The Boston Red Sox took two games out of three against the Toronto Blue Jays in their most important series of the season so far, allowing them to maintain their lead in the AL East for the time being. After dropping the opening game of the series, the Sox responded with two of their better games of the season, and fended off the up and coming Blue Jays. This was a huge series for Boston, and they showed the resolve and fight of a playoff team, further confirming that this team may just be for real.
Wednesday’s game was an ugly affair for Boston, as they came out and got trounced by a final score of 8-0. Hyun Jin Ryu was masterful over seven innings, only allowing four hits while striking out seven, and prevented Boston from even threatening to score. Eduardo Rodriguez labored on the other end, giving up 11 hits and five runs over just five innings. Rodriguez has struggled with his consistency this season, and this outing was another one where Rodriguez struggled with his control for long stretches of the game, and he got pounded as a result. Matt Andriese would come in and do mop up duty over the final three innings and wasn’t much better, giving up seven hits and three runs over those innings, pushing his season ERA up to an ugly 5.48 after his hot start to the season. It wasn’t a good way to kick of this very important series, and Toronto moved to within a half game of the Red Sox for the top of the AL East.
Luckily, Boston showed up to play last night, and pulled out a 7-3 victory over Toronto. This game was all about the long ball, as the Sox tagged four home runs on the night to do most of their damage. Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez would go back-to-back in the first inning to give Boston a quick 3-0 lead, which would be added to with an RBI off of a fielders choice from Christian Vazquez and an RBI double from Bobby Dalbec. Kike Hernandez would then lead off the second inning with a solo shot of his own, giving Garrett Richards a comfortable cushion for the night. Richards struggled with his command for parts of the game, giving up four more walks, but he held Toronto to only two runs through 6.2 innings, which was good enough for Boston. Christian Vazquez would add another solo shot in the eighth, and Garrett Whitlock, Adam Ottavino, and Josh Taylor would close the game out with some solid outings, giving Boston a much needed win.
Tonight’s game was a thrilling, high-scoring affair that would ultimately determine the series. Nick Pivetta toed the rubber tonight, but he had arguably his worst outing of the season. He started off shaky giving up two quick runs in the first and another in the second. Luckily the Sox put up a five spot in the second inning to give Pivetta a bit of a cushion. They reeled off seven straight hits with two outs in the inning, including a three run dinger from Bobby Dalbec to give Boston the lead right back. Kike Hernandez and J.D. Martinez would add RBI singles, and there probably could have been more, but Rafael Devers struck out looking with the bases loaded, ending the inning.
The lead would hold for a couple of innings, but then the Sox began to falter. They would commit three errors, which helped fuel a Toronto rally, as they would add two in the fifth inning to tie the game, and then two in the sixth to take a 7-5 lead. This would hold all the way into the ninth inning, where the Sox put together a spirited rally. Dalbec and Michael Chavis would single to lead off the inning, and then both ended up in scoring position off of a wild pitch from Rafael Dolis. Alex Verdugo would ground into a fielder’s choice to bring in Dalbec, bringing Martinez up to the plate with two out and the tying run on third. Martinez just needed a hit to tie the game, but he decided to one up that, and smoked home run out to right center to give Boston the lead. Matt Barnes would come on and make up for his recent blown save against the Los Angeles Angels, and put Toronto away for good, with the final score coming in at 8-7.
The importance of this series victory cannot be overstated for Boston. It feels like they’ve been fighting for credibility among the rest of the majors despite leading the AL East for most of the season. Even with the rest of the division getting hot at the same time, Boston has maintained their pace and still sit a top of the East heading into their next series. The East is so packed right now that the Blue Jays came into the series in second place, and left in fourth. The Tampa Bay Rays are now just a game behind and the New York Yankees are 1.5 games back, so the Sox can’t rest on their laurels after a solid series win.
The lineup had an off game in the opener but showed up and carried this team to victory over the final two games. The pitching was more of an issue, as the starters didn’t really do their part in this series. Garrett Richards was the only one to give a decent performance, as Rodriguez and Pivetta really struggled to put guys away in their outings. Rodriguez’s struggles in particular have become somewhat concerning recently, as his control of his pitches seems to come and go. If there’s a silver lining here, the bullpen showed up, and helped close out the two victories, so it was nice to see some guys come out of the pen and show up. If both ends of the pitching staff can find their stride at the same time, Boston will probably be set to go on another long winning streak.
Boston now heads to Philadelphia for a three game set against the Phillies. The Phillies are sitting at just .500 on the season, and haven’t really seemed to find their footing despite having tons of talent. A team with guys like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Aaron Nola can never be taken lightly despite their struggles so far on the season, so the Sox need to bring their A game if they are going to continue holding onto their slim lead in the AL East.