Last night’s Red Sox walk-off win was a brilliant one. It’s fair to say, the most exciting Boston game of the 2017 season, and all the more so as it came against a very tough, very motivated opponent.
Where in the standings might the 2017 Red Sox be without Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel? So on a night when neither had their best stuff, the offense came through for an important win to put Boston back atop the American League East.
- Chris Sale gave up five Indians runs over the first two innings on Monday. That snapped a 21.2-inning scoreless streak. It was just the second of 22 starts this season in which Sale allowed a first-inning run.
- And yet, even with this uncharacteristically bad outing, Sale manages to draw comparisons to the great ones. Elias Sports Bureau says the only other Red Sox starter coming off three or more straight scoreless starts to give up at least five runs before the start of the third inning is Cy Young, on July 6, 1903, against the St. Louis Browns. Of course, Young went on to pitch the complete-game, earning an 8–6 win in that one.
- Satisfyingly, the Red Sox have plated 6+ runs in back-to-back games. The offense is back, or is it? We’ve certainly seen this before, the frustrating, on-again/off-again offensive performances. Monday’s was the first where the Sox scored four or more runs in multiple innings of a game since last September 2nd at Oakland.
- Especially given the news of Dustin Pedroia‘s trip to the DL, how good does the signing of Eduardo Núñez look right now? Playing at second base on Monday, Núñez went 3-for-5 for his fifth three-hit performance in his last nine games. His two-out double tied the game in the second inning and he’s now 31-for-72 (.431) with runners in scoring position this season.
- A resurgent Mookie Betts drove in his club-best 67th RBI on Monday. He’s now 36-for-87 (.414) with runners in scoring position in 2017. Betts leads the AL since the start of last year at 86-for-228 (.377) with RISP.
- It was great to see Mitch Moreland showing offensive signs of life again on Monday, too. His second inning, three-run home run sparked an offensive rally that erased the early five-run deficit. Moreland, who also doubled in the sixth inning, is now 4-for-11 (.364) over his last three games after going 4-for-46 (.087) with no extra-base hits in the 15 games before that.
- Moreland’s ninth inning strikeout should have ended the game but, fortunately, the ball squirted away from Indian catcher Yan Gomes and Moreland reached, allowing the hero, Christian Vázquez, to come to the plate.
- It’s not unreasonable to expect the league to figure out Rafael Devers at some point and cool him down. Until then, though, he’s on a torrid pace going 2-for-4 with a walk on Monday. Devers reached base safely in seven straight plate appearances (a streak that ended with a foul out in the fifth inning). Devers has now reached safely in all seven career games. In the last 50 years, only six other Red Sox have started their careers with a seven-game on-base streak: Sam Horn, Mo Vaughn, Shea Hillenbrand, Kevin Youkilis, and Daniel Nava.
- Boston is now 39-for-105 (.371) with runners in scoring position for their last 13 games.
It wasn’t just Sale who had a tough night. Indians starter Carlos Carrasco lasted just 1.2 IP after coughing back up his team’s five-run lead in the second inning.
A succession of pitchers, including old-friend Andrew Miller, struggled to hold the game in check. In all, 12 pitchers would appear in Monday’s game (seven for the Tribe and five for the Sox).
Newly acquired Red Sox set up man Addison Reed made no new friends, allowing a solo shot by Carlos Santana to make it a one-run game in the eighth. Kimbrel promptly allowed a game-tying home run by Francisco Lindor in the top of the ninth inning and then the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cleveland closer Cody Allen followed suit with a meltdown of his own that allowed the Sox to win the game. Kimbrel would walk away with both a blown save and the win.
Vázquez’ remarkable night
Fans know that Christian Vázquez would not normally have started behind the plate for Sale. He was there, however, because mainstay battery-mate Sandy León tweaked his knee in his game-winning slide to home on Saturday.
Vázquez has been on a tear lately, entering Monday’s action 8-for-16 (.500) with three extra-base hits during a four-game hitting streak. Still, Red Sox Nation couldn’t help but wonder if Sale’s early innings missteps could be attributed in some way to Vázquez. Sale, of course, batted that way in post-game comments. “Didn’t matter who was back there tonight, honestly. I had a bad night.”
With the bat,Vázquez seemed unfazed by the rough start, chipping in for three of the club’s 15 hits. It’s his fourth straight multi-hit game. But it was the last hit that mattered most, a towering, majestic 408-foot, two-out home run to center field that gave the Red Sox a 12-10 victory.
Vázquez had just one other HR this season and had never had a walk-off round-tripper.
It was just the second two-out, walk-off home run by a No. 9 hitter in baseball this season (also Miami’s JT Riddle) and the first for the Red Sox since Del Wilber, who connected against Don Larsen on May 20, 1953.
Vázquez and León have now both hit walk-off home runs this season. According to ESPN, the only other season in which two different Red Sox catchers hit game-ending homers was 1995 (Mike Macfarlane and Bill Haselman).
At home this season Váz` is now 36-for-94 (.383), the best home AVG in the AL (minimum 50 at-bats).
Props to Austin Jackson
RSNStats is about the Red Sox, of course, but it would be criminal to overlook what Indians outfielder Austin Jackson did last night.
Jackson’s leaping catch over the Boston bullpen wall robbed Hanley Ramírez of a fifth-inning home run. It was one of finest outfield plays your correspondent has ever witnessed. Just outstanding.