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: Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts Both Go Yard as #RedSox Win Fourth Straight.

Making a quick stop in South Beach, the Red Sox looked to take advantage of their matchup against a Marlins team not expected to do much this season. In the first of their two game set, Brian Johnson was matched up against Trevor Richards, who was making his Major League debut for Miami.

Like Hector Velazquez, Johnson is most likely an injury fill-in in the Red Sox rotation. The former Florida Gator got the job done on Monday, as he allowed one earned run over six full innings pitched, striking out five along the way. There were times where it looked like the Marlins were about to get to Johnson, since they did reach base eight times on him, but the southpaw avoided any major damage. The only run he gave up came on a solo shot off the bat of third baseman Brian Anderson in the second inning, which put the Marlins up 1-0 at the time. When he departed after retiring the side in the sixth, Johnson had thrown 82 pitches, 49 of which went for strikes.

The Red Sox only needed two relief pitchers to wrap up the win last night. Heath Hembree tossed a scoreless seventh inning, and Marcus Walden allowed two runs to score while pitching the last two innings. Not a great look for Walden, honestly. He has got hit pretty hard in the two games he has pitched in, but he was able to finish the game. The Red Sox did not have to go to Craig Kimbrel in this one, that’s always  a good thing when you can save him for more appearances later in the season.

Offensively, the Red Sox lineup had its best day of the season so far. They scored a season high seven runs on 12 hits and three walks. After Trevor Richards held them scoreless through the first three innings, the bats woke up in the fourth. With two outs in the inning, Xander Bogaerts got the rally started with an infield single down the third base line. Eduardo Nunez then drove Bogaerts in from first on an RBI double. A Jackie Bradley Jr. walk set up Christian Vazquez for an ideal RBI opportunity with runners on first and second. On the first pitch he saw, the catcher ripped a line drive down the third base line, scoring both Nunez and Bradley for his first RBIs of the season.

In the very next inning, the Red Sox tacked on two more runs to up their total to five. With one out and Andrew Benintendi at first thanks to his first hit of the season, Hanley Ramirez did some damage. The former Marlin must enjoy playing in Miami, because he looked really comfortable at the plate and at first base last night.

On a 1-1 slider, Ramirez took Richards deep to left field for his first long ball of the season, putting his team up by four runs.

Ramirez guaranteed a 30 HR, 30 SB season earlier in Spring Training, and he’s only 29 home runs and 28 stolen bases away from that now with the performance he put on last night.

Hanley wouldn’t be the only one to hit his first home run of the year. Fast forward to the top of the seventh, and Mookie Betts went yard to left field as well. He golfed it to put the Red Sox up by five at the time.

The last run the Red Sox scored came two innings later. Wanting to add to his team high of four RBI’s, Rafael Devers ripped a double to center for his second hit of the game, scoring Hanley Ramirez from from second after he stole his second base of the season, and all but guaranteeing the win for his club.

That makes four straight wins for the Red Sox, and by all means they should be 5-0. That’s in the past though, so I’ll take 4-1. Through their first go around in the rotation, Red Sox starters own a line of 30 IP, 22 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, and 28 K’s. With two-fifths of their regular starters missing, those are some impressive numbers.

Chris Sale gets the start an hour earlier than usual tonight. He’ll be squaring off against Marlins “ace” Jose Urena. First pitch is at 6:10 PM.

Also, almost forgot to mention the fact that the greatest Designated Hitter of all time was in attendance for last night’s win.