A bad day for the offense cost the Red Sox the series.
Boston has been having trouble of late picking up series against good teams, but they had a chance to change that narrative on Sunday if they could win their rubber match in Chicago against the White Sox. For most of the day, it was a pitchers duel with Lance Lynn shutting down the Red Sox and Nick Pivetta managing to keep pace. But Chicago pulled out in front, where they stayed until the ninth. Boston was able to rally and tie the game in the top of the inning, but then Garrett Whitlock, just one strike away from setting down the side on Ks, served up a walk off homer, and a series loss.
The Red Sox managed to split the first two games of their three-game set against the Central-leading White Sox thanks to a gutsy win on Saturday, but they also didn’t get a whole lot from their starters in those matchups. With Tanner Houck and Connor Seabold starting those games, Boston was looking to young pitchers, including the latter making his first start at the highest level. So on Sunday, they weren’t just looking for a series win, but preferably one that included a strong start to help save the bullpen a bit.
They didn’t exactly have their most consistent arm on the mound for this game as Nick Pivetta got the start, just having been ruled eligible to return from the COVID list. But he looked outstanding, and gave the Red Sox what they were looking for against a very talented lineup.
There was a little bit of trouble in the first inning when old friend Yoán Moncada blooped one into right-center field and was able to hustle it from a single into a double. But Pivetta was able to make it through that rough patch and got through the inning without a run. He’d come back out and face only three batters in the second thanks to a double play before retiring six in a row to get through two straight perfect innings in the third and the fourth.
Unfortunately, the offense had a tough challenge in their own right in this game, taking on Lance Lynn who has spent his first year with the White Sox as a Cy Young contender. He very much looked the part in this game and the Red Sox had absolutely no answers. Chicago’s righty retired the first eight batters he faced before José Iglesias gave Boston their first baserunner of the day on a little swinging bunt. But he would not move beyond first base.
Lynn would then get through a perfect fourth as well before Boston got another hit in the fifth. But once again, it was a two-out single, this one on a hard-hit liner from Travis Shaw. This was not enough to start a rally either, however, and after a perfect bottom half from Pivetta the game was still scoreless through five.
With Lynn having just come off the injured list, Chicago played things cautiously and pulled him after five, giving the Red Sox a chance against their bullpen. Sure enough, Iglesias came through with another weak single, this one to lead off the inning. For the first time all day Boston had a runner on base with fewer than two outs, but it wouldn’t last long. Kiké Hernández hit a fly ball to deep center field, and Iglesias tried to get into second. Unfortunately his slide was more of a belly flop, and he was tagged out for a double play.
Meanwhile, the bottom of the sixth started with an error as Hernández couldn’t make a good through from the hole on the right side in the shift, and the runner was quickly bunted over to second. That brought Luis Robert to the plate, and a base hit ripped into left field gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Ottavino was tasked with getting out of the inning with no more damage, and worked around a walk to do just that.
That was still the score in the bottom of the seventh with Darwinzon Hernandez coming into the game, and he issued a walk to the first batter he faced. The southpaw came back to retire the next three batters, though, and kept the deficit at one.
But the Red Sox were now running out of time, with only six outs left to try and at least tie the game. The eighth wasn’t going to be that point, as they went down in order yet again. Hansel Robles kept Chicago off the board in the eighth to give the top of Boston’s order a chance in the ninth.
Hernández got things started off the right way against old friend Craig Kimbrel, ripping a line drive into center field that just kept rising right over Robert’s glove. That resulted in a leadoff double, and a couple batters later Hunter Renfroe drew a one-out walk. After Rafael Devers drew a walk of his own, the bases were full and Alex Verdugo had a chance to play hero. He didn’t get the big hit to five Boston the lead, but a deep fly ball to left field was plenty to get Hernández home and tie the game at one.
That was all they’d get, and now it was up to Garrett Whitlock — pitching on back-to-back days — to keep the game tied and send it to extras. He got started off extremely well with two straight strikeouts, but then Leury García changed the story. After getting ahead 0-2, Whitlock left a fastball right over the center of the zone, and García smoked it for a walk off homer. The 2-1 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 81-64.
As of this writing in the late afternoon on Sunday, the Blue Jays scored a whopping 22 runs in a win over the Orioles while Seattle and Oakland both trail early in their games. The Yankees take on the Mets in the Sunday night game. With their win this afternoon, Toronto is now tied with Boston in the wildcard race. New York trails by a half-game for the time being pending their result today. As for Seattle and Oakland, they both trailed Boston by three games coming into the day while they sat two games out of the postseason.
The Red Sox now head further out west to take on the Mariners in a huge matchup of wildcard contenders. The series opener will have Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound for Boston, with first pitch set for 10:10 PM ET.