Game 81: Los Angeles Angels at Red Sox (June 27, 2018)

With this game, we've officially reached the halfway point of the season. Eighty-one down, eighty-one to go. It feels like it's flown by yet here we are, at the end of June and knocking on the door of the All Star break. On a personal note, I can't believe I've actually written up every single game to this point. When I challenged myself to do it, I thought I could do it but also wouldn't have been surprised if it petered out at some point. Halfway through the season, I'm still as excited to do it as I was back in April and I fully intend to do it the very end of the season. Back to the matter at hand, I once again had a free night to relax and watch the game after work and dinner, and with my oldest two daughters away at a friend's house to sleep over, it was a pretty quiet night at home. Heading into this game, the Red Sox had won all four games this season against the Angels and outscored them by twenty runs. With Rick Porcello starting, it looked like that trend would continue, but this turned out to be a more interesting game the longer it went on...

For the first four innings, this game was a laugher. The Sox put up six runs in the second when they hit three home runs: first, Eduardo Nunez belted a solo shot. A little later, Sandy Leon hit a two run homer over the Green Monster, and then JD Martinez blasted a three-run shot to center field. As my son rightly pointed out, all we needed was a grand slam to complete the home run cycle. With a 6-0 lead and Porcello looking pretty sharp, it seemed like it'd be another easy game for the Sox, but the Angels had other plans. Ian Kinsler hit a solo homer in the fifth to put the Angels on board and I thought to myself "alright, no big deal, it's just a run." When the weak hitting Martin Maldonado hit a three-run homer in the sixth to make it 6-4, I still wasn't too worried although seeing Porcello give up a couple of hard hit home runs on pitches hanging over the plate was a bit concerning. The seventh inning was just a comedy of errors, though, with Justin Upton scoring when Joe Kelly made a throwing error on a Luis Valbuena infield hit. Andrelton Simmons did damage next with an RBI double that tied the game. Just like that, the six run lead was gone and we had a game on our hands. Was this going to be another case of the bullpen blowing a game that had been in hand up to that point? 

Fortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case. In the next inning, Rafael Devers doubled to drive in Nunez and give Boston back the lead. Sandy Leon, who has really been swinging the bat well lately, drove Devers in with a single. The worst part of the night came on the final Boston run in the eighth. JD scored on a wild pitch from Angels reliever Jake Jewell, but it was what happened on the play that made it hard to watch. Jewell ran toward home to cover the plate but before he got there, he slipped and his cleat got caught on the ground. As he slid forward, his leg bent awkwardly behind him and he crumpled in a heap. He was in a lot of pain and had to be carted off the field in a stretcher. For a kid who had just been called up from the minors and was in only his third (I think) big league appearance it was a bummer. Anyway, the Sox ended up with the 9-6 win and survived a scare from the Angels. Everyone in the lineup except for Mitch Moreland got a hit, and Jackie Bradley's average is now at .200. As long as he can keep it above that threshold for the rest of the season, this lineup should hopefully finally score runs on a consistent basis without over relying on the top of the order. Porcello's final line was 5.2 innings of work, where he struck out five and walked two. It was the two homers and four earned runs he gave up in his final inning of work that did him in, though. For as good as he looked in the first two innings, he labored the rest of the way to get through and needed 104 pitches to not even make it out of the sixth inning. Kelly was even worse, but luckily Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel were able to hold down the fort the rest of the way (though not without some drama).

With the win and the Yankees losing, the Sox are back in first place. There's one more game against the Angels to clean up before the big showdown in the Bronx starts Friday night. I can't wait for that series, especially since the pitching match ups are set up favorably for the Sox. It should be a good series and I'm expecting plenty of great baseball from both teams. If the Sox can take two of three, they'll be set up nicely to finish the stretch before the All Star break. First, though, let's take care of business against the Angels and go for the sweep!