The Red Sox lost more than just their manager to COVID-19 on Thursday. Hours after Alex Cora tested positive for the virus, Boston came up just short and fell to the Blue Jays by a final score of 3-2 at Fenway Park. With the win, Toronto takes the three-game series and drops the Sox to 6-7 on the season.
Tanner Houck, making his third start of the year, allowed two earned runs on three hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon. The right-hander retired six of the first seven batters he faced before running into some trouble in the top of the third.
There, Houck issued a leadoff walk to Gosuke Katoh and one-out single to Raimel Tapia that put runners at first and second base for Bo Bichette, who drove in his side’s first run on an RBI single through the right side of the infield. After advancing to third on that base hit, Tapia himself scored on a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sacrifice fly.
Faced with an early 2-0 deficit, Houck was able to rebound as he stranded Bichette at second base before retiring the side in order in both the fourth and fifth innings to end his day on a positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 71 (47 strikes), Houck turned to his four-seam fastball nearly half of the time he was on the mound Thursday. The 25-year-old hovered around 94-96 mph with the pitch and induced a game-high six swings-and-misses with it.
Houck’s next appearance will come out of the bullpen in St. Petersburg this Sunday, as he is ineligible to pitch in Toronto next week due to his unvaccinated status.
In relief of Houck, Ryan Brasier received the first call from acting manager Will Venable out of the Boston bullpen in the sixth inning. The righty yielded a one-out double to Guerrero Jr. and a two-out walk to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He then got Matt Chapman to lift a 43-foot popup that was altered by the wind and fell in between Brasier, Christian Vazquez, and Travis Shaw, allowing Guerrero Jr. to score all the way from second.
Austin Davis came on for Brasier and recorded the final out of the sixth while also getting the first two outs of the seventh before issuing a two-out single to Tapia. Hirokazu Sawamura was then called upon to take over Davis, and he escaped any damage by getting Guerrero Jr. to fly out to center field.
Sawamura continued on in the eighth and put up another zero there, while Phillips Valdez did the same to hold the Jays to three runs on the day.
On the other side of things, a J.D. Martinez-less Red Sox lineup was once again held in check by a Blue Jays starter. Jose Berrios had the honor of doing so on Wednesday, and Kevin Gausman picked up where he left off on Thursday.
Facing off against a familiar foe in Gausman, the Sox were held to a pair of singles through four innings. In the fifth, Vazquez attempted to stretch a one-out single off the Green Monster into a double and was instead gunned down by Tapia for the final out of the frame.
Boston threatened again in the sixth when Christian Arroyo advanced to second base on a Trevor Story groundout, but was left stranded there after Devers grounded out to the catcher.
Gausman maneuvered his way around two more base hits in the seventh and made quick work of the bottom third of the Sox’ order in the eighth.
Down to their final three outs in the bottom of the ninth, Story led things off with a hard-hit single that at long last knocked Gausman out of the game. That proved to be the spark Boston needed.
With Jordan Romano now on the mound for Toronto, Devers drew a walk that moved Story into scoring position. Bogaerts scored the Sox’ first run by driving in Story on an RBI double down the left field line.
An Alex Verdugo groundout to the right side of the infield pushed across Devers and advanced Bogaerts — representing the tying run — up to third base. Dalbec then laced a 102.7 mph groundout that Bogaerts could do nothing with.
It was now all up to Jackie Bradley Jr., who got ahead in the count at 3-0 but ultimately grounded out to first base and lost a footrace to Guerrero Jr. for the third and final out.
Just like that, the rally was dead, and the Blue Jays just barely held on for a series-clinching, 3-2 victory.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position on Thursday and left four runners on base as a team. They scored a total of five runs in this series.
Phillips Valdez has yet to allow a run through his first six appearances and eight innings pitched of the 2022 season. He has struck out 10 of the 28 batters he has faced thus far.
In their first homestand of the year, the Red Sox went 3-4 and find themselves back under .500 once again.
Next up: On the road
The Red Sox will now embark upon a 10-game road trips that includes stops in St. Petersburg, Toronto, and Baltimore.
For Friday’s series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field, it will be right-hander Michael Wacha getting the ball for Boston and fellow righty Corey Kluber doing the same for Tampa Bay.
First pitch from Tropicana Field on Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)