By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s not often that a midsummer meeting on a weekday evening produces a genuine playoff-like atmosphere in a ballpark, but the world was treated to a real humdinger on Tuesday night when the Boston Red Sox hosted the Cleveland Indians.
Billed as a pitcher’s duel, the game didn’t exactly go as planned. Chris Sale, who allowed five total runs in his last six starts, was tagged for seven runs in five innings. His counterpart, Carlos Carrasco, fared even worse, lasting just 1.2 innings before getting the hook.
It was a wild game, with Cleveland opening a five-run lead and Boston immediately rallying to tie the game. Cleveland took a two-run lead; Boston rallied for four. Some of the best relievers in baseball couldn’t get their jobs done, while some lesser-known hurlers looked untouchable.
And after a stunned Fenway Park witnessed Craig Kimbrel put forth his worst outing of his outstanding season, the crowd witnessed a most-unlikely walk-off homer.
It was, truly, a wild night at Fenway Park. And so, because the baseball season always trudges on to the next day without too much time for reflection, it’s worthwhile to relive some of the more unbelievable moments from that nine-inning affair.
Sale And Carrasco Getting Shelled
This was touched upon in the introduction. This was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel. Sale had a 1.04 ERA in July, allowing runs in just one of his five starts and had a 2.07 ERA at Fenway Park heading into this game. He gave up seven runs and lasted just five innings. Carrasco watched his ERA jump 31 points after allowing five runs in his 1.2 innings.
Disgusting Superimposed Chevy Ad
What the heck is that, MLB Network? Get that out of here, would you?
Also, Bob Costas thought that ball was going to be caught? I remember my first time at Fenway.
Red Sox Run Into Two Outs At The Plate
It wouldn’t be a Red Sox game without some outs being made at home plate. The two outs the Red Sox made at home upped their total to 22 on the year. For the second straight night, Brock Holt was gunned down at the plate on plays that weren’t even close. Later on Tuesday, Nunez broke to the plate on a contact play and was likewise out by a mile.
While it’s easy (and correct, in many cases) to pile on the Red Sox for poor base running, these two examples might not quite fit the bill. On the Holt out, Francisco Lindor threw an absolute rocket from shallow left field to complete a perfect relay, and the contact play was a contact play and thus didn’t involve any bad judgment. Still, given all the outs the Red Sox have made at home this year, these two were a nice addition to the frenzy.
Eduardo Nunez Is Babe Ruth
Since joining the Red Sox, Eduardo Nunez is batting .500 (11-for-22) with four doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in five games. His OPS with the Red Sox is 1.496, which is slightly higher than his career mark of .730. Included in there was his 3-for-5, four-RBI night on Tuesday.
Rafael Devers Is … Better Than Babe Ruth?
The word on the 20-year-old has been that he doesn’t play like an intimidated youngster, and he’s certainly shown that since his call-up. Devers followed up his 4-for-4 night by going 2-for-4 with a walk. He hustled for an infield hit on a high chopper to give the Red Sox hope in the ninth, and he came around to score the tying run on Vazquez’s homer. All told, he’s batting .429 with a 1.214 OPS in his first seven games in the big leagues.
Ovation For Dennis Eckersley
Fans have, understandably, grown tired of the David Price-Dennis Eckersley saga, but this unique scene certainly warrants some attention. Out of sheer coincidence, it was Eckersley’s turn to be in the Legends Suite at Fenway Park for this game, and so when he was introduced in the third inning, the Fenway crowd let Eck know that they support him.
Clearly, that story’s still got some legs to it.
5. Matt Barnes, Blaine Boyer’s Relief Performances
The Red Sox’ best reliever on Tuesday wasn’t Craig Kimbrel, or the newly acquired Addison Reed. It was Matt Barnes.
And the most impressive performance by a Red Sox pitcher did not come from Chis Sale. It came from … Blaine Boyer.
Boyer came in to relieve Sale to start the sixth inning, and he quickly gave up a double and a walk. Giovanny Urshela then reached first on a sacrifice bunt, thus loading the bases with nobody out. Boyer was able to get Lindor to fly out to left before inducing a 6-4-3 double play from Brandon Guyer to get the Sox out of the inning unscathed.
Barnes came out for the top of the seventh, and if you blinked, you missed all three outs. Barnes struck out the first two batters he faced and then got Edwin Encarnacion to ground out to end the inning. Barnes, who’s definitely been up and down for the Red Sox this year, needed just 11 pitches to get his job done.
