven times before Thursday.
Like Boston’s starter in this one though, Duffy did not last long, as he took a 110 MPH comebacker from Eduardo Nunez off his left knee for the final out of the second inning.
Still remaining in this one to start the third, it was clear that the left-hander was hampered. That much was evident in how he nailed Jackie Bradley Jr. in the back of the helmet on the very first pitch he threw in the frame.
Fortunately, Bradley Jr. was fine, and his HBP would end up being the catalyst for a four-run inning, with Mookie Betts mashing a two-run shot for his team’s first two runs of the day shortly thereafter. His 10th of the season.
Four hitters later, with Andrew Benintendi and JD Martinez both in scoring position, Rafael Devers stayed hot and untied this contest with a two-run, 112 MPH double to center, plating both runners while simultaneously giving Duffy the hook.
Fast forward to the seventh, the Royals bullpen was keeping things in check up until Xander Bogaerts drew a one-out walk off Scott Barlow.
A three-pitch punchout of Sam Travis, hitting in Martinez’s spot, followed by an intentional walk of Devers, meant that Kansas City was just one out away from getting out still trailing by one, but Christian Vazquez had different plans.
On the third pitch he saw from Barlow, a 96 MPH fastball down the middle, the Sox backstop didn’t hesitate and wound up with a two-run triple that fell between Hamilton and Merrifield in right-center field.
Both Bogaerts and Devers managed to score on the play, and just like that, the Red Sox had themselves with a three-run lead, which quickly inflated to four with Vazquez himself scoring his team’s final run of the afternoon on a wild pitch from Barlow with Michael Chavis at the plate.
That mishap put the Red Sox up 7-3, and after the Royals made things interesting with two runs of their own, 7-5 would go on to be Thursday’s final score.
Some notes from this win:
JD Martinez left Thursday’s game in the fifth inning due to back spasms. He has been ruled day-to-day.
Eduardo Nunez in June so far: 6-for-9 with one home run, four RBI, and one stolen base.
No one in Thursday’s Red Sox lineup outside of Nunez had more than one hit, but they still scored seven runs anyway.
Rookie right-hander Mike Shawaryn could have made his major league debut Thursday in relief of Weber, but Sox manager Alex Cora decided not to use him in a close game.
Finishing off a seven-game road trip with a sweep is always nice, and now the Red Sox will head back home winners of their last four for a decently important four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.
As things stand now, the Rays sit five games ahead of Boston in the American League East standings, so these next three days present a fine opportunity for the Red Sox to gain some ground in their own division.
Right-hander Rick Porcello will get the start for Boston in the series opener Friday, while fellow righty Yonny Chirinos will do the same for Tampa Bay.
Porcello struggled mightily in his last time out against the Yankees, but that was coming off a nine-start stretch in which the New Jersey native posted a 3.72 ERA over 56 innings of work.
In 29 career starts against the Rays, Porcello owns a lifetime 3.42 ERA in 187 innings pitched.
Opposite Porcello, Chirinos has started six of the 12 games he has appeared in for Tampa Bay this season, putting up an ERA of 3.25 over that stretch.
In four previous meetings against Boston, two of which were starts, the 25-year-old owns a career 4.24 ERA in a 17 inning sample size.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT. Red Sox looking to extend their winning streak to five.