By MyFM's Jake Archer - After the Sox dropped the first two games in New York last week, panic was setting in for Boston fans. The team had slipped out of first place and the whole feel around everything that was going on was not good at all. They needed a win in the final game of the series very, very badly. Luckily, Eduardo Rodriguez came through for them and the bullpen (despite it's best efforts) didn't lose another game.
On Thursday night it was E-Rod on the mound for the Sox and he was going up against CC Sabathia for New York. CC had really been pitching well of late and he's always had success against Boston, so it was fair to say this would be a tough night for the offense. Instead, they jumped right on him. Mookie Betts led off the game with a ground-rule double to right, moved to third on a groundout by Andrew Benintendi and then scored on an RBI groundout from Hanley Ramirez. The Sox needed that run just to get out in front and get some confidence going.
In the third, Boston struck again. Betts led the inning off with a single and then Benintendi doubled to right. Hanley came up and smacked a single to drive in both runners and put the Sox on top 3-0. Sabathia was laboring and on the other side, E-Rod was painting. He struck out the side in the bottom of the third and looked like he had his best stuff.
Hanley did more damage when he led off the fifth with a laser of a solo-homer off of CC. Sabathia was pulled and replaced by Jonathan Holder. His day was a rough one as he went only four innings while giving up four runs on nine hits. He threw 80 pitches in total and struck out five. It was a spotty night for weather as the rain was coming down for most of the game and eventually, the umpiring crew decided it was time to halt play. With the Sox up by 4 in the middle of the fifth, the tarp was rolled out onto the field for a rain delay. It's not what you want to see when your starting pitcher is balling out like Rodriguez was and all you could hope for was a quick stoppage. It ended up being just under an hour.
Rodriguez did in fact come back out for the bottom of the fifth, but he had thrown a simulated inning inside and now his day would be shortened. It didn't matter, as he struck out the first two batters and then got the third, Brett Gardner, to ground out to short. He was finished, but he'd done his job very well. In five innings, Rodriguez gave up no runs on just one hit and three walks. He threw 93 pitches and struck out eight. E-Rod is now just the third Red Sox starter to strike out eight Yankees while allowing one hit or fewer since 2000. He joins Joe Kelly (2015) and Josh Beckett (2009).
I don't think anyone was comfortable with a 4-0 lead in Yankee Stadium, especially with the Sox bullpen performing how it had recently. Matt Barnes worked around a leadoff walk to Aaron Judge to pitch a clean sixth, but Heath Hembree came on for the seventh. After getting Tyler Austin to fly out to right to start the inning, Hembree allowed back-to-back singles to Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Neil Walker, who has become a focal point of Yankee rallies lately, came up to pinch-hit and worked a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Hembree was done, and again he'd sabotaged the Sox. I really never want to see him pitch for Boston again.
Joe Kelly came in to try to undo the damage once again, but this time he struggled as well. Kelly caught the bug and couldn't throw a strike, walking a run in on four pitches. Judge came to the dish and smacked a single through the left side of the infield to make it 4-2 and then Didi Gregorious drove in another run on a groundout. With runners on the corners, two outs and Giancarlo Stanton standing in, Kelly let a wild pitch go and Gardner scored the tying run. It was a disasterous inning by the bullpen and now it just felt like a sweep at the hands of the Yankees was inevitable. Boston escaped the inning without anything else happening, but things were in full-on meltdown mode.
Luckily, JD Martinez plays for the Red Sox now. JD led off the next frame by lifting a fly ball to right field off of Dellin Betances. With the short-porch in right, it had a chance to get out but Judge was tracking it and he leaped up to try to rob the homerun. He missed! JD had just pushed a homer over the wall to take the lead back for Boston. Now they just needed to find a way to hold New York down for two more innings. Kelly worked around a leadoff walk and a two-out single to get through the eighth, and then it was time to bring out Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel had helped blow it just a few nights before and now was back out there with a slim lead against the top of the Yankee order. He got through it however, and the Sox had managed to pull out the win. It was an ugly one, but it was a win nonetheless. Kelly got the W while Betances took the loss and Kimbrel got the save. Boston moved back into a first place tie and headed out to Toronto for a three-game set.
On Friday night, it was Chris Sale taking the bump for Boston against Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays. The Sox jumped out in front again as Betts led off the game with a walk, Benintendi singled to put runners at the corners and Martinez grounded out to drive in Mookie. Toronto answered right back off of Sale though, as Teoscar Hernandez attacked the first pitch he saw and roped a double before scoring on a single by Josh Donaldson a few pitches later.
In the second, the Jays got to Sale again. Kendrys Morales led off the frame with a ground-rule double and moved to third on a fly-out. Luke Maile then singled him home and it was clear that Toronto wasn't suprised by what they were seeing from Sale. The Sox suspected that they were stealing signs, so pitching coach Dana LeVangie went out to the mound to let Sale and the rest of the team know. From there, they switched things up and Sale cruised. He struck out two of the next three batters to get out of the inning down only one run.
