Marco Hernandez Comes Through with Go-Ahead Home Run in Ninth Inning as Red Sox Complete Comeback with Tight 8-7 Win over Blue Jays

After dropping the middle game of this series in disappointing fashion on Wednesday, the Red Sox bounced back and celebrated their Independence Day with a comeback 8-7 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

Making his 21st appearance and eighth start of the season for Boston in the finale of this three-game set was Hector Velazquez, who hadn’t started a game since May 18th against the Houston Astros.

Working into just the third inning of this one, the right-hander yielded three runs, all earned, on five hits and two walks to go along with one lone strikeout on the night.

The first pair of those three runs came right away in the bottom half of the first, when following two two-out walks to load the bases for Toronto, Rowdy Tellez got his team on the board and gave them the lead with a two-run single up the middle off a 1-0, 87 MPH changeup from Velazquez.

An inning later, the Mexico native could sneak a 3-2, 92 MPH sinker past a red-hot Danny Jansen, as he led things off by blasting his seventh home run of the season to put the Blue Jays up 3-1.

Velazquez recovered nicely enough by retiring four of the next six hitters he faced after giving up that bomb, but his outing came to quick close with a one-out double off the bat of Justin Smoak in the third.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 50 (28 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball exactly 34% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing two swings and misses and topping out at 93.9 MPH while Sandy Leon was at the plate.

Eventually hit with the no-decision while his ERA on the season was bumped up to 5.65, Velazquez’s performance shows that the fifth spot in Boston’s rotation continues to be a legitimate issue. If Velazquez is to start again, expect that to come sometime after the All-Star break.

In relief of Velazquez, Colten Brewer came in with a runner on second and two outs to get in the third. He got out of the inning just fine, but the bottom of the fourth was a different story.

There, Jansen struck yet again, leading another frame off with his second big fly of the night to make it a 4-1 game.

Brandon Drury followed with a line-drive double, and two batters and one out later, Freddy Galvis took Brewer deep for his 15th of the year on a first-pitch, 95 MPH cutter down the heart of the plate, giving Toronto a five-run edge.

From the middle of the fifth inning up until the middle of the eighth, the Red Sox bullpen did settle in a bit, with Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier, and Matt Barnes combining for three scoreless frames, all while the Boston bats rallied to take a 7-6 lead going into Brandon Workman’s 41st appearance of the season.

A one-out double from Jansen in that eighth inning put the tying run in scoring position for the Jays, and after getting Drury to fly out to left, Workman was unable to do the same against Eric Sogard, as the Toronto leadoff man came through with what was at the time a game-tying RBI double to plate Jansen and knot this contest up at seven runs a piece. That marked the 18th blown save of the season for Boston relievers.

Fortunately for Workman, the right-hander was able to keep the stalemate intact by fanning Freddy Galvis on four pitches.

And in the ninth, with his team now in front 8-7, Workman worked his way around two one-out walks and notched his eighth winning decision of the year with the help of a quick Rafael Devers on a soft grounder from the pinch-hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Fielding the ball with his glove, Devers managed to make the transfer over to his right hand hastily enough so that the Blue Jays rookie was out on a bang-bang play over at first. \

That was the third out of the ninth, and that was how Thursday’s contest finished with a final score of 8-7.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Blue Jays right-hander Derek Law, serving as the opener in this one.

Starting the scoring for Boston was Rafael Devers, who extended his hitting streak to eight games with his 15th homer of the season with one out in the first inning, a 360-foot wall scraper that had an Expected Batting Average of .180, per Statcast.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, after Toronto had jumped out to a 6-1 lead and left-hander Thomas Pannone had been dealing, Mookie Betts turned out to be the catalyst for a six-run inning by drawing a leadoff walk, something he has made a habit of so far in 2019.

Two batters later, after Devers advanced Betts to third with a ground ball single, back-to-back RBI base knocks from Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez cut Boston’s deficit down to three and put runners at first and second.

Pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez could not advance Bogaerts nor Martinez against new Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza, but a wild pitch with Christian Vazquez at the plate moved both runners into scoring position and Vazquez drew a walk anyway to fill the bases for Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley Jr. came away with one RBI to make it a 6-4 contest, but could have had more had it not been for a fine defensive effort from Freddy Galvis at shortstop to snuff out Vazquez at second.

