After dropping their penultimate game of the year with a 9-4 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, the Red Sox bounced back and wrapped up their 2019 season in style, as they walked off the O’s in nine innings in a 5-4 victory on Sunday.
Making his 34th and final start of the season for Boston on Sunday was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered the weekend just one winning decision of 20 and 3 2/3 innings shy of 200.
Tossing seven full innings to surpass that 200-mark on the season, the left-hander surrendered three runs, all of which were earned against his former club on four hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the afternoon.
All three of those Baltimore tallies came in the top half of the third, when with one out and runners on the corners, back-to-back RBI knocks from Hanser Alberto and Austin Hays got the Orioles on the board first.
One mound visit from pitching coach Dana LeVangie later, and Rodriguez allowed the third run of the frame to come in on a fielder’s choice out off the bat of Trey Mancini.
Other than that bit of trouble though, the Venezuela native settled in nicely from the beginning of the fourth inning on, retiring 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced leading into the middle of the seventh, the point in which his outing came to an impressive close with an emphatic six-pitch punchout of Richie Martin.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 115 (71 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball nearly 48% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing 14 swings and misses and topping out at 95 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.
Ultimately unable to get that vaunted 20th win due to what transpired later on, Rodriguez finishes his fourth full season with the Red Sox with a 19-6 record, a 3.91 ERA, and a career-high 231 strikeouts over 34 outings and 203 1/3 total innings pitched.
In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes came on for one final time in the eighth with a brand new one-run lead to protect, and he could not do that, as he allowed the game-tying run, which was unearned, to cross the plate on a two-out RBI single from Jonathan Villar.
No 20th win for Rodriguez, all while Barnes was charged with his eighth blown save of 2019.
And in the ninth, Brandon Workman fanned the only three Orioles he faced on just 15 pitches to send this one to the bottom half of the inning with a 4-4 stalemate intact, and that eventually earned him his 10th and final winning decision.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against an old friend in Orioles right-hander Chandler Shepherd, who was with the PawSox up until May of this year before being designated for assignment.
Kicking off the scoring in the third just as Baltimore did, the Boston bats quickly responded from an early three-run hole by plating two of their own on back-to-back one-out, run-scoring hits courtesy of Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers.
Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and a leadoff walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts, single from J.D. Martinez, and another walk drawn by Mitch Moreland brought Christian Vazquez to the plate in a one-run game with the bases full.
Up against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong, Vazquez delivered with a line-drive RBI single to left to drive in Bogaerts and knot things up at three runs apiece.
An inning later, it was the top of the lineup getting things done once more, this time with Devers reaching base with a one-out double off Evan Phillips, his 200th hit of the season, and Bogaerts scoring him on an RBI single to the opposite field. 4-3.
That probably should have been good enough to get Rodriguez his 20th win, but as already mentioned, the Orioles rallied and tied things up in their half of the eighth.
In the bottom half of that eighth, it looked as though the Sox had jumped in front again, as Jackie Bradley Jr. crushed an 0-1, 95 MPH heater from Mychal Givens with two outs and Brock Holt on at first.
Instead of mashing his 22nd homer of the year though, Bradley Jr. was downright robbed by Stevie Wilkerson in right field, as the O’s outfielder sprawled out to take away what surely was a two-run shot. The .980 xBA on that line drive is quite evident of that statement.
So, the two sides headed into the ninth still in a 4-4 tie, and after Brandon Workman did what he had to do in the top half, Betts did what he had to do to lead off the bottom half.
Yup, the reigning American League MVP drew a six-pitch walk off of Dillon Tate in what very well could have been his last plate appearance as a Red Sox.
That brought Devers up to the plate for a fifth time, and all he did was rip a single through the right side of the infield. One that was certainly good enough to advance the runner on base up to third, but as he is known to do, Betts caught the opposition off guard and made the trek towards the promised land.
By the time the right fielder Wilkerson caught on to this, Betts was well on his way to sliding safely into home, as the Red Sox came away with a 5-4 walk-off win in their final game of 2019.
Some notes from this win:
From Red Sox Notes:
From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:
From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:
So, the Red Sox finish their World Series-defending campaign with a final mark of 84-78, 19 games off the pace of the New York Yankees for the American League East crown and 12 games off the pace of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.
To say the 2019 season was underwhelming would be an understatement, but there was still plenty to remember and definitely plenty to reflect on and learn from.
As I have said before, there are plenty of questions surrounding this club headed into the offseason, and they’ll have about four weeks to get a head start on those discussions.
Will Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr. be traded? Will J.D. Martinez opt out of his current deal? Will Brock Holt be offered a new contract? These are all uncertainties at the moment, and only time will tell on how these issues are resolved.
That is for another time though. For now, it’s a good time to unpack, reflect, and say thanks.
Pitchers and catchers report in a little under five months.