A far cry from the Cardiac Kids of 1967, this year’s Boston Red Sox have trouble when losing after the eighth inning, making last night pretty special.
David Price, the supposed ace of the starting rotation, was pummelled for six earned runs in only 2.1 innings of work last night. He gave up 12 hits, including a home run on just his third pitch of the game. All hope seemed lost in the top of the ninth with the score 7-4 in favor of the Texas Rangers, in their home stadium in Arlington. And, as Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reported, “the Sox had been 1-27 when trailing after eight innings.”
Then, somehow, the Red Sox put everything together at the plate.
It wasn’t like Boston looked like an unstoppable force in the game, or even in that particular inning. After Jackie Bradley Jr. walked, both Bryce Brentz and Travis Shaw got out rather easy for Rangers reliever Jake Diekman, making the Red Sox just one out away from earning their sixth loss in 10 games.
Enter Sandy Leon. The game completely changed at that moment. He worked the count full and then doubled to score Bradley and put himself in scoring position.
Matt Bush replacing Diekman didn’t do much to scare Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, as he absolutely pounded a 97-mph fastball over the fence in left center field. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia didn’t even need to hit the ball to make an impact, either. He drew a walk and moved to third on a Xander Bogaerts single.
All of that set up the winning run being scored, out of all things, by a Bush wild pitch while David Ortiz was batting. Pedroia pounced on the opportunity, as Bush may have felt the pressure of Big Papi ending the game himself.
Abraham added, “With Craig Kimbrel unavailable after pitching two innings Thursday, Koji Uehara was used as the closer and he struck out the side for his second save.” That move, in itself, must not have been easy for Red Sox manager John Farrell to make. Uehara has had his own troubles, as of late. In his last appearance, against the Chicago White Sox, Koji gave up three earned on four hits and took the loss.
None of this was supposed to happen. None of this was expected.
Price was expected to be the shutdown ace of the franchise, mowing down opposing lineups for $217 million. That hasn’t happened much, especially not last night.
Ortiz is always expected to do damage at the plate with his bat. That didn’t happen, although his intimidation factor may have contributed to Pedroia’s dash to the dish.
Betts was expected to be a leadoff man to get hits and let the others drive him home. That didn’t need to happen because of his incredible bat speed being able to catch up to 97-mph pitches.
And, Leon wasn’t even supposed to be in the majors, as much of the talk to start the season was between Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, and Ryan Hanigan as the drama unfolding at the catcher position. Instead, the switch-hitting Leon has had 22 at-bats for four doubles, four walks, and four RBIs with a .545 batting average. Leon’s time with the big club suggests that he definitely does not want to go back to the minors, especially being this red hot with a .615 on-base percentage and a .727 slugging percentage in nine appearances for the Red Sox this season.
Based on how the season has gone, the Red Sox are going to need more nights like yesterday or be inspired by 1967. Boston’s performances from their pitching staff suggest that Red Sox Nation will have their hearts put on consistent alert for attacks. Hopefully, the comebacks that have been hard to come by will swing around more often then not. Not sure if this constant fluttering of heartbeats can take more losses than victories in these situations much longer.