The fourth was a wild inning for Boston's offense as Xander Bogaerts tied the game with a moonshot to center. With two outs, Brock Holt was at first and Sandy Leon came to the plate. Leon struck out but the ball got away from Maile behind the plate. He had no idea where it was and once he finally found it, he needed to rush the throw to get Leon at first. Maile sailed the throw and the ball went all the way into the outfield. Holt came around to score and take the lead while Leon ended up at third. It was a great break for Boston, who now had the advantage again. In the bottom half, Sale struck out the side. In the bottom of the fith, he did so again. He was pretty untouchable at this point, but in the seventh, Maile took him deep to tie the game back up.
The teams stayed locked at three and ended up going to extras. Sale had gone all nine innings in a masterful performance. He gave up just three runs on six hits while striking out 15 and walking none. He became the first Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens before him to punch out 15 with no free passes. Meanwhile, Sanchez had been long gone as he was pulled after giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits, three walks and four punchouts in five innings. He and the bullpen did hold the Sox hitless for seven innings between the fifth and the 12th though.
Once the Sox bullpen came in, it was easy to feel uneasy. Barnes and Carson Smith did their jobs and the game got into the bottom of the 12th for Brian Johnson. After walking Granderson to lead it off, Johnson let Maile walk it off with a two-run homer. Who was this Maile guy? Well, he was some random scrub who tortured the Sox for one night on offense. Boston had lost 5-3. Johnson took the L while Sam Gaviglio got the win for Toronto.
On Saturday, David Price was making his return to the mound for Boston. After having "carpal tunnel" and being the story of the week for Boston media, he'd need to come out and pitch well. Going up against him was Marco Estrada, the middle of the road guy who has enough talent to make the Sox bats go to sleep. In the third, it was clear that wasn't going to be the thing he did today. With one out, Betts and Benintendi hit back-to-back doubles to score a run. Hanley Ramirez followed them by unloading on a two-run shot to make it 3-0. Price was looking good on the mound for Boston, but it was early and I had doubts.
Toronto picked up a run in the fourth when Price walked two batters and allowed Anthony Alford to smack an RBI single. In the sixth, the Sox took the run back. Bogaerts doubled with one out and Devers drove him home with a single to center. Price gave the run back again in the bottom half as Justin Smoak led it off with a solo homer. After getting the next batter, Price's day was over. He'd gone five and a third while throwing 93 pitches, but he'd only given up two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six. It was good enough.
Estrada was done to start the seventh. He'd pitched six innings while giving up four runs on seven hits, one walk and five Ks. That's very middle of the road, if you ask me. In the ninth, Boston added one more run on another pair of back-to-back doubles by Betts and Benny. The Sox bullpen did their job and Boston had a 5-2 win. Price picked up the W, Estrada took the L and Craig Kimbrel grabbed his 11th save of the season. Now they'd move on to a Mother's Day rubber game to decide who won the series.
On Sunday, both teams were decked out in their Mother's Day pink and ready to roll. Drew Pomeranz was starting for the Sox while Joe Biagini got the ball for the Jays. Biagini got in trouble early when he allowed Benintendi to single with one out in the first and then Martinez to hit a two-run homer to open the scoring. It was the 10th of the year for the slugger and he continues to be worth every penny that the Sox are paying him. In the third, Jackie Bradley Jr. led off with a walk and Betts singled. After a Benintendi fly-out, Betts stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Martinez. JD walked to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who also walked. It was now 3-0 after three.
Betts singled with one down in the fifth and then stole second again. After Benintendi flew out, moving Betts to third, Biagini was replaced by John Axford. The starter had pitched four and two thirds innings but the book wasn't closed on him. Axford came on and Martinez singled to right to plate Betts. Now Biagini's line was finished. He had given up four runs on four hits, three walks and three Ks. Pomeranz finally got into trouble in the bottom half of the inning though, and it looked like the Jays might have a comeback ready.
Hernandez and Donaldson singled to start the inning and then both scored on a double by Smoak. After Yangervis Solarte walked, Pomeranz was done. He'd pitched four innings and now Hector Velazquez had to limit the damage. Velazquez got out of the inning but not before Russell Martin singled to bring in another run and make it 4-3. Pomeranz had given up three runs on five hits, five walks and six strikeouts. It was kind of a typical day for the lefty. Boston picked up one last run in the eighth when Benny singled and stole second before scoring on a one out single by Moreland. That gave the Sox a little bit of a cushion at 5-3 and the bullpen shut down Toronto to get the win.
Velazquez earned the win because Pomeranz didn't go deep enough, Biagini took the loss and Joe Kelly picked up the save. It was another series win for the Sox, and now they sit at 28-12. They are still tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East and the best record in baseball. They'll open up a six-game homestand tonight by welcoming the Oakland A's to town. Rick Porcello will get the ball opposite the man who no-hit the Sox over three weeks ago, Sean Manaea. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10, so be sure to tune in here on MyFM 101.3!