After snapping a three-game skid with a 10-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, the Red Sox fell flat once again on Wednesday, dropping a 6-3 contest to fall back to 45-41 on the season.
Making his 18th start of the season for Boston in the middle game of this three-game series was Chris Sale, who capped off his month of June with two subpar outings against these Blue Jays and the Chicago White Sox.
That trend continued in his first action of July, as the left-hander surrendered five runs, all earned, on a season-high nine hits, two walks, and one HBP to go along with just five strikeouts on the night.
All five of those runs came courtesy of three different home run balls, with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, and Brandon Drury taking Sale deep in this one.
Gurriel Jr. struck first in the bottom half of the third, putting his team on the board right after Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded into a 1-2-3 double play with a 406-foot solo shot off a 1-0 93 MPH fastball on the inner half of the plate.
Jansen made Sale pay for walking Justin Smoak with one out in the fourth by launching his sixth homer of the year, a 421-foot shot to deep left field on a first-pitch 95 MPH fastball from Sale.
That dinger knotted things up at 3-3, and it seemed as though Sale would be able to escape the sixth unscathed following another GIDP to erase a leadoff HBP.
Unfortunately for the Florida native, a Rowdy Tellez two-out single brought Brandon Drury to the plate for the third time, and he unloaded on a 1-1 91 MPH heater down the heart of the plate by depositing it 408 feet over the center field wall.
The Blue Jays went up 5-3 on that booming shot, and Sale’s evening quickly came to a close before Drury had even crossed home.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 104 (69 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seamer more than 44% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing one swing and miss and topping out at 96.5 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez, not Sandy Leon, was behind the plate.
Falling to 3-8 with his ERA jumping up to 4.04 on the season, the first half of Sale’s 2019 did not go unexpected. Inconsistent would be a better way to put it. He’ll look to begin the second half of the year on a more positive note in his next time out, which should come against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first series out of the All-Star break.
In relief of Sale, Marcus Walden came on with one out to get in the sixth, got that, and worked his way around a one-out walk in a scoreless seventh as well.
Finally, Steven Wright got the call for the eighth, yielded one run on a sacrifice fly from Freddy Galvis to add on another run to the deficit at 6-3, and that would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Blue Jays right-hander Jacob Waguespack after fellow righty David Phelps served as Toronto’s opener and tossed a scoreless first.
Fast forward to the third, Rafael Devers got the scoring started for his team with a two-out, two-run single off Waguespack, plating Mookie Betts and Brock Holt from second and third to make it a 2-0 game early.
An inning later, Christian Vazquez came through with two outs this time around, taking the first pitch he saw from the Jays right-hander, a 90 MPH cutter on the outer half of the plate, and sending his 13th big fly of the season 408 feet to dead center.
Vazquez’s monstrous blast gave the Sox a 3-1 advantage, but it would be the last run they scored all night.
Oh sure, they had their chances, especially in the seventh with one out and runners on second and third in a 5-3 game for the pinch-hitting Eduardo Nunez following a Michael Chavis double.
New Toronto reliever Daniel Hudson held his own though, getting Nunez to fly out to left and fanning Mookie Betts on six pitches to kill any shot of a rally.
In the eighth, Hudson stranded J.D. Martinez at first after he reached on a two-out single, and Blue Jays closer Ken Giles needed just 10 pitches to retire Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Chavis in order in the ninth, all but wrapping up the 6-3 loss for Boston.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and left five men on base.
On the day he was named an All-Star for the second time in his big league career, Xander Bogaerts picked up his first ever Golden Sombrero by punching out four times Wednesday.
During his seven-game hitting streak, Rafael Devers is slashing .516/.531/.935 with two homers and 10 RBI.
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
In his last three starts, Chris Sale has posted a 7.02 ERA over 16 2/3 innings pitched.
The Red Sox are 6-12 in games started by Chris Sale this season.
Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game series on Thursday.
Right-hander Hector Velazquez is set to get the ball for Boston, while fellow righty Marcus Stroman is expected to do the same for Toronto.
With Brian Johnson on the shelf due to “non-baseball” reasons, Velazquez has taken over the fifth spot in the Sox’ rotation for the time being.
As a starter this season, the 30-year-old is 1-3 with a 6.41 ERA and .239 batting average against over 19 2/3 innings of work.
In five career appearances (two starts) at Rogers Centre, Velazquez owns a lifetime 2.57 ERA and .292 batting average against over a small seven inning sample size.
Stroman, meanwhile, has already faced the Red Sox twice this year, and has only allowed one earned run in those two starts and 12 innings pitched. The Blue Jays are 2-0 in those games.
In his last start against the Kansas City Royals this past Saturday, Stroman left early with a cramp in his left pectoral muscle, so it will be worth seeing if that has any impact on Toronto’s ace.
First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:07 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for the series win.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.