Game 145: Toronto Blue Jays at Red Sox (September 11, 2018)

After wrapping up the series against the Astros, the Red Sox home stand continued with a series against the Blue Jays. It marked the return of Chris Sale after his second DL stint, although the team announced they were going to limit him to forty pitches so as to not rush him back and risk further injury. Still, getting him back to normal for the postseason is priority number one for the Sox and what better team to do it against than the lousy Blue Jays? The only downside to this was that it meant the remainder of the game would be up to the Boston bullpen and we all know how good they've been this season...

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For the first five innings of the game it was scoreless and neither team could get anything going at the plate. Sale ended up only pitching the first inning, throwing twenty-six pitches and striking out two while only giving up a single hit. After that, the bullpen took over. In the sixth inning, a team broke through...unfortunately, it wasn't the Red Sox. A throwing error from Ian Kinsler allowed Devon Travis to steal home and plate the first Toronto run. It was followed by a Kevin Pillar RBI single to drive in Jonathan Davis and make it 2-0 Jays. With as lifeless as the Boston bats had been, this game had the feeling of too many games over this last month: the Sox playing down to the level of their competition and losing a cupcake game they should win. In the seventh inning, though, the Red Sox seemed to flip a switch and played like a completely different team. Steve Pearce smoked a triple to right field that brought in Xander Bogaerts which cut the lead in half. Then, with two men on base Brock Holt (who was pinch hitting for Sandy Leon) crushed a ball into the right field stands to make is 4-2 Boston. I watched the entire game at Buffalo Wild Wings because I was having a coaches meeting with the other coaches of my son's travel baseball team to strategize for the upcoming season. I loudly hollered and cheered at Holt's homer and ended up with everyone at the bar looking at me (since I was the only Red Sox fan in there). It was a fun moment. The Sox kept piling on after that, scoring three more runs in the eighth inning. Andrew Benintendi hit an RBI double to drive Mookie Betts in, Kinsler singled to drive in Benintendi, and then a wild pitch allowed JD Martinez to score. It ended in a 7-2 Red Sox win and with the Yankees getting smoked by Minnesota, the Sox lead in the AL East is up to nine games. The win was also Boston's 99th on the season and clinched them a postseason berth.

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The Sox had seven hits in the game and no one player had more than a single hit, but they made them count. Every starter except Xander and Leon had a hit, but none was bigger than Holt's blast. It completely changed the momentum of the game and brought the moribund Sox to life. As for the bullpen, they surprisingly did their job for the most part. The two Toronto hits came off of Nathan Eovaldi who was pitching extended relief, but otherwise the rest of the pen shut the Jays down...even Heath Hembree, who pitched the final inning, couldn't screw this one up! For game two the Sox will turn to David Price who has been their best pitcher over the last month. More than anything, I'm looking for the team to take care of business in this series and the following series against the Mets, because after that is a tough stretch where they'll play on the road against Cleveland and the Yankees. There are seventeen games left in the regular season and Boston still needs to clinch the division, clinch home field advantage throughout the postseason, and get players tuned up and ready to go in October. It's should be a great finish which will hopefully lead to a great postseason.