When you go up by eight runs in less than three full innings, you’d figure that the win is in sight. Clearly, the opposing team’s starter doesn’t have his best stuff and you’ve taken advantage of that early, paving the way for you to cruise into the night, happily.
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For the Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, anything can and will happen. In front of 37 575 baseball fans in Fenway Park, the home side was out to a very early and unexpected lead, only to hand it back over to the Toronto Blue Jays, last night.
Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison did not have a good game. The Red Sox bats jumped on him in the first inning. After walking Brock Holt and allowing Xander Bogaerts to double, Hutchison threw a 84-mph slider to Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who singled to left field to score both men. Two batters later, Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval hit his sixth home run of the season over the right center field fence, which cashed in Ortiz for a 4-0 lead. Boston’s center fielder Mookie Betts capped off the scoring with a solo shot over the left center field fence.
Even after the runs stopped, Hutchison still showed sloppy play, as he faced both Pedroia and Holt again in that same inning. Not the start that the Blue Jays wanted, but it was exactly what the Red Sox were hoping for. It seems like forever since Boston’s bats showed why they were considered one of the most potent offenses in the league, at the start of spring training. Finally, their plate appearances were productive.
Red Sox starter Joe Kelly didn’t exactly dominate the Blue Jays on the night, but, early on, he did keep the damage to a minimum. Toronto’s first baseman Justin Smoak answered the red onslaught with a triple that scored Edwin Encarnacion, in the top of the second inning.
Boston answered right back, however, with Pedroia smashing a home run off of Hutchison, over left center field, scoring both catcher Blake Swihart and right fielder Rusney Castillo in the bottom of the third inning. The score was already 8-1, with little evidence that the Blue Jays would get back into the game.
In fact, Pedroia’s home run was the shot that knocked Hutchison from the game. Toronto brought in Bo Schultz in for relief. Hutchison’s line was eight earned runs on nine hits in 2.1 innings, walking three while striking out three batters. The Blue Jays’ heads were hanging low, while the Red Sox were all smiles.
Those grins quickly left, in the top of the fifth inning, but never truly disappeared until Kelly did.
A Ryan Goins double, a Jose Reyes groundout, and a Josh Donaldson single scored Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and Ryan Goins, respectively, to bring the Blue Jays back within four runs of the lead. If the Red Sox had not already got out to the early lead, Red Sox Nation would have wanted Kelly’s head. However, they were still ahead by four runs, and Kelly was due for a bad inning, so nobody from Boston was sweating too much about it. It was a mere agitation, easily dismissed.
Besides, the Red Sox have already gotten to the Blue Jays’ bullpen, the strategy that manager John Farrell is known for using. Their starter outlasted the opposition’s counterpart, meaning that the Red Sox should be feasting on possibly weaker or less-talented arms than before. If they had eight runs on the starter, the runs should be flowing like wine for Boston, right?
Between the fourth and seventh innings, Schultz and 2013 All-Star reliever Steve Delabar kept the Red Sox off of the scoreboard.
In the top of the seventh inning, those Red Sox grins completely vanished. Matt Barnes, who threw a wild pitch that helped cost the Red Sox the victory in Baltimore, a few games back, came into the game with the intention to relieve Kelly. All that he accomplished was making Boston’s fans gnash their teeth in disgust.
After Pillar led off the inning with a single, Goins doubled to bring him home. After a coach’s visit to the mound, Reyes singled to score Goins, bringing the lead down to 8-6.
Farrell had seen enough and brought in Junichi Tazawa, the successful reliever from Japan, whom has had some talk of him being selected for the All-Star game, this season. After last night, however, the talk may have died down.
Toronto absolutely was relentless, after that move. Donaldson singled, Jose Bautista singled, scoring Reyes. Encarnacion singled. Chris Colabello reached on a Sandoval fielding error, scoring Donaldson to tie the game. Russell Martin tripled, scoring Bautista, Encarnacion, and Colabello. By the time Tommy Layne was brought in to relieve Tazawa, the Blue Jays took the lead for the first time in the game, 11-8.
Layne did a bit better by actually getting three outs to end the inning; however, he gave up a two-run blast to Smoak, that scored Martin, to put the Blue Jays up 13-8. Toronto scored a total of nine runs in the frame, completely wiping away any joy in Beantown.
A Bogaerts single, that scored Swihart in the bottom of the eighth, and a Castillo double, that scored Swihart in the bottom of the ninth, did little to help the situation. The final score was 13-10, in one of the biggest collapses in one game that Red Sox Nation can remember.
- Delabar earned his second victory of the season. Tazawa took the loss. Blue Jays’ almost-forgotten closer Brett Cecil earned his third save of the year.
- The Red Sox scored 10 runs on 12 hits, seven walks, and eight strikeouts. Only three of those hits came after Hutchison was knocked out of the game.
- The Blue Jays hit 15 times, with two walks and four strikeouts. Kelly was only responsible for less than half of those hits.
- Swihart went 2-for-4, scoring three times. He looked good, despite his team falling apart.
- Castillo went 3-for-4, with a walk and a strikeout, bringing his batting average to .263.
Hear me out, before you get the pitchforks. Kelly lasted six innings; he threw 101 pitches, 63 for strikes; he got five batters to ground out, while only walking two Blue Jays; he only gave up three runs in his only bad inning of the night; he left the game with nobody on base, with the Red Sox winning 8-4. The run total was not a sign of domination, but it got the job done for Farrell’s strategy: Kelly lasted much longer than Hutchison. Even with giving up four runs, Kelly was still in line for the win, until the bullpen took over. Whatever happened after that, Kelly did what he had to do for the team.
This game ball is not for the best, but for the worst; although, you could argue that none of bullpen help was of any use. Barnes, Tazawa, and Layne all gave up hits and runs that totaled more than any damage that Kelly sustained. Tazawa took the brunt of the hits and the runs, allowing five runs, four of them earned, on four hits, no walks, and no strikeouts.
One bright spot was Heath Hembree coming into the game to finish the last two frames. He did not allow anything for the Blue Jays, whom were in the cruise-control mode that the Red Sox thought they were in, before. What did it matter to Toronto? They were well ahead by then. It’s not like their bullpen blew up.
Hard to argue with anyone thinking that 10 runs deserves a top grade. The reason why it isn’t is because of how the offense performed this feat. Almost all of the offense happened when Hutchison was in the game. The Red Sox totaled three hits after he left the mound. Two of those hits earned runs late in the game, trying to come back into a game that was never supposed to be in question.
Boston got what they wanted and could not take advantage of the situation with any kind of real threat. Pedroia and Swihart did their jobs in the top and bottom of the lineup card. Where was the meat of the order when they could have had a buffet made of young relievers? However, they did put up a big number, which they probably thought would never be overcome. Who knew that they were going to have to warm up their bats, again, when the bullpen took over the game?
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