After coming from behind in a 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, the Red Sox opened the official second half of the 2019 season by nearly completing the three-game sweep over the South Siders, but instead blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning on Wednesday and fell by a final score of 8-7 in their final contest before heading to London for the weekend.
Making his 17th start of the season for Boston, Chris Sale was not his usual self to begin things in the series finale, but he settled in towards the end.
Tossing six full innings in this one, the left-hander surrendered five runs, all earned, on six hits, two HBPs, and one walk to go along with exactly 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.
All five of those Chicago runs came within Sale’s first three frames of work, with the first four batters of the ballgame all reaching base safely while plating their side’s first two runs.
In the third, a leadoff home run off the bat of backstop James McCann, as well as a two-out RBI infield single from Ryan Cordell to score Jon Jay, who was hit by a pitch, from third made it a 5-2 game. The thing is, that fifth run never would have crossed the plate had Michael Chavis turned his attention towards home instead of focusing on the first base umpire after Cordell beat out that infield single. But, a rookie made a rookie mistake, and Jay took full advantage.
Following that whole sequence, Sale locked in and proceeded to retire the next 10 hitters he faced in order leading into the middle of the sixth inning, the point in which his outing came to a close on a much more positive note than it seemed destined to earlier.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 102 (71 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball more than 43% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing 10 swings and misses and topping out at 97.4 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.
Hit with another no-decision, Sale’s streak of regular season starts without a win at Fenway Park now stands at 12, with the last one coming on July 11th, 2018 against the Texas Rangers. He’ll look for better overall results and to lower his 3.82 ERA in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays next weekend.
In relief of Sale, Marcus Walden came into the seventh with his side in a two-run hole, and he added on to that deficit by giving up one run on a Jose Abreu one-out RBI single in his lone inning of work.
Steven Wright, making his 2019 season debut after being activated from the restricted list on Tuesday, maneuvered around a one-out, runners on the corners in a two-run game situation by getting the pinch-hitting Yonder Alonso to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
And in the ninth, after the Red Sox had climbed their way back and taken a 7-6 lead in the bottom half of the previous inning, Matt Barnes gave it all away, blowing his sixth save and his team’s 16th by serving up a go-ahead, two-run homer to the slugging Abreu on a 2-2, 97 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
That put the White Sox up 8-7, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Chicago right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who just so happened to be opposite Sale the last time these two clubs met up in May.
Trailing by three runs before they even had the chance to take their first at-bats, JD Martinez got the scoring started for Boston by pulling them back to within one run on his 17th big fly of the season, a 400-foot two-run shot in the first inning to plate both Rafael Devers and himself.
Fast forward to the third, and it was Devers getting himself involved yet again, this time leading the inning off with an opposite field double and coming in to score four batters later on a wild pitch from Lopez with Michael Chavis at the dish. 5-3.
In the seventh, Martinez struck once more with a two-out RBI double to right-center off left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer, this one driving in Devers all the way from first to pull Boston back to within two runs at 6-4.
Finally, in the eighth, with new reliever Evan Marshall in for Chicago, Eduardo Nunez reached base safely on a line-drive single up the middle.
Two batters later, after Brock Holt pinch-hit for Sandy Leon and advanced Nunez up to third on a tough, pop fly ground-rule double and was replaced by Brian Johnson, yes, Brian Johnson, as a pinch-runner, Mookie Betts made things interesting against White Sox closer Alex Colome with a single grounder to third.
Going on any sort of contact, Nunez hustled in from third and managed to evade the tag attempt from McCann to score his team’s fifth run and make it a one-run contest.
A soft grounder from Devers moved up both Betts and Johnson into scoring position at second and third for Xander Bogaerts with two outs in the frame.
On the fifth pitch he saw from Colome, the soon to be 2019 All-Star drilled a clutch single right back up the middle, giving Johnson and Betts plenty of time to come in and put the Red Sox up 7-6.
It seemed crucial at the time, but as already mentioned, the White Sox responded with two runs of their own in their half of the ninth, while the Boston bats went down quietly in theirs despite Jackie Bradley Jr. drawing a leadoff walk in what would turn out to be a crushing 8-7 defeat.
Some notes from this loss:
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:
The Red Sox went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and left 10 men on base.
Rafael Devers’ last seven games: .538/.556/.846 with one home run, five doubles, and four runs driven in.
So, the Red Sox seem to be making blowing late leads a recurring theme. There was that loss against the Blue Jays this past Saturday, that 17-inning against the Twins on June 18th, and that loss against the Rangers on June 10th, to name a few.
The Red Sox also lead the American League with 16 blown saves on the year. That is far from ideal.
I’ve already written about how president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs to go out and acquire a closer, because clearly the current crop of Red Sox relievers are going to burn out pretty soon, if they have not already, a la Matt Barnes.
Wednesday was the last time the Red Sox will play a game at Fenway Park until after the All-Star break on July 12th.
Now, it’s on to London, where Boston will be hosting the New York Yankees in a historic two-game weekend set across the pond, which will mark the first time Major League Baseball has ever been played in Europe.
Right-hander Rick Porcello and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the starting nods for the Red Sox, while New York has only announced one starter, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, for Saturday’s contest.
Currently sitting nine games back of the Yankees for first in the American League East, this weekend presents a huge opportunity for the Red Sox to jump start the second half of their 2019 season.
First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:10 PM EDT on FOX. Red Sox looking to make some history in England.