Mookie Betts delivered a clutch double in the bottom of the ninth inning to hand the Boston Red Sox their ninth walkoff win of the year.
The walkoff base hit is supposed to be one of the most dramatic moments in sports. The Boston Red Sox are making it look routine.
The St. Louis Cardinals led 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth at Fenway Park, yet it wouldn’t take long for them to feel uneasy about the score. Trevor Rosenthal has converted 11 of 13 save opportunities since taking over the closer role for the Cardinals mid-season. Despite that track record, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny couldn’t trust him to finish off the inning after allowing a home run to Xander Bogaerts and walking Mitch Moreland.
With Brock Holt stepping to the plate to pinch-hit for Christian Vazquez, Matheny gave his closer the hook in favor of lefty Zach Duke. The veteran reliever has held left-handed hitters to a .071 batting average this year. He made quick work of Holt, getting him to strike out swinging.
That brought Jackie Bradley to the plate, who is not your ordinary left-handed hitter against a lefty pitcher. JBJ is hitting .318 against southpaws this season. While Duke is about as tough as they come in a same-side matchup, Bradley managed to draw a walk against him.
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With the winning run on base and the top of the order coming up for the Red Sox, Matheny went to his pen once again. He called on John Brebbia to get the team out of a jam. The right-hander got ahead of Eduardo Nunez 0-2, then took his sweet time staring down the batter while contemplating how to get strike three. He took too long, in the mind of umpire Chris Segal, who called a late time out as Brebbia prepared to unleash his fastball.
That infuriated catcher Yadier Molina, who immediately began berating the umpire. That prompted Matheny to jump out of the dugout – in part to protect his catcher, but mostly to share his opinion of the umpire’s strike zone. “It’s not your show man. Nobody’s here to watch you,” screamed the manager. There may have been some other choice words thrown around, but whatever else Matheny said was enough to get him tossed.
Once play resumed, Brebbia inched his team closer to victory by getting Nunez to pop out in foul territory on the first base side.
Then he had to face Mookie Betts.
The 24-year old has been in a funk since his All-Star appearance, hitting .262 with a .670 OPS since the break. He picked up a couple of base hits earlier in the game, showing signs of bursting out of this slump and perhaps foreshadowing what was about to come.
Betts somehow managed to check his swing on a couple of filthy sliders by Brebbia to stay alive. On a full count, Brebbia finally hung one, which Betts drilled off the left field wall to drive in the winning runs.
It’s also the eighth walkoff win for the Red Sox in their last 29 home games. The last time this franchise tallied 8+ walkoff wins in a span of 29 or fewer home games in a single season was in 1943.
The Red Sox swept the short two-game series against the Cardinals to hold their 4.5 game lead over the New York Yankees heading into this weekend’s series against their division rival. Boston has won 12 of their last 14 games and will have the opportunity to put some series distance between them and the Yankees this weekend.
Given this team’s habit of thrilling comeback victories in front of their home crowd, the Yankees better not get too comfortable with any lead they may manage to get.