Just when Red Sox fans felt their team finally made it out of their extended rut of bad baseball, their worst fears were realized in the bottom of the eighth inning of Sunday’s 9-8 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Matt Barnes replaced Adam Ottavino with two outs and a runner on first and the Sox in control of an 8-6 lead in the bottom of the eighth.
Barnes walked the nine-hole hitter of the Blue Jays’ lineup which brought up George Springer, who represented the go-ahead run. But that’s when Springer changed that, sending a go-ahead three-run homer off Barnes, his former University of Connecticut baseball teammate, delivering yet another gut-punch to the Red Sox and their fans.
For their second day in a row, Barnes surrendered a game-deciding home run.
“Plain and simple, the ball leaked middle and he put a good swing on it,” Barnes said afterward. “Just to be frank, in a game in which we score eight runs, we got to win that ballgame. The one today is 100 percent on me. I got to make a better pitch. Not only to Springer. I got to get [Reese] McGuire out there.”
On a weekend that featured a tough group of Blue Jays starters, a scuffling Red Sox squad, and COVID-19 issues and scares, the Sox couldn’t escape Toronto soon enough.
“It’s a tough one,” manager Alex Cora said. “I think, offensively, we did a lot of good things, although we had a chance to put them away, too, and we did not do that. That’s a good offensive team, they have a great team over there. And they’re going to keep pushing.”
The loss came on a day the Red Sox offense chased Hyun-Jin Ryu out of the contest after 3⅔ innings, 10 hits, and seven earned runs. It was tied for Ryu’s shortest outing of the season.
The Blue Jays struck first in the bottom of the first inning following a Corey Dickerson RBI single, scoring Springer.
The Red Sox responded in the second. J.D. Martinez, who went 4 for 5 with two runs scored and three runs driven in on the day he was reinstated from the COVID-related injