It was shorthanded in this game, and it showed.
The Red Sox had locked up a third straight series win on Saturday, but in their quest to get a sweep in Cleveland with a win on Sunday they were battling with a shorthanded bullpen. That didn’t seem to be too much of an issue as the offense grabbed an early lead thanks to a three-homer day (two of which from Rafael Devers) and Tanner Houck pitching around control issues through five. But he couldn’t make it through the sixth, and the bullpen had to go from there. Ultimately, Austin Davis gave up the lead in the eighth, and they’d settle for two out of three over Cleveland.
The Red Sox were looking for some early offense in this one, as the bullpen was shorthanded coming in. One of the things you’re looking for in that situation is getting a deep outing from their starter, which they were also trying to get from Tanner Houck. But it can be just as nice to get a big day from the offense so you don’t have to stress too much about using your low-leverage arms. And while the Red Sox bats didn’t exactly have a mammoth game, they were able to get some damage consistently inning-to-inning early on this game.
That started right away in the first, a little over three hours after the game was scheduled to start thanks to a long delay. Rafael Devers stepped in as the second batter of the game, and he immediately got ahead 3-0. The slugger had the green light, and Eli Morgon threw him a fastball right down the heart of the zone. It was exactly what Devers wanted, and he hit a bullet out into the seats in right field to give Boston the early 1-0 lead.
That was all they’d get there, but the power was back on display in the next inning as well. Bobby Dalbec has totally turned his season around over the last few weeks, and the hot streak continued in this game with his first at bat. He found himself in a full count, and was ready for a splitter. That’s exactly what he got, and he hit a no-doubt shot out to left field. It was the second solo shot of the day for Boston and put them up by two.
It was a quick inning in the third, but the fourth saw the first real sustained rally from the team to this point. Boston got back-to-back one-out singles, and then Dalbec drew a two-out walk to load the bases for Jarren Duran. The rookie didn’t get the big swing, but he did draw another walk to push the Red Sox run total to three. Jonathan Araúz had a chance to add to it, but he’d strike out swinging, and had to be removed from the game after appearing to tweak an oblique on the swing.
Meanwhile, as we said above the team was also looking for a deep outing from Houck. This hasn’t really been something he’s done much in the majors — sometimes due to his own inefficiency, sometimes due to the team handling him cautiously — but with the shorthanded group in relief they were looking for it. The righty didn’t exactly have pinpoint control in this game, but he was able to keep Cleveland off the board.
He’d have to fight through some traffic in the first, like most every inning in this start, as he walked the leadoff man who quickly stole second base. But Houck left him standing on second. Cleveland also failed to score in the third after the inning started with a walk and a hit batter, and Houck worked around two walks to lead off the fourth inning. A clean fifth brought him through five scoreless, still at 81 pitches. Oh, and he’d allowed no hits to this point of the game as well.
He’d come back out for the sixth with his team now up 4-0 thanks to an RBI double from J.D. Martinez, and he got some help from his defense to start the inning. Amed Rosario hit a ball well out to right field, but Alex Verdugo made a long run to go make a lunging grab at the wall. But Verdugo wasn’t getting the next one. José Ramírez broke up the no-no with a solo shot out to right field to cut the Red Sox lead down to three. Houck then proceeded to hit the next two batters he faced, and that ended his night.
Now, Josh Taylor was on trying to preserve the three-run lead with two men on and just one down. He did get a big first out, but Wilson Ramos got the big swing. He ripped a two-out single into left field, bringing home two and making it a 4-3 game. Fortunately, Taylor was able to get a big strikeout from there to end the inning with the lead still in hand.
That did, however, leave the Red Sox looking for some insurance in the seventh, and they had another homer left in them. It was Devers yet again, this time driving a middle-in cutter on a 3-1 count into the right field seats. His second homer of the day put Boston out in front 5-3.
Moving into the bottom of the inning, Hansel Robles got the call to try and keep the lead at two. The righty did record two quick outs, but Amed Rosario kept the inning alive with a base hit. That brought Ramírez back to the play, and he hit a ball out to deep left field. Most left fielders probably would have made this catch in front of the wall, but Schwarber couldn’t quite get there. It fell in for a double, and brought Cleveland back to within one. Franmil Reyes had a chance to tie it with a single, but Robles got him looking to end the inning.
Boston’s offense had no insurance to offer in the top half of the eighth, bringing Austin Davis on with a one-run lead. He got a couple of quick outs to start the inning, but he couldn’t leave with the lead. Austin Hedges, not typically someone known for his offense, hooked a 2-2 fastball around the foul pole in left field for a solo home run, tying up the game at five.
And it only got worse. Oscar Mercado kept the inning going with a two-out single, and then Yu Chang ripped one down the third-base line. Mercado got on his horse and took a hard turn around second base, but Yairo Muñoz was facing in the other direction. He got in the way of Mercado, and while the runner was thrown out at the plate the run was counted due to interference. With that, Davis was out of the game and Cleveland was ahead for the first time in the game.
After Matt Barnes let the inherited run come home on a single, Boston’s bats had to score at least two in the ninth to at least continue the game. They couldn’t get anything going in the inning, and dropped the game 7-5.
The loss pushed the Red Sox record down to 75-57. Boston entered the day trailing New York by two games for the top wildcard spot and leading Oakland by 3.5 games for the second spot. Those two teams are currently playing, with the game still scoreless as we write this.
The Red Sox now head down to Tampa to take on the red-hot Rays for four on the road. The series kicks off on Monday with Nick Pivetta taking on Luis Patiño. First pitch is set for 7:10 PM ET.