Sunday’s game was easily the biggest game of the season to this point. With a Sox loss, Toronto would have moved into a tie for first place with the Orioles sitting just 1 game back. On the other hand, with a win Boston had the opportunity to take a 2 game lead in the division over both Toronto and Baltimore, while opening up their lead on the Yankees to 4 games. There was no point in this game where any fan from either team could say with any certainty who was going to win. After an RBI double from Mookie Betts and a 3 run home run by Jackie Bradley Jr., the Sox were able to take a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the 3rd. This was when Clay Buchholz returned to being Clay Buchholz.
Coming into Sunday, Buchholz had a 2.95 ERA since the All-Star break. Instead of crediting Buchholz for his work, Sox fans decided that it wouldn’t last and were just waiting for a bad start so they could jump on him. This quickly became the start that these fans were waiting for in the 3rd inning when he walked in a run, then proceeded to give up a grand slam to Troy Tulowitzki. In 3+ innings of work, Clay allowed 6 earned runs, 4 walks, and 2 home runs. This is the type of start that I would’ve expected from him in May. The point in time when any Red Sox fan would’ve said that he should be designated for assignment. Regardless, Clay’s horrid start didn’t end up costing them the game. This was only the beginning.
Once Clay came out of the game, the Red Sox faced a 6-4 deficit. In the next half inning, Xander Bogaerts came to the plate with 2 outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd and an opportunity to do some damage. Bogaerts came through ripping a single up the middle to drive in both runs and tie the game at 6. Bogaerts may be figuring something out as he was able to rack up 4 hits and 4 RBI’s this series. It is encouraging to see him starting going up the middle and to the opposite field more often, as this is when he is at his best. If Xander can regain his stroke and start to heat up, this would be a huge boost to the Sox offense during their most important stretch of the season.
After Heath Hembree allowed Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the game to make it 8-6, the Red Sox received a pair of home runs to give them the lead for good. The first was a solo shot by Hanley Ramirez. Well, calling it a solo shot doesn’t do it justice. Hanley hit an ABSOLUTE BOMB that travelled 444 feet to dead centerfield. This pulled the Sox within a run of Toronto and swung the momentum their way. The second home run came an inning later in the 6th, when David Ortiz took Joaquin Benoit deep to right field for a 3 run home run that made it 10-8 in favor of the Red Sox. For those of you wondering, this is indeed the same Joaquin Benoit that Ortiz hit the grand slam off of in the 2013 ALCS. Why did John Gibbons bring in Benoit specifically to face Ortiz? Nobody knows. What we do know is that Ortiz is just as clutch in his final season in Boston as he was in his first, and we may have found a manager that’s as dumb as John Farrell.
The Sox would score 1 more before things were said and done resulting in an 11-8 victory. They now have a 2 game lead in the division with 20 games left in the regular season. They now head back to Boston to begin a 3 game series with Baltimore. David Price will be on the mound in game 1 of the series opposing old friend Wade Miley. Price has a 3.07 ERA since the All-Star break and will look to continue his recent streak of 6 wins in his last 6 outings. David will be trying to prove to the fans that he is the ace that they thought they were getting, and to the team that he should be the one getting the ball in a Game 1 or Wild Card game. During their remaining 20 games, all of which are within the division, the Sox need to play their best baseball. Andrew Benintendi could potentially return as soon as Wednesday, and this could be the boost that this team needs to make the push to the postseason.