So, with two outs and runners once again at the corners, Michael Chavis had the chance to put his team ahead, and he did just that by punishing a 2-2, 87 MPH slider from Mayza and depositing it 391 feet into the right field seats for his 15th dinger of the season, this one a three-run shot that gave the Red Sox a one-run edge at 7-6. Six-run rally completed.

The Blue Jays did answer back in their half of the eighth to tie things back up at 7-7, but the Sox showed some more resiliency when they were down to what could have been their final three outs in the ninth.

With closer Ken Giles on the mound for Toronto, a strikeout of Michael Chavis would have brought Sandy Leon to the plate with one out in the frame, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided to go back to his bench, and in came Marco Hernandez for his first at-bat of the series.

Having never faced off against Giles before Thursday, Hernandez took the first pitch he saw from the right-hander, a 96 MPH fastball that went for a ball.

The very next pitch from Giles was another 96 MPH heater from Giles, the only difference being this one caught the outer edge of the plate, and Hernandez took full advantage of that by ripping it 348 feet down the left field line for his second home run of 2019.

Hernandez’s opposite field blast put the Red Sox ahead 8-7, and that would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

From’s Christopher Smith:

Red Sox pinch-hitters this season: 20-for-48 (.417) with four home runs and 14 RBI.

J.D. Martinez during his seven-game hitting streak: .467/.500/.767 with two home runs and six runs driven in.

Rafael Devers during his eight-game hitting streak: .558 batting average with four home runs and 12 RBI.

It certainly was not easy, but the Red Sox came away with a series over the Blue Jays to improve to 46-41 on the season.

Next up, the Sox head to Detroit to take on the 28-54 Tigers in their first stateside action since June 26th.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Boston, while fellow southpaw Gregory Soto will do the same for Detroit.

Back on April 24th, Rodriguez had one of his better starts of the season against the lowly Tigers, allowing just one earned run on two hits, three walks, and seven punchouts over six quality innings in a winning effort at Fenway Park.

In one previous start at Comerica Park, his first of the 2017 campaign, the 26-year-old surrendered four earned runs over five innings of work, eventually taking the loss.

Soto, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old rookie who has yet to pitch against the Red Sox in his young career

Through six starts in 2019, the lefty is 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA and 6.54 FIP over 21 1.3 innings pitched.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox looking to build some momentum going into the All-Star break.


Red Sox Bullpen Blows Another Save in 8-7 Meltdown Loss to Blue Jays

After battling their way back from a pair of four-run deficits in a 7-5 extra innings win on Friday, the Red Sox essentially did the exact opposite less than 24 hours later, as they blew a late six-run lead and fell to the Toronto Blue Jays by a final score of 8-7 on Saturday.

Making his second start of the season for Boston in this one was Brian Johnson, who worked in relief his last time out and ended up taking the loss in that 17-inning marathon against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

This time around, the left-hander put together a solid performance, yielding just one unearned run while scattering four hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over five solid innings.

That lone Toronto tally came in the top half of the fourth, when with no outs and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at second following a leadoff single and a wild pitch from Johnson, a grounder off the bat of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. could not be handled cleanly by an off-balanced Xander Bogaerts, and he wound up unable to make a clean throw over to Michael Chavis at first, which gave Guerrero enough time to score his side’s first run of the afternoon.

Other than that one mishap, Johnson managed to sit down five of the last six Blue Jays hitters he faced leading into the middle of the fifth, where his outing came to a close.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (50 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball more than 37% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing two swings and misses and topping out at 91.6 MPH with the pitch.

Unable to pick up the winning decision despite a worthy performance of one, Johnson will look to lower his ERA of 6.43 even further in his next time out, which at the moment, probably won’t happen until the Red Sox return from London.

In relief of Johnson, Mike Shawaryn entered the sixth with a five-run cushion and got things off to an encouraging start by retiring the side in order.

From there, though, is where this one began to fall apart for Boston. That would be because Shawaryn, in his second frame of relief, gave up three straight one-out hits, with the last two being home runs from Freddy Galvis and Rowdy Tellez to cut Toronto’s deficit to two.

Marcus Walden was inserted with the bases empty and two outs to get in the seventh, and he walked the first man he saw in Luke Maile.

