Late comeback is an understatement.
The Boston Red Sox waited until the eighth inning to do any damage to the Oakland Athletics, last night. Trailing 4-0, the Red Sox blew the floodgates open, unleashing seven runs for the victory. The question remains: why did it take so long?
Kendall Graveman, the righty starting pitcher for the Athletics, was partly responsible. In front of just under 37 000 fans in Fenway Park, Graveman put Boston’s bats, and their fans, to rest for seven straight innings. He allowed just a single run on six hits, two walks, and six strikeouts.
His counterpart, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, was not so successful. It could have been a better night for him, considering the way he bled runs. Buchholz threw 102 pitches, 66 for strikes, in only 4.2 innings of work. He gave up 10 hits and four earned runs on two walks and four strikeouts.
Most of the pain felt by Red Sox Nation was in the top of the second inning. Oakland’s Mark Canha doubled to right field, cashing in Billy Butler. With the next batter up, Buchholz must have been rattled, because he uncorked a wild pitch to Josh Phegley, which allowed former Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick to score from third base. Phegley proceeded to be walked. After a coach’s visit to the mound, Buchholz still was not settled, as the next batter Eric Sogard singled sharply to right field to score Canha.
Let’s not forget about Phegley, although he did damage in the top of the fourth inning. Phegley doubled to center field to score Canha.
That logged work carried the Red Sox to their glory in the bottom of the eighth inning.
As if an ill omen for Oakland fans of what was to come, Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo blasted a 3-2 pitch over the Green Monster off of Graveman, as if to say: No more domination for you! That solo home run to lead off the frame booted Graveman into the dugout, while Evan Schribner came in to relieve his efforts.
It didn’t do much good. Next batter Dustin Pedroia singled past third base, and Brock Holt singled to center field. After the Athletics’ own coach’s visit to the mound, Boston’s Hanley Ramirez came through, like in the previous two nights, by singling sharply to left field to score Pedroia.
A pitching substitution for Drew Pomeranz, a recent Athletics starting pitcher, did nothing to quell the Red Sox storm. The next batter was David Ortiz, who proceeded to smash a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Holt on the first pitch that he was offered.
Another mound substitution did nothing. Tyler Clippard was brought in only to strike out Mike Napoli and allowed the hounds to be unleashed. Pablo Sandoval singled and was replaced by Mookie Betts as a pinch runner. Remember, the game is still 4-3, in favor of the Athletics. The Red Sox need Betts to come home to win the game. The move paid off, as Betts stole second to move into scoring position. Xander Bogaerts continued swinging a hot bat, as of late, by doubling to center field, cashing in both Ramirez and Betts to take the lead. Then, new acquisition Alejandro De Aza pinch hit for Sandy Leon. That move also paid off, as De Aza singled to right field to score Bogaerts as an insurance run.
It was only fitting that the man who started the burst of offense should also be the one to cap off the onslaught. Castillo was next up, and he drove a single to left field that scored De Aza.
That display was all that the Red Sox needed, as lefty reliever Tommy Layne was brought in to relieve Wright. Layne made quick work of the Athletics in the ninth inning, blanking them from any hits, runs, or walks, while striking out two batters for the save. Wright earned the victory. Buchholz got a no-decision, whether he earned it or not.
- Castillo went 2-for-4, with two RBIs and scored a run.
- Even with two RBIs, the 1-for-4 kept Bogaerts’ batting average below .300 (.296) for the season.
- Napoli went 0-for-4, with two strikeouts. Is the magic of May gone, already?
- Boston went 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Oakland went 4-for-13.
- The Red Sox ended up with the team hitting 13 times, but the majority of them came against the bullpen in the eighth inning.
Buchholz is either the most confident man on the planet when he wins baseball games or he is the most easily rattled man on the planet when he bleeds runs. The grade isn’t because he lost the game for the team, because he didn’t; however, the grade is because he had to throw so many pitches, wildly at times, to get anyone out. For the most part, the damage was contained in one inning, so it was not a complete shambles of a game. Buchholz did limit the runs after that, just not the hits. Way too many allowed for less than five innings. Either Buchholz buckled or the Athletics just had his number, last night.
The Athletics didn’t have Wright or Layne floundering. There’s not much more to say, except both pitchers dominated over the Oakland bats to get the job done. The Athletics either flied out or struck out. That’s the kind of bullpen pitching that Oakland fans were probably wishing for, as their dreams of winning the game quickly were dashed by the terrible eighth inning.
Layne also recorded his first save of the year. Not bad, for a guy expected to simply be a middle reliever.
Everything happened in the eighth inning. If that offensive might did not happen, if it was another quick inning, the Red Sox would not have won the game. They were not even close, until Castillo decided that enough was enough. It was great that the team pulled together for the win, but it wasn’t a superior performance by any means, in terms of consistency. The Red Sox simply jumped on the Oakland bullpen and bullied them, like Graveman did to them for the first seven innings.
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