Friday, August 10, 2018

Game 116: Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (August 9, 2018)

This Red Sox team has been so good all season that we just expect them to win every game. Over the course of my entire life I can't remember a Sox team this good where I felt it was just a given that they were going to win every time they took the field. The 2004 team, as great as they were, didn't feel like that because of the historical baggage the franchise still carried. The 2007 and 2013 teams were excellent but even they didn't have the swagger and aura that this year's squad has. The only problem is that when they lose, it's almost a shock to the system. After taking the first two games against Toronto and clinching a win in this series it seemed like a foregone conclusion that they'd go for the sweep, especially with Rick Porcello on the mound. Coming off of his best start of the season, everything was in place for a third straight win over the Jays, but as we all know there's a reason why the games are played on the field.

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Things seemed to be continuing apace for the Sox when they scored two quick runs in the first off of a two RBI single from Eduardo Nunez. Unfortunately Porcello gave those right back in the bottom of the inning when Justin Smoak (who has been a royal pain in the neck for the Sox in this series) singled in a run followed by a Randal Grichuk fielder's choice that tied it up. From there it got away from Porcello. A Blue Jays run scored on a Nunez error in the second and Teoscar Hernandez (another pesky Jay in this series) homered in the third to make it 4-2 Toronto. The Sox tied it up in the fifth with a JD Martinez homer and a Brock Holt RBI single, but once again Toronto responded in the next half inning with more scoring. Smoak (him again!) doubled in a run and was followed by Grichuk belting a two run homer to put the Jays up by three runs. All of this was done off of Porcello who just didn't have it on this night. His control was spotty and he left far too many pitches hanging in the zone. I don't care how bad the other team you're playing is, if you leave stuff up, you're going to get hit hard. Toronto tacked on an insurance run in the sixth on a strange little play when Devon Travis singled to left field to bring Curtis Granderson in to score. The throw home was off target but Sandy Leon astutely threw to second when Travis was trying to stretch it into a double. They got him out but the run counted. It turned out to not matter since the Sox couldn't mount enough of a comeback anyway. The big highlight of the night was in the top of the ninth when Mookie Betts smacked a solo home run (his 27th of the season) to complete the cycle. He became the first player in the majors this season to hit for the cycle when he singled in the first, tripled in the second, doubled in the fourth, and homered in the ninth. Even in defeat, Mookie did something amazing that kept everyone watching. His 4-4 night also came with a walk, RBI, and two runs scored and boosted his average back up to .347. No one else on the team did much at the plate other than Nunez who had a nice 3-4 night with two RBI and a run scored. The real downer was Porcello, though. He only lasted four full innings (pitching into the fifth) and got smacked around to the tune of six hits (two of them homers), seven runs, five strikeouts, and three walks. It was just a bad night against a team that had his number. On the plus side, Tyler Thornburg worked the eighth and looked pretty good, allowing two hits but also striking out three. With the Yankees win, the Boston lead in the AL East is down to eight games but I'm not worried.

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This was one of those games where you just have to brush it off and move on to the next one. In this case, that means starting a new series in Baltimore where the two teams will play four games in three days (the doubleheader on Saturday helping to make up the aborted game from a couple of weeks ago). It will be interesting to see if Nathan Eovaldi can keep his hot streak going, but more than anything it's a prime opportunity for the Sox to pick up some wins against a truly terrible team. After this series, the Sox will get two days off next week which will be helpful as there's a bit of a rugged stretch with series against the Phillies, Rays (twice), and Indians before they finish the month with some layups against the Marlins and White Sox. The schedule doesn't get easier in September, so the time to make hay is now.

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