This time it was a fifth-inning implosion that did them in.
Earlier in the year, the Red Sox seemingly just found ways to win. More recently, they’ve been finding ways to lose. This time they held an early lead, with Nathan Eovaldi cruising. But then the offense wasted a chance to open up the lead in the top of the fifth, and the wheels came off for Eovaldi in the bottom of the inning. He’d allow seven runs in the blink of an eye, and the game turned from Boston lead to Toronto laugher. Just another day for these Red Sox these days.
We are at a point on the Red Sox schedule where every game feels like a must-win. That’s not literally true in the sense that they were still going to be alive in the playoff race (and in fact in possession of a playoff spot) whether they won or lost. But it might as well have been true. Stuck in the middle of their worst stretch all season, they were also facing a red-hot Blue Jays team that has a chance this weekend to really make their way back in this division, to say nothing of Boston’s own playoff picture. It was the job of the Red Sox to stop Toronto, and also get their momentum back in the right direction.
The one piece of good news on that front was their starting pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi. Although the righty was coming off a rough start, he’s been the team’s best rotation member this year and hadn’t allowed more than two runs in a start since his fourth and fifth starts of the season, coming back in April. And he was dominant for most of his start. His splitter in particular was nasty, but he really had all the secondaries working early and right along the edges.
Really, there wasn’t much trouble at all over his first four innings of work. The Blue Jays did get a runner on in three of those frames, but only a first inning double got a man beyond first base, and no inning saw more than one batter reach in the inning. Throwing just 58 pitches through those four innings, Eovaldi was very much cruising, and desperately looking for some help from his offense.
And while it’s not fair to say that the lack of offense has exactly flown under the radar during this slump, it does feel like the starting pitching has gotten more blame, and that’s not necessarily fair. It feels as though the offense has failed to come through in every opportunity they’ve had for two weeks straight. And once again they had trouble, this time against Blue Jays rookie Alek Manoah.
Case in point: In the first inning they followed a one-out single immediately with a double play to nip any momentum in the bud. They’d then draw a walk but get nothing else in the second before going down in order in the third.
Finally in the fourth, there was a little more action, starting with Alex Verdugo smacking a leadoff double into the right-center field gap. They were looking for a big hit to put on a sustained rally, but they’d take the next best thing when Verdugo moved over to third on a ground ball before giving his team a one-run lead on a Rafael Devers sacrifice fly.
The fifth is really where this game was won and lost. And early in that inning, that seemed like a good thing for the Red Sox. They got two men on with just one out, and then after a strikeout Kiké Hernández was able to keep the inning alive and double Boston’s lead with a bloop liner falling into center field for an RBI single. Verdugo then came up and drew a walk, and suddenly the Red Sox had Martinez at the plate with a two-run lead and the bases loaded, a real chance to break this game open. Instead, the struggling slugger popped one up to end the inning and leave them loaded.
So after the wasted chance, the one thing to potentially hang their hat on was the cruising Eovaldi. But it all came crashing down in the bottom half of the inning. The righty started things off by allowing three straight triples, and in the blink of an eye the game was tied, there was nobody out, and the go-ahead run was in scoring position. After finally getting the first out of the inning, the Red Sox intentionally walked Vladimir Guerrero Jr., putting men on the corners with one down for Marcus Semien.
It was a huge decision for the Red Sox that could have very well decided the game. Eovaldi responded with a huge strikeout of Semien for out number two, putting him just an out away from getting out of it with a tie. That would have been bad, but not catastrophic. Instead, Bo Bichette worked his way back from 0-2 to rip an RBI single, and then the floodgates opened. Eovaldi then gave up two more on a double before Lourdes Gurriel Jr. snuck one over the wall in left field right down the line. The two-run shot ended Eovaldi’s night and gave Toronto a shocking 7-2 lead.
And it didn’t even start there! Hansel Robles came in and just unraveled. He immediately gave up a base hit before hitting the next batter he’d face, which got the Blue Jays all riled up. Surprisingly, both benches ended up being warned, and there was a shouting match in the next at bat as well. Ultimately, Robles would give up two more runs, and it was a 9-2 ballgame by the time the inning mercifully game to an end.
At this point it was essentially going to take a miracle from the Red Sox to win this game, which to be fair we’ve seen from them before. And they did carve out a little bit of the deficit in the sixth with a two-run homer from Hunter Renfroe. But it was still a five-run game, and Austin Davis would come out in the bottom of the inning to give one of those runs right back.
If the Red Sox were going to answer back and make this a game again, the seventh was going to have to be a start with the meat of the order coming around. And they did mount a two-out rally, with Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Devers all reaching to load the bases with two down and Renfroe coming to the plate. Instead, he got under it and gave Boston their second pop up to leave the bases full of the night.
This game also featured the first relief appearance of the year from Martín Pérez, whose move to the bullpen was just announced this afternoon. The lefty allowed another run in the seventh to make it 11-4. Jonathan Araúz pitched the final inning, because it was that kind of day. The infielder allowed one more run
The 12-4 loss dropped the Red Sox record down to 64-47. If the Rays hold on to their late four-run lead, Boston’s deficit in the division will jump to 2.5 games.
The Red Sox again look for their momentum back with a doubleheader on the docket for Saturday. The first game will have Nick Pivetta taking on Robbie Ray, with first pitch at 3:05 PM ET.
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