Game 149: New York Mets at Red Sox (September 15, 2018)

Before the game on Saturday I spent a little bit of time chatting online with other Red Sox fans about the current malaise this team has been suffering from over the last month. There were several theories put forth and all of them were plausible. Is this team exhausted? Pressing? Injured more than what they've let on? Just slumping? Of course none of us know for sure and even if someone managed to guess correctly, the team isn't going to come out and admit anything anyway. One thing I do know for sure is that if the Red Sox hadn't been on such a torrid pace throughout the summer and if the Yankees hadn't been scuffling for most of the last two months, we might be having a very different conversation right now about the standings, playoff seeding, and possible Wild Card scenarios. Instead the Red Sox and their fans have the security of a huge division lead and the knowledge that they're all but locked in to the top record in the American League (and all of MLB).

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It was Rick Porcello's turn (again) to try and establish some semblance of normalcy as he took the mound for Boston in this middle game of the series. Perhaps the poster child for the team's inconsistency, he's followed up a stellar first half of the season with a really up and down second half. On some outings he's looked unstoppable and in others he's been a trainwreck. This game against the Mets ended up being a microcosm of his season. Xander Bogaerts finally got the Sox on the scoreboard against the Mets with an RBI single off of Corey Oswalt in the first inning which drove in Mookie Betts. That lead held up until the fourth inning when the bad Rick Porcello came out to play. With two outs, he was unable to put two consecutive batters away and instead allowed them to reach base. It cost him dearly because after battling with Brandon Nimmo to a 1-2 count, he gave up a fat pitch that Nimmo deposited into the right field stands. Just like that, it was 3-1 Mets and the entire complexion of the game changed. That was only the second Mets hit of the game, but it was enough to give them the lead and all of the momentum. It wasn't until the fifth inning that the Boston bats finally came alive and did some damage. With two outs, consecutive singles from Steve Pearce and Ian Kinsler were followed by a Jackie Bradley hit that appeared to everybody but the umpires in New York to have cleared the Green Monster before bouncing back onto the field. Instead of a three run home run, the call on the field was overturned and it was ruled a double instead. It still tied the game, but with the way they'd been swinging the bats lately it would have been better if the call had stood correctly and resulted in a one run lead. In the end it didn't end up mattering because two batters later Brock Holt hit a double off of the Green Monster to drive in Bradley and Rafael Devers and give Boston a 5-3 lead. That was all the offense for either team as the Red Sox won the game and tied the series. While Porcello picked up his 17th win of the season, he continued the troubling trend of Boston starters not going deep into games. In this case, he only went five innings and while he surrendered just two hits, they resulted in all three Mets runs. The five strikeouts and one walk weren't bad, but he's got to be better in October. The bullpen held New York hitless the rest of the way and apart from the two walks issued by Steven Wright, they didn't allow any base runners either. Most of the Sox damage at the plate was done by Bogaerts (1-4, RBI), Pearce (3-4, a run scored), Holt (1-1, two RBI), and Bradley (1-4, two RBI).

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The win combined with the Yankees' loss put the division lead back up to 10.5 games and reduced the Sox magic number to four. It's only a matter of time before they clinch the AL East and the way it's lining up, it just might happen in the Bronx this coming week. First, though, there's a series to win against the other team from New York. Chris Sale will make another truncated start (three innings) and go up against Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom. I really hope the bats have finally woken up because they're going to have their work cut out for them in facing deGrom; he's given up three or fewer runs in twenty-six consecutive starts and has an ERA of 1.71. His issue all season has been the Mets not giving him any run support as evidenced by his 8-9 record. Hopefully that means the Sox can score enough to win the game and the series. After Sunday's finale, there's another off day before a big series at Yankee Stadium begins Tuesday. Those final dozen games (six against the Yankees and three each against the Indians and Orioles) will be the final chances for the Sox to get tuned up and build some momentum heading into October. It'll hopefully be a fun (and more consistent) end to the season than the last two years.