4. The Strikeout That Never Was
Arguably the wildest bit about this game is that the Indians had it won. With one on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mitch Moreland was engaged in quite the battle with Cody Allen. After falling behind 0-2, fouled off three pitches and took two balls to even up the count. With the 2-2 pitch, Allen went with a breaking ball in the dirt, and Moreland was unable to check his swing.
Yet the ball bounced away from catcher Yan Gomes, and though Moreland got a late jump to first base (he believed he had checked his swing), the first baseman was still able to hustle down the line. Gomes didn’t even make a throw (it would have been close) as Rafael Devers ran to second base.
An underrated part of this moment: Home plate umpire Marty Foster and third base umpire Mark Wegner were proactive. As Gomes chased the ball, Foster signaled the appeal to third, where Wegner confirmed the swing. Moreland of course would never run to first on his own, but the quick work of Foster and Wegner to kick-start the swing appeal process saved the Red Sox. Had they waited for Gomes to appeal after the fact, Moreland would have been standing in the batter’s box, and Gomes would have had an easy tag.
So, credit to the umpires, as Moreland now has what will go down in the books as a clutch ninth-inning strikeout.
3. Blown Saves From Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Cody Allen
Three of the best back-end relievers in baseball all earned blown saves in this one.
Miller, whose versatility to record big outs in any inning became the stuff of legend last October, was called upon by Terry Francona in the bottom of the sixth inning, after the Red Sox had cut Cleveland’s lead to 7-6. Miller promptly hit Chris Young with a slider, bringing up Eduardo Nunez.
The acquisition from San Francisco had been swinging a hot enough bat to warrant manager John Farrell penciling him into the lineup’s No. 3 spot on Tuesday, and Nunez made sure it was the right call by turning on a 96-mph inside fastball on an 0-2 count, sending it off the Monster in left and plating three runs.
(An underrated part of that moment was watching the 6-foot-7 Miller fire a ball to second base from the backstop. You don’t see that every day.)
Later, after trade deadline acquisition Addison Reed gave up a homer in the eighth to cut Boston’s lead to just one run, Kimbrel came on to close out the win in the ninth. That hope lasted all of three pitches, as Francisco Lindor clobbered a 99-mph fastball to the opposite field for the game-tying home run.
Kimbrel ended up getting into some trouble, allowing consecutive two-out base hits and a walk to load the bases. A wild pitch that skipped off Christian Vazquez to the backstop allowed the Indians to take a 10-9 lead before Kimbrel was able to induce a lazy fly ball to shallow right to end the inning.
Prior to allowing four base runners on three hits and a walk on Tuesday night, Kimbrel’s WHIP was 0.595, so this performance was most unusual.
Allen, meanwhile, had blown just one save all year before he entered in the bottom of the ninth. More on him in a bit.
Together, the trio of Miller, Kimbrel and Allen had blown just four saves in 76 opportunities. But they each earned one in this one game.
2. Austin Jackson Catch
The screen shot says it all. That ball wasn’t just gone; it was gone. It had already traveled a couple of feet past the bullpen wall. There was no reason to believe that any human man could catch that baseball, and yet, there was Austin Jackson.
It was somewhat reminiscent of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s catch from a few weeks ago, and it brought to mind a Jay Buhner catch from the ’90s, but make no mistake: Jackson’s might have been the best catch ever made in that ballpark.
1. Christian Vazquez Walk-Off Homer
Here’s a wild little tidbit for you: With his 408-foot bomb on Tuesday, catcher Christian Vazquez now has four career home runs. The crazy part is that half of those home runs have been game-winning homers in late innings, and both have come against elite relievers.
Last year, with the Yankees in Boston, Vazquez broke a 6-6 tie in the seventh inning with a 395-foot, two-run home run to left off Dellin Betances. It was one of just five home runs Betances allowed all year over 73 innings.
This year, it was Cody Allen, who’s not having quite the exceptional year that he did last year, but still had just blown one save this season. Allen fell behind Vazquez 2-0, threw a called strike down the middle for strike one, and then bounced a ball in the dirt. It got away from catcher Yan Gomes, allowing the runners to advance to second and third.
Allen tried to sneak a low fastball past Vazquez, but the catcher put the perfect swing on it to loft it high and deep to left-center. Before it even came down, it was clear that the Red Sox had their best win of the season.