Game 150: New York Mets at Red Sox (September 16, 2018)

Having split the first two games of this series with the Mets, Alex Cora opted not to start a spring training lineup and instead went with most of his regulars in order to go for the series win. This included Chris Sale on the mound to start the game although the team announced beforehand that he would be limited to only three innings. That didn't bode well for the Red Sox who had to contend with Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom. To the consternation of Red Sox fans near and far, Sale's truncated start meant six innings of bullpen work; combined with deGrom not allowing more than three runs in twenty-six consecutive starts and the Boston bats not producing lately, it seemed like it could be a potential recipe for disaster.

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The Red Sox got to deGrom in the third inning when they put up three runs. Mookie Betts drove the first one in with a sacrifice fly and was followed later in the inning by the suddenly hot Brock Holt's two-run homer. That was all they'd get off of deGrom whose streak is nonetheless still alive and well. Sale got through his three innings just fine, only allowing one hit and striking out one on forty-two pitches. It was of course the bullpen that made this game much more interesting (read: needlessly difficult) than it needed to be. In the sixth inning Drew Pomeranz (who has surely pitched his way off the postseason roster, right?) gave up two runs on a Wilmer Flores sac fly and a Michael Conforto RBI double to get the Mets back in the game at 3-2. The ineptitude of the relief corps continued in the seventh when Joe Kelly (another one who shouldn't be on the postseason roster) surrendered an RBI single to Amed Rosario. That tied the game at three runs and put the pressure back on the offense, a group that has constantly had to bail out the bullpen and clean up their messes all season. The hero turned out to be Andrew Benintendi who drove in the go ahead (and ultimately winning) run in the bottom of the eighth with a sac fly to drive in Tzu-Wei Lin. That proved to be the difference as the Sox held on for the 4-3 win and series victory. There was some panic in Red Sox Nation when Mookie left the game in the sixth inning with an apparent injury, but after the game the team announced it was just "left side soreness" and that he should be ready to play in the series against the Yankees starting on Tuesday.

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The Red Sox win coupled with the Yankees loss expanded the Boston lead in the AL East to a season-high 11.5 games while reducing the magic number to two. That should get to zero in the Bronx over the next few days. Once the Sox clinch the division Cora will most likely spend the final two weeks of the season resting starters and trying to figure out what he can do to paper over the gaping holes in the bullpen. Unfortunately, the old saying (if you'll pardon my language) that "you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit" holds true; Cora's task is to try and do just that with what he's been given by Dave Dombrowski, a challenge that looks to be his tallest task of the season.