RECAP: Chris Sale Has Career Night, but #RedSox Still Find a Way to Lose to Blue Jays in Extras.

Flashback to April 24th, and you’ll find that the Red Sox were walked off in Toronto in extras in the first game of that series. Why do I bring that up? Well, the same thing essentially happened last night. That’s right, the Red Sox opened up a three game series north of the border on Friday night, and once again, they were walked off by the Blue Jays in extra innings. This one took an inning longer than the first one though, and it did not involve Craig Kimbrel and Curtis Granderson.

How we got there: Chris Sale made his eighth start of the season last night, and as he usually does at the Rogers Centre, pitched a gem. The lefty tossed nine full innings, scattered three runs on six hits, walked none, and tied his career high in strikeouts with 15 on the night. It did not appear as if things were going to go Sale’s way in the beginning of this game, as he gave up the first of those three runs before recording a single out in the first inning. The Red Sox ace was getting hit fairly hard, and after the Blue Jays tacked on another run in the second, pitching coach Dana Levangie went out and had a lengthy conversation with both Sale and Sandy Leon. They must have come to the conclusion that the Blue Jays were stealing signs, because they went with multiple signs for the rest of the night, and Sale looked like a different pitcher.

At one point, the Florida native retired 15 straight Blue Jays before surrendering the game-tying home run to catcher Luke Maile in the seventh inning. Following that blip, Sale pitched two more scoreless innings. In the ninth, it looked like the Blue Jays were about to get the go-ahead run to third on a hard hit ball by Kevin Pillar, but a great throw from Andrew Benintendi to Brock Holt and an almost perfect relay from Holt to Eduardo Nunez got Pillar out at third for the second out of the inning.

After getting the next batter, Kendrys Morales, to ground out to end the frame and send this one to extra innings, Sale’s night would come to an end. Although he tossed nine innings, the 29-year-old did not factor in the decision. He finished the night with a season high 116 pitches, 85 of which went for strikes.

In extras, the Red Sox bullpen was not at their best. Matt Barnes kicked the bottom half of the 10th off by walking the first two batters he faced to put runners on first and second with no outs. How he got out of it I don’t know but he got Josh Donaldson to strike out in a huge spot with two outs in the inning to send things to the eleventh.

An inning later, Carson Smith had the best performance of any Red Sox reliever, as he recorded the first two outs of the inning before giving up a single to Kevin Pillar. That hit would not come back to bite the Texas native though, since he struck out the very next batter he faced on six pitches.

Another inning later, and this game came to an end quickly with Brian Johnson on the mound for the Red Sox. The lefty walked the first batter he saw on four straight balls. Not ideal. The very next pitch he threw was taken 418 feet to right center field by Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile.

As they say in Toronto, the Maile man always delivers, and he sent the Blue Jays home with a series opening win last night. To put it simply, Chris Sale deserved better. Not just from the bullpen, but from the lineup too.

For Brian Johnson, I can’t imagine Friday night’s performance helps his chances of staying up with the Red Sox. In ten games as a reliever, Johnson owns an ERA of 9.00 in 13 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .321 off of the lefty, so it’s difficult to justify keeping someone with those kind of numbers on the active roster.

Anyway, on the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup got the scoring started in the top of the first. Facing off against Blue Jays righty Aaron Sanchez, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi got on base right away in this one to put runners on first and third with no outs. After Benintendi stole second with JD Martinez at the plate, the third member of the Red Sox outfield scored Betts from third and advanced Benintendi from third on an RBI ground out.

Fast forward to the fourth, with the Red Sox trailing by one run, and Xander Bogaerts led the inning off by tying things up once again.

That 426 foot shot to center marked Bogaerts’ fourth of the season. Four batters later, with Brock Holt at first, Sandy Leon drove in a run in one of the most bizarre fashions you’ll see.

