It’s hard to believe that the Red Sox are playing decent baseball. In their first series against the Astros, Boston survived a protracted rain delay to win a close one after capturing two of three against the Rangers over the weekend.
Though they were blanked early, the Red Sox managed to score some runs while Houston matched them run for run. But Matt Strahm came through in the bullpen and gave the offense time to open up a three-run lead, which they would hold on to in the ninth inning to secure the win for Boston.
This time around, the Red Sox offense was quieter than in the first two games of their series against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. They had some chances with runners on base, but advancing runs across the plate proved difficult against Martin Pérez, a longtime buddy.
On Monday, they were back at home and determined to not let their poor showing on Sunday become a pattern in their play. In the beginning, Jake Odorizzi had other ideas.
On the other hand, the Astros right-hander would be perfect the first time around the lineup, and frustratingly for Red Sox fans. They weren’t just failing to get anyone on the base; they were also making it easy for Odorizzi by getting out of the inning quickly.
He didn’t need more than 11 pitches in any of his first three innings because he had only totaled 32 pitches by the end of those innings. However, even though some believed he would be better served as a reliever, Garrett Whitlock returned to the lineup for yet another start.
On Monday, he appeared to be in danger of repeating the worst performance of the season, and probably his entire career, as he struggled to command the ball in the first few innings. It was much worse when he got ahead only to lose the advantage by hitting José Altuve in the wrist on a 1-2 count in the leadoff hole.
Despite allowing the first two hitters to get on base, Whitlock was able to get out of the inning without allowing any runs to score.
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The good news is that after the first inning, he was able to regain his composure with the support of his defense. There were two walks in the second, but the game ended with a spectacular diving catch by Trevor Story in the hole.
Franchy Cordero and Rafael Devers both helped him out in the third inning with ground balls that may have led to a bloop in shallow left center. Despite Houston having the stronger pitching up to that point, everything came together to keep this game scoreless.
Enrique Hernández hit a strong base hit in the fourth inning to spoil the Red Sox’s perfect game bid, and he advanced to second on a J.D. Martinez single and third on a Xander Bogaerts walk. Even though the opportunity to put up a skewed number was great, Boston was content with just one, and that one was on an odd play.
In the center field corner, Alex Verdugo sent a fly ball barely inches in front of Chas McCormick, who dove to catch it. Hernández came in to score, but Martinez didn’t advance too far off third base, and he was cut down on the third base, making it a fielder’s choice.
Unfortunately, the 1-0 lead would be short-lived. After McCormick led off the fifth, Whitlock made his worst mistake of the game by leaving a hanging slider up in the zone and directly in front of the catcher.
McCormick took full advantage of the opportunity, blasting a single homer to center field and tied the game in the first two pitches of the inning. Whitlock’s good news is that he didn’t allow the situation to get out of hand, and he struck out the next three batters.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Franchy Cordero was a big part of the team’s comeback effort. In the first inning, he showed off his ability to make heavy contact by smashing a leadoff double off the Monster. Boston went back in front by one run on his next at-bat after making an outstanding read on a ground ball and moving up to third before coming in on an Odorizzi pitch that hit the backstop.
At this point, the game was over because of a simple ground ball, but Odorizzi slumped and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher owing to what appeared to be a leg injury. At this point, it’s not obvious what transpired, but it didn’t appear to be a pleasant experience.
The Red Sox pitching in the sixth inning with rain beginning to fall at Fenway was also not looking good. Whitlock walked the first two hitters before Jake Diekman was summoned by Alex Cora to attempt and preserve the advantage. The southpaw got off to a bad start, walking the first batter he faced to load the bases.
He did get the first out of the inning, but it was on a fly ball that was far enough to score a run and level the game. A fly ball from Diekman accounted for Houston’s first out in the second inning, and then John Schreiber struck out to close the game with the score tied at 2.
As the inning progressed, the rain became more intense, and we were forced to put the game on hold for more than 90 minutes until Rafael Devers hit a single to left field in the bottom of the sixth. That was followed by a second hard-hit ball, this time directly at third baseman Alex Bregman. Martinez was thrown out, and first baseman Rafael Devers was also doubled up to immediately erase Martinez’s single.
Things didn’t go smoothly when Matt Barnes came in in the seventh inning. The runner reached third on a sacrifice bunt after being put on second base by a weak fly ball to left field that got by a sliding Verdugo. That sent José Altuve to the plate, who promptly hit a base single to give Houston a 3-2 lead.
Barnes faced only one more batter before being replaced by Matt Strahm, who promptly struck out the first hitter he saw, Jose Altuve. Fortunately, that was the only problem he encountered, as he ended the inning with two huge strikeouts.
Even before the rain came, the two teams were still exchanging blows. With Story’s first Fenway homer of his Red Sox career, Boston once again had the upper hand. We were deadlocked again after he hit a solo homer over the wall in left field on a slider that caught too much of the plate.
After a two-out double in the eighth, Strahm returned to work around it for a scoreless inning before Hernández sparked the Red Sox with a leadoff double in the bottom half. To make it 4-3, the Red Sox got a run back from Devers on the bases with a double to the gap in left center field.
After that, Bogaerts smashed a two-run homer to give the Yankees a three-run lead, which was much needed considering how the bullpen has performed in one-run games this season. Hansel Robles had to keep his head above water now. He was able to escape that in the ninth inning, shutting the door on the 6-3 victory.
Nathan Eovaldi will take the mound for the Red Sox against José Urquidi on Wednesday in an attempt to secure a second series win in a straight. The game’s start time has been set for 7:10 p.m. Eastern Time.