It looked for a bit as though it wasn’t meant to be, but the Red Sox managed to squeak out a win over the Brewers on Thursday afternoon, 4-1.
The win was significant in that it keeps Boston above .500 (they’re now 18-16) and avoided the club’s first three-game sweep in Milwaukee in over 30 years (April 6-9, 1987).
The Red Sox have traditionally played well in Interleague games. They haven’t lost three straight against the National League since dropping six consecutive Interleague contests in 2002 (against the Braves and Dodgers).
Winning Thursday also kept Boston’s road trip from being a losing affair. The Sox head back home to Fenway Park at 3-3 after the visit to the Twins and Brewers.
Boston gained a half-game on the Orioles, who were rained out on Thursday, and gained a full game on New York, who fell to the Astros 3-2. The Sox now trail the Orioles by 4½ games and are in third place in the American League East behind the surprisingly resilient Yankees.
A Win In Three Acts
Thursday’s was really a game in three acts.
Act I began with starter Eduardo Rodríguez, who was robbed from a win, yet again, by another lackluster offensive performance. E-Rod went 6.0 IP allowing just one hit, a meaningless first-inning double, through 5.0 innings. When he was lifted, Rodríguez had thrown just 87 pitches, walked none, and struck out five. He allowed one earned run coming on two hits in the 6th, one by Manny Piña and the other a run-scoring, game-tying double by Jonathan Villar.
Again and again, Rodríguez faced the minimum number of men in the inning. Three up, three down in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings.
Through it all the Sox mustered one meager run when Mookie Betts doubled to start the game and came around the score on a Milwaukee error.
In the eighth inning, after the promising start, the Sox offense just looked terrible.
Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a double. Xander Bogaerts then singled and stole second. Andrew Benintendi, now 0-for-his-last-9, popped out, but Mitch Moreland walked to load the bases. Under pressure, though, Brewers reliever Corey Knebel delivered with back-to-back strikeouts of Jackie Bradley and Josh Rutledge and the Sox’ most promising opportunity went by the board.
The bottom of the eighth was the start of Act II.
With the game still tied and after Matt Barnes had allowed a one out Milwaukee walk and a single in the ninth, Manager John Farrell turned to Craig Kimbrel. And once again, Kimbrel delivered, striking out the powerful Brewers home run leader, Eric Thames, and then similarly striking out Keon Broxton.
The stars of Act III were Betts and Kimbrel. Thanks to another Brewers error, the Sox got the number eight and number nine hitters on base in front on Betts, who pounded a no-doubt, 401-foot home run to left center field. It was Mookie’s first ninth inning, tie-breaking home run since he did the same against the Mariners last August 1st. That solo shot also broke a 1-1 tie.
Betts’ six-game road trip ends with him 11-for-26 for a club-best .423 AVG with five walks, five doubles, three home runs, and nine RBI over the stretch.
When Kimbrel came on to finish the game in the bottom of the ninth, he was amped up and indomitable. Three batters, nine pitches, all strikes.
“He throws two-thirds of an inning, comes out and strikes out the side in nine pitches,” Farrell said after the game. “Those are really uncommon things that play out. He’s in a great spot, doing a great job.”
The Red Sox face the 17-20 Rays at home this weekend before heading out again to visit St. Louis and Oakland.