BUFFALO, N.Y. — As Monday’s trade deadline creeps closer, watching the last-place Red Sox has become an exercise in evaluating the value of certain players in the market with an occasional glance at the scoreboard to see who is winning.
Contending teams have to be bullish on Mitch Moreland, who drove in two more runs in Tuesday night’s 9-7 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field.
Moreland’s OPS is up to 1.274 after going 2 for 3 with two walks. It’s time for teams to make Chaim Bloom their best offers on him.
“We constantly fought back,” Moreland said after the Sox rallied from a 4-0 first-inning deficit. “I think this game was good for us. It’s something we’ve been trying to do all year and hadn’t been able to do it. Tonight we were able to.”
The way Jackie Bradley Jr. sprinted to first base in the fourth inning to pick up an infield hit and drive in a run with two outs had to leave an impression on evaluators watching from home. His swings have improved significantly in the last week, perhaps a sign one of his hot streaks is percolating.
Christian Vazquez, whose name has persistently come up as being available, nursed four relievers through 5⅔ strong innings and added a double to a 13-hit attack by the Sox. A good catcher can help a team in many ways.
One of those relievers, Ryan Brasier, fired a perfect eighth inning that included nine fastballs of 97 miles-per-hour or faster. Contenders can never have enough relief help.
It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox further annoying their fan base by trading shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who took a discount when he agreed to a contract extension last year. But he was 3 for 5 with a double, continuing what has been an excellent season.
Then there’s Kevin Pillar, who was 0 for 5 against his former team and was downcast every time he went back to the dugout. One game doesn’t detract from what has been a productive season for him, but performances will be magnified this week.
The Red Sox reached the halfway point of the season 10-20 but have won four of their last six games. Tuesday was their first game in Buffalo since July 6, 1917, when they beat the Buffalo Bison, also 9-7.
“Lately I like our offense, in the last week we’ve been doing a good job,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “Hopefully we’ll continue with that.”
Red Sox starter Kyle Hart allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks over 3⅓ innings. Four of the runs came in the first inning, two on a double by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Hart, a 27-year-old rookie, clearly isn’t ready for the majors. He has allowed 13 earned runs on 17 hits and 10 walks over nine innings in his first three starts. Opponents have hit .395 against Hart with six extra-base hits.
Hart has given up six earned runs on eight hits and four walks in the first inning alone.
“I’ve learned that I’m not as good as I thought I was, quite frankly,” Hart said. “I had a lot of confidence coming in here and I learned that these guys are really good.”
Running Hart back out there again, at least as a starter, wouldn’t seem to serve much purpose.
“I hope I can look back in six or seven years and say, ‘Hey, guys, you should have seen how my big league career started.’ But, yeah, I’m fighting for my life. I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Hart said. “There’s a business aspect to this and you can’t go out and give the other team two, three, four runs in the first inning.”
The Sox were methodical in their comeback against Toronto starter Chase Anderson and a cast of relievers.
Bogaerts doubled and scored on a single by Moreland in the second inning. Bogaerts then singled and scored on Moreland’s double in the fourth. Moreland scored on a two-out single by Bradley.
The Sox sent 10 batters to the plate in the sixth inning and scored six runs. It was their biggest inning since a six-run fourth inning against Baltimore on Opening Day.
Moreland started it by drawing a walk off Anderson, which knocked him out of the game. Facing Wilmer Font, Vazquez had a bold-faced double to center, sending Moreland to third. Bradley drove in a run with a single to center.
After Jose Peraza was hit by a pitch, Alex Verdugo singled to right field. Vazquez scored and Bradley was moving fast in his wake but was held up by third base coach Carlos Febles, who saw Cavan Biggio charge the ball.
It paid off when Rafael Devers drove a triple into the right field corner off A.J. Cole to clear the bases. J.D. Martinez’s sacrifice fly made it 9-6.
Teoscar Hernandez homered with one out in the ninth off Matt Barnes for the final score.