Had it all the way, coach.
Well, maybe part of the way. And only then with a whole lot of help from the other guys. Weren’t they supposed to be the other best team in baseball?
The first two games of the series had been more or less pitchers’ duels, but Tim Anderson started off this one with a trademark single to right, and it was off to the races.
The Sox built up an early 7-2 lead against Ryan Yarbrough, who was left in for all those runs because Kevin Cash apparently decided the mound was just too long a walk in the sun. Lucas Giolito got hit pretty hard on occasion, but survived a nasty fifth inning with only two runs thanks to two fine Leury García plays. and made it through the sixth on 102 pitches — getting one of those bizarre official quality start things because he only gave up three earned runs.
After that, yikes. But first, the positives.
You know how it’s better to be lucky than good? It’s even better to be both, as the Sox demonstrated in the fourth. The good was José Abreu’s first dinger of the month, which followed Andrew Vaughn’s first hit of three (the kid can’t hit righties, but he absolutely destroys lefties like Yarbrough).
You may note in the video that José wasn’t overswinging, just meeting the ball, and still got an EV of 106.8 mph. That’s when he’s a monster. The lucky was what followed, a series of bloops that managed to fall in and lead to two more runs and a 4-0 lead. For example, one of Zack Collins’ two hits on the day:
After the two runs the Rays pieced together the next half-inning, the Sox upped the total to 7-2 on a Tim Anderson double, a horrible error on a Brian Goodwin bunt (Aren’t the Rays supposed to be terrific defensively? Never would have guessed.), Vaughn double and Jake Lamb single.
Seems safe? You misjudge the Sox bullpen. Giolito gave up a homer to Yandy Díaz before departing, and then it was open season. Codi Heuer coughed up a two-run homer to .190 hitter Mike Zunino. A Danny Mendick error opened up an inning for Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall to let in two more runs.
Presto, 7-7, where it stayed in regulation, despite Tony La Russa doing his best to lose by not putting Adam Engel in defensively or Liam Hendriks on the mound (because closer, I guess). The Sox survived because no matter how hard Marshall tried to walk about five guys in a row, the Tampa Bay batters insisted on swinging at pitches outside the Chicago area codes. True, by that point the umpiring was absolutely horrible, but Marshall’s pitches were in a different time zone (yeah, yeah, mixed metaphor, but the wildness was disturbing).
Meanwhile, Cash was doing nothing much to try to win, either, until it got tied and he realized he’d messed around too long. Then he got around to trying to lose.
That came in the 10th. Ryan Burr held the Rays scoreless in the top despite the stupid man- on-second rule, thanks in large part to Austin Meadows being called out on a swing where he very clearly checked up in time. Time for Cash to go major brain fart.
Vaughn was the Sox man on second, because La Russa was too slow-witted himself to pinch-run the much-faster Engel. Didn’t matter. Abreu grounded to second, sending Vaughn to third. That brought up Yasmani Grandal. Grandal may not be much of a hitter, but the infield had to be drawn in, which wouldn’t have been the case if Cash had made the intelligent move of walking Grandal (why not? everybody does it) to get to Jake Lamb and a possible double play.
Infield didn’t matter, as it turns out.
Grandal didn’t have the homer he was staring for, but he only needed a single, so it was walk-off time.
So — survival, taking the series two out of three, moving up to best record in the big leagues.
Now it’s off to Houston for four, and a chance for the Sox to prove themselves against the best again.