Technically ruled a strikeout, Leon was unfortunately not credited with an RBI on that play. What’s even funnier about it is that it was the last run the Red Sox scored all night. At one point, they went more than seven innings without a single hit. I’ll give credit where credit is due when I say the Blue Jays bullpen was stellar in the seven combined innings they tossed last night. They held the Red Sox lineup to essentially nothing once Aaron Sanchez departed in the sixth.

Next up for the Red Sox is a David Price v. Marco Estrada matchup later this afternoon. After all the carpal tunnel drama this past week, it will be interesting to see how Price responds today. Alex Cora had said that if his hand starts bothering him again, they have a plan to get Price out of the game right away and go to the bullpen. First pitch of the middle game of this series is scheduled for 4:07 PM ET. Like I said, should be…interesting.

 

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RECAP: Mookie Betts and Brock Holt Drive in All Four Runs for #RedSox as Losing Streak Comes to an End.

Finally, the three game losing streak is behind us. That’s right, the Red Sox won a baseball game last night, and although they did not do it in convincing fashion, it was a solid victory regardless.

Making his fourth start of the season, Eduardo Rodriguez put together a solid performance on the mound in Toronto. In 6 2/3 innings pitched, the lefty surrendered three runs on six hits and a walk, striking out three along the way.

Rodriguez ran into some trouble here and there throughout his start, but he limited the damage. The biggest mistake he made last night came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Jays third baseman Yangervis Solarte mashed a leadoff home run on the first pitch he saw. That put the Blue Jays up 3-2 at the time, but the Red Sox responded with two runs of their own an inning later, which ultimately led to the native of Venezuela picking up his third win of the season. By the time he got the hook with two outs in the seventh, Rodriguez was at 106 pitches, 66 of which went for strikes. He’ll be looking for his fourth next week against the Kansas City Royals.

In relief of ERod, Heath Hembree came on to finish things in the seventh and he struck out the only batter he faced. Joe Kelly tossed a scoreless eighth after that, and Craig Kimbrel rebounded from Tuesday night by picking up his sixth save of the season in a perfect inning of work. I think it’s safe to say the Red Sox bullpen is solid.

Offensively, Mookie Betts got the scoring started in the top of the first. On the third pitch of the game from Aaron Sanchez, Betts belted his seventh long ball of the year 402 feet over the wall in right field.

That leadoff home run from Betts marks his third of the season already and the 14th of his career. No other player in the history of the Red Sox has had more than 10. Betts would get in some more action later, but not before Brock Holt got involved in the fifth inning.

After Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian  Vazquez led the inning off with a pair of walks, Holt extended his hitting streak up to eight games with an RBI double to center field.

Off the bat, it looked like that ball could have been caught, but a slip up from left fielder Steve Pearce while he was pursuing the fly ball prevented that from happening. With Jackie Bradley Jr. scoring on the play, the Red Sox went up by a run for a half inning.

Since his eight game hitting streak began on April 14th, Holt is slashing .455/.455/.697 with one home run and six RBIs to go along with two straight three hit games. It’s been great to see Holt playing this way recently, especially with Xander Bogaerts still on the disabled list. If he keeps playing like this, I’ll be interested to see how Alex Cora works him into the lineup after Bogaerts returns this weekend.

Anyway, to put an exclamation point on this one, Mookie Betts delivered the biggest hit of the night in the seventh inning. Trailing by one with one out in the inning and a runner at first, Betts went yard for the second time, this time against Danny Barnes. (fast forward to :30 if you don’t want to see the first one again)

That 366 foot shot was Betts’ eighth of the season, and it put the Red Sox up 4-3, all but guaranteeing the team their 18th win in 23 games. Betts also owns an OPS of 1.192 after last night’s spectacle, best among American League outfielders.

After splitting the first two games of the series, it will be Chris Sale looking to go home with the series win later tonight. In the three starts he made at Rogers Centre last season, the lefty averaged 1.6 K’s per inning while maintaining an ERA of 0.00 in 22 innings pitched. He’ll be matched up against Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 PM ET.