It’s completely legitimate to question whether Major League Baseball should be trying to play this season. That the Miami Marlins had to suspend play this week after an outbreak of COVID-19 demonstrated how tenuous it all is.
As teams travel around the country, especially to states where the virus has gone largely unchecked, you wonder how long these games will last.
But at the same time, it was possible to put that all aside and appreciate the game the Red Sox played against the Mets on Wednesday.
The Sox arrived at Citi Field having lost four consecutive games, their pitching staff in shambles. Two of those losses had come against the Mets at Fenway Park on Monday and Tuesday.
It looked like more of the same when Nate Eovaldi allowed a run in the first inning.
But Eovaldi hung in there against the imposing Jake deGrom and the Sox scored three runs in the eighth inning and held on to steal a 6-5 victory.
One game will not fix the rotation or turn the season around. But one game did prove this team is capable of fighting back and that’s where it has to start.
deGrom was throwing triple-digit fastballs and vanishing changeups early in the game, running his streak of scoreless innings to 30 before Rafael Devers and Mitch Moreland had back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning to produce a run.
Moreland then made his way around on two wild pitches, not his usual way to find the plate.
After the Mets took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, Christian Vazquez belted a no-doubt home run in the seventh.
It only got more interesting from there. Sox manager Ron Roenicke, the proverbial good guy in a bad spot, went to Josh Osich in the bottom of the seventh. Osich was the opener on Monday and gave up a two-run homer to Michael Conforto, who was due up fourth in the inning.
When two hitters reached, it looked like a mistake. But Osich got Conforto to ground out. Heath Hembree then came in and struck out pinch hitter J.D. Davis on three pitches.
Roenicke continued to push buttons in the eighth inning. He pinch hit Kevin Pillar for Jackie Bradley Jr. against lefty Justin Wilson.
Pillar reached on a bloop single. Xander Bogaerts, who was too banged up to start, pinch hit and drew a walk. He also was too sore to run and Jonathan Arauz replaced him at first base.
(Who is that, you ask? Arauz is a 21-year-old Rule 5 pick from Houston.)
Andrew Benintendi, who to that point was 1 for 18 this season, put down a sacrifice bunt. The Mets intentionally walked J.D. Martinez to load the bases and Wilson struck out Devers.
Roenicke stuck with Moreland against a lefty and he drove in a run with a swinging bunt. When Vazquez poked a single to right, the Sox had a 6-3 lead.
Matt Barnes allowed a home run by Yoenis Cespedes leading off the bottom of the eighth inning before Robinson Cano singled. But he escaped further trouble when Jose Peraza started a double play that Arauz confidently turned with his bare hand.
Brandon Workman, in his first save situation of the season, loaded the bases with no outs. But he allowed only one run, somehow surviving a 30-pitch inning by getting Cano on a soft liner to end a game that lasted three hours and 44 minutes.
“[Workman] was sweating a lot but he managed to get the job done,” Vazquez said.
Roenicke acknowledged he managed the game with a sense of urgency, trying to find every advantage he could. In a 60-game season, a 1-4 start was essentially an emergency.
“We need to do what we can to win some games,” Roenicke said. “Get that good feeling back, guys will relax and we’ll start playing better baseball. Whatever we could do I felt we needed to do.”
After a month of practicing and playing at Fenway Park, Roenicke and several of the players suggested that a new location helped. But there also was a definite sense that enough was enough after the bad homestand.
“This one was big for us,” Eovaldi said. “Hopefully it gets the ball rolling.”