Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
It’s over. The Red Sox’ ten-game losing streak, the third-longest ever by a defending World Series champion, is finally over. But it wasn’t a walk in the park.
The pitching matchup didn’t look favorable for the Red Sox with Clay Buchholz (2-4, 6.32 ERA) squaring off against Ervin Santana (4-2, 3.42 ERA), and the early innings reflected that. The Red Sox did get the first run of the game, coming on a sacrifice fly by Jackie Bradley Jr. following a leadoff triple by Grady Sizemore, but with the way Buchholz was pitching, it was clear a storm was coming.
And a storm certainly came. Buchholz had walked three batters in the first two innings but had avoided any damage; however, that all changed in the third inning. With one out and two runners on base (both having reached on walks), Justin Upton took a low fastball for a two-run double to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Upton would come across to score later in the inning on an RBI single with Gerald Laird, but despite having scored three runs in the inning, the Braves still missed a big opportunity, leaving the bases loaded.
However, they would continue to tack runs on the scoreboard in the fourth inning. A walk, a double, and another walk would net the Braves a run and put a finish to Clay Buchholz’s outing (he finished with a career-high eight walks in three-plus innings). Burke Badenhop would enter the game, and while he got the Red Sox out of the inning, he did allow both inherited runners to score with the damage coming on another Justin Upton double and an Andrelton Simmons single, putting the Braves on top 6-1.
Things were looking very bad for the Red Sox, with an eleven-game losing streak well within the realm of possibility, and the fifth inning didn’t look to be a turning point until a two-out, bases-empty walk by pinch-hitter Daniel Nava. A Brock Holt double and Xander Bogaerts walk gave the Red Sox a bases loaded opportunity with two outs, but given the previous ten games, it was still hard to expect much from an anemic Red Sox lineup.
That was when everything changed, though. Dustin Pedroia went down 0-2 in the count, but kept fouling off pitches until he received a high fastball from Santana. Pedroia smacked a line drive to left field, falling just in front of Braves’ left fielder Justin Upton for a two-run single to cut the Braves’ lead to just three runs. Then, as he has been so many times in the past, David Ortiz came up and changed the entire game for the Red Sox. Ortiz took an outside breaking ball by Santana and crushed a three-run homer into the left-center bleachers to tie the game at 6-6 and re-arrange every modicum of momentum to favor the Red Sox.
But just as the Red Sox gained their momentum, they lost it all when the rain came. In the middle of the sixth inning, a rain delay paused the game for about an hour-and-a-half. When the weather was good enough to resume play, Edward Mujica (he of the 7.00 ERA) came in and shut the Braves down for an inning, transferring the momentum back to the Red Sox offense, where they would get to work on another rally.
With one out in the inning, a Brock Holt single and walks to Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia loaded the bases for the Red Sox. In yet another key situation, David Ortiz came to the plate and while it was less dramatic than his fifth-inning efforts, he got the job done. Ortiz lifted a high fly ball to right field, scoring Holt from third and giving the Red Sox a one-run lead. However, the lead didn’t really even feel real, much less safe, until A.J. Pierzynski poked a seeing-eye ground ball into center field to score another run and push the Red Sox’ lead to 8-6.
From that point on, the Red Sox were faced with a challenge entirely different from most they had been dealt during the ten-game losing skid: preserving a lead. The Red Sox turned to Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, and Koji Uehara in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings respectively and, thankfully, each did their job. The relief corps were able to preserve the lead, with Uehara recording his first save since May 11, and the Red Sox snapped the ten-game slide. That skid is finally off the checklist; however, the Red Sox still need to attend to their 21-29 record and last place position in the AL East. The win is nice, but there’s work to be done.