After a series win over the Minnesota Twins and an off day on Thursday, the Red Sox opened their final homestand before heading to London with a 7-5, 10-inning, walk-off victory in the first of three against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday to improve to 42-35 on the season.
Making his 16th start of the season for Boston was Chris Sale, who saw his run of consecutive double-digit strikeout performances end at four in this one.
Tossing just five full innings Friday, the left-hander yielded four runs, three of which were earned, on seven hits, two walks, and one HBP to go along with eight punchouts on the night.
Right from the jump, it looked as though Sale was not going to be at his sharpest. That much was evident in how he lost an 11-pitch matchup to the very first hitter he faced iin Toronto leadoff man Eric Sogard.
Back-to-back walks in the same inning, Sale’s only two of the night, eventually led to the Blue Jays tacking on their first two runs on a two-out, two-run single off the bat of Freddy Galvis.
Another two reached base in the second, but nothing came out of it before more trouble arose in the top half of the third, where a simple grounder from Teoscar Hernandez should have gone for the first out of the frame, but instead was misplayed by Eduardo Nunez over at third.
Two pitches later, Randal Grichuk mashed on a 1-0 87 MPH changeup and sent it 379 feet to left field, making it a 4-0 contest.
If there was any solace, it would be that Sale retired nine of the last 12 Blue Jays he faced leading into the middle of the fifth, which is the point where his outing came to an underwhelming end.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 101 (65 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly 40% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing two swings and misses and topping out at 95.6 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.
Ultimately hit with the no-decision while raising his ERA up to 3.59, Sale will look for improved results in his next time out, which should come against his former club in the Chicago White Sox next Wednesday.
In relief of Sale, Colten Brewer got the first call to kick off the sixth inning, and he worked a scoreless frame before allowing two of the first three in the seventh to reach.
So, in came the left-hander Josh Taylor, and he, with the help of Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt, escaped the jam thanks to a smoothly-turned 6-4-3 double play.
From there, Taylor also fanned a pair in the eighth before Ryan Brasier came on for him, and he, in a one-run game his team was trailing in, surrendered singles to the first two men he faced but managed to get out of it by getting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to fly out to right.
Matt Barnes, after the Sox tied things up in their half of the eighth, kept this contest tied with a 1-2-3 ninth, and Brandon Workman did the same while also picking up his sixth winning decision with a scoreless 10th.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against rookie right-hander Trent Thornton, who had never pitched at Fenway Park nor against Boston prior to Friday.
Falling behind by four runs early on is never ideal, but Brock Holt got the scoring started for his side and began to chip away at that deficit by driving in Andrew Benintendi from third with a third inning RBI sacrifice fly hit deep enough to center.
Fast forward all the way to the seventh, after Toronto had regained their initial four-run advantage, and Mookie Betts would wind up being the catalyst for a three-run rally, as his one-out triple off Thornton would mark the Blue Jays starter’s final pitch of the evening.
With left-handed reliever Tim Mayza entered into this contest, Benintendi greeted him by plating Betts and reaching first on an RBI single to the opposite field. 5-2.
Another pitching change that saw right-hander Joe Biagini didn’t make much of a difference, as Xander Bogaerts scored Benintendi all the way from first with a line-drive RBI double that rolled all the way to the wall by the bullpens in right field. 5-3.
A wild pitch from Joe Biagini allowed Bogaerts to advance to third, and JD Martinez capitalized on that mistake by driving in the run on a ground ball single back up the middle. 5-4.
An inning later, and the one-out three-bagger was the Red Sox’ friend yet again, this time with Jackie Bradley Jr. collecting his first of the season against David Phelps.
Rafael Devers, who was out of Friday’s lineup due to tightening his right hamstring in Minnesota on Wednesday, came on to pinch-hit for Eduardo Nunez with the tying run just 90 feet away from home.
Swinging at the fifth pitch he saw from Phelps, an 81 MPH knuckle-curveball, after taking the first four, the budding infielder came through big time, as his RBI single through the left side of the infield gave Bradley Jr. more than enough time to score from third and knot this one up at five runs a piece.
And finally, in the 10th, down to their final out with Marco Hernandez at first and right-hander Jordan Romano on the hill, Christian Vazquez, who first pinch-hit for Sandy Leon in the eighth, activated his clutch gene and sent the Fenway Faithful home happy by blasting his ninth home run of the year on a 3-2, 93 MPH fastball.
Per Statcast, Vazquez’s walk-off bomb traveled approximately 403 feet over everything in right field and had an exit velocity of 102.4 MPH. That won this series opener for the Red Sox by a final score of 7-5.
Some notes from this win:
The Red Sox started Friday 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and finished 3-for-their-last-3.
From Red Sox Stats:
The Red Sox are 8-1 in their last nine games and have outscored opponents 60-30 in that span.
Quite a way to start a six-game homestand, and the Red Sox will be looking for more in the second of three against the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.
Left-hander Brian Johnson is set to get the ball for Boston, while Toronto has yet to name a starting pitcher.
Since being activated from the injured list on June 14th, Johnson has surrendered a total of two earned runs over two appearances, one being a start against the Baltimore Orioles last Sunday and the other a relief outing against the Twins this past Wednesday.
In his career against the Blue Jays, the 28-year-old owns a lifetime 7.15 ERA over six games (four starts) and 22 2/3 innings of work.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for their third straight win.