I was told that the Red Sox only beat bad teams. I thought I heard that. On Monday night, the Red Sox welcomed the first place Philadelphia Phillies to Fenway Park for a brief two-game series, and in that series opener, they’d be faced with a tall task. The task? Defeat one of the best pitchers in the National League, Aaron Nola, to which they, in fairness, did not do. Nola spun a gem unlike any other we’ve seen against the Red Sox this year — eight innings, four hits, one earned run, and six strikeouts. He was throwing frisbees and wiffleballs up there.
Nola held the top of the Red Sox lineup hitless, as did the Phillies relievers who came on in relief of Nola afterwards. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, JD Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Xander Bogaerts went a combined 0-for-23 on the night. Somehow, some way, the Red Sox still won with all of their greatest offensive weapons going 0-for-the entire game. A big reason why the Red Sox were able to win this game despite a complete lack of offense is because of David Price.
Say what you want about the guy, but he is still a very good pitcher when he’s on. Since getting shelled at Yankee Stadium for eight earned runs and five homers, undoubtedly the worst start of his big league career, he has pitched better and better with each start. Over his last three starts, Price has a 1.71 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 21 innings. Opponents are hitting .228 with a .623 OPS against him over that span, but we all know what lies ahead. His next start is once again against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball.
This is what happened last time. Price was pitching well, cruising right along, and then he ran into the Yankees, who form tackled him right off the path he was on. For Price, it’s almost like the non-Yankee starts are his training sessions and the Yankee starts are the pay-per-view fights, and no matter how good he looks in the training sessions, he’s gotten knocked out cold in both fights this year. Bad. As a Red Sox fan, all you can hope for is that this time is different. Perhaps you look at his start against the Yankees last year at Fenway Park where he went eight shutout innings and hope that a ballpark and atmosphere change makes a difference.
Regardless, Price pitched really well against a first-place team and was in a couple of situations where one mistake pitch would’ve cost the Red Sox the game, but he worked his way out of every jam and completed eight one-run innings just like Nola did. But I will say this — if Odubel Herrera doesn’t misplay a liner off the bat of Eduardo Nunez in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Phillies win this game 1-0 in nine innings. With Jackie Bradley Jr. standing on first base with a single, Nunez roped a screaming liner over the head of Herrera in center that most centerfielders haul in. This one went over Herrera’s head, and Nunez ended up at third base with a game-tying triple.
After both starters departed following their eight-inning, one-run outings, both the Phillies and Red Sox needed five relievers each to extend this game into the bottom of the 13th inning. Tyler Thornburg was called upon in the ninth inning, and put up another scoreless frame. He hasn’t allowed a run in any of his last five appearances, giving up just one hit, striking out five and walking zero. The Red Sox are still doing their job by trying to find a reliever on the trade market, but let’s not discount the impact that a healthy Thornburg can make over these final few months.
Nunez led off the bottom of the 13th with a base hit, making both of his hits in this game count. Two batters later, Blake Swihart ripped a ground rule double into the Red Sox bullpen, and this thing was fuckin’ over! Over his last 10 games, Swihart is hitting .429 with an 1.162 OPS, 4 doubles and a homer. It’s crazy what can happen when a player with that kind of talent actually gets an opportunity. And it was no fault of his own or his manager. Christian Vazquez went down with an injury, and Swihart has made every bit of this opportunity count, so big time credit to him.
This game was one hell of a battle. I mean, you’ve gotta tip your cap to the Phillies after that one. It didn’t quite have that playoff feel to it, but it was pretty damn close. You knew you were facing one of the best teams that the National League had to offer with one of the game’s best pitchers on the mound, and the scoreboard reflected that all night.
After Price’s eight-inning, one-run performance on Monday, Red Sox starters not named Drew Pomeranz have a 0.81 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 55.2 innings since the All Star break in nine starts. It’s been quite the run that these guys have been on to start the unofficial second half of the season AKA the final 40%.
Speaking of Pomeranz, that wet blanket is getting the start on Tuesday. I just hate this guy’s face. Even when he pitches well, nothing about his body languages exudes confidence. His ERA is almost seven. He’s given up at least one home run in each of his last three starts. He hasn’t given up fewer than four earned runs in a start since May 13. Like, what are we doing here? He is the only blemish on this otherwise phenomenal Red Sox team. You have five good to great starters in Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi and Brian Johnson, yet we keep giving this puddle of piss opportunities to ruin the great vibes around this team every five days. Get Drew Pomeranz away from me for the love of God.
Opposing Pomeranz will be Jake Arrieta, who actually has balls and mound presence. As expected, Arrieta has been very good for the Phillies this year. Outside of maybe one three-start rough patch, he’s been super consistent all year long. He’s not striking out a ton of guys anymore, but he still gets outs and limits the damage.
One last note — the Red Sox traded for Ian Kinsler after last night’s game. I wrote about it last night, so you can check that out here.
Final score: Red Sox 2, Phillies 1 — 13 innings