Three batters later, with Maile having moved up to third on a Guerrero Jr. single, Walden complicated matters further by mislocating 1-1 slider that got past Christian Vazquez and allowed the runner from third to come in and score with Gurriel Jr. at the plate to make it a 6-5 contest. Walden was able to escape the inning with that slim lead still in tact, setting up Matt Barnes in the eighth.

There, the frequently used righty saw that one-run lead disappear on a one-out RBI single from Cavan Biggio that drove in Teoscar Hernandez from second and knotted this one up at six.

That stalemate would not last long, unfortunately, as Barnes walked the bases loaded to make way for Ryan Brasier, who proceeded to walk in the go-ahead run himself on four straight out of the strike zone against Blue Jays leadoff man Eric Sogard.

Another free pass drawn by Guerrero Jr., the fourth straight given up by Red Sox pitching, gave his side a two-run edge before Brasier stopped the bleeding by getting Gurriel Jr. to pop out to first.

And finally, Josh Smith struck out the side in order in the ninth to keep Boston within the two runs they trailed by, although the damage had already been done.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was first matched up against right-hander Derek Law, serving as the opener for the Blue Jays on Saturday.

Jackie Bradley Jr. broke open the scoring for Boston in the second inning, where with JD Martinez at second and Brock Holt at first, the center fielder ripped an opposite field two-run double, plating both runners to make it a 2-0 game early on.

Michael Chavis added on to that while simultaneously extending his hitting streak to 11 games by driving in Bradley Jr. on a softy-hit RBI single back up the middle. That led to a pitching change that saw right-hander Sam Gaviglio take over for Law.

Walking the second hitter he faced in Mookie Betts to put runners on first and second, Andrew Benintendi made Gaviglio pay with a two-run, opposite field double on an 0-1 84 MPH slider that put the Sox up by five.

Friday night’s hero Christian Vazquez padded that lead in the bottom half of the third with his 10th home run of the season, a 340 foot shot just past Pesky’s Pole in right field that gave the Red Sox a six-run advantage.

With that large of a lead, you would figure with the way they’ve been playing lately, the defending World Series champions had this one in the bag. Sure, it’s easy to blame the bullpen for the way things turned out on Saturday, but to go hitless from the bottom of the fifth until the last half of the ninth isn’t great either.

In that ninth inning, trailing by two runs, Mookie Betts provided some life by drawing a one-out walk off Blue Jays closer Ken Giles after the pinch-hitting Rafael Devers fanned in the prior at-bat.

Betts managed to steal second off Giles, but Andrew Benintendi was unable to advance him any further, as he too struck out.

Down to their final out, it looked as though Xander Bogaerts was about to wrap this contest up by flying out to shallow left field, but with the way Toronto was playing him in the shift, said ball fell between Galvis and Hernandez and bounced over the wall into foul territory for a ground-rule double to score Betts from second.

Now only trailing by one, JD Martinez came to the plate representing the go=ahead run.

With the chance to send the Fenway crowd home with a walk-off win for the second consecutive day, the Sox slugger came up swinging on a rising 2-2 98 MPH fastball from Giles, but could not come through with any contact, as he fanned to put this disappointing 8-7 loss to bed.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox have blown 15 saves this season, the most in the American League and second-most in all of baseball behind only the New York Mets.

Per FanGraphs, the Red Sox had a 97.4% chance to win this game after Teoscar Hernandez flew out to second for the first out of the seventh inning.

From the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll look to bounce back from this ugly loss in the finale of this three-game weekend set on Sunday.

Right-hander Rick Porcello is set to get the ball for Boston, while fellow righty Marcus Stroman will do the same for Toronto.

Fresh off seven scoreless innings and a win in his last time out against the Twins, Porcello has posted an ERA of 2.75 through three June starts.

In 26 career outings (25 starts) against the Jays, the 31-year-old owns a lifetime 5.39 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 148 2/3 innings pitched.

Stroman, meanwhile, picked up the win the last time he faced off against the Sox back on May 21st at Rogers Centre, where he allowed one earned run over six quality innings of work.

In his career at Fenway Park, the Duke University product is 1-2 with a 3.70 ERA in four starts and 24 1/3 total innings.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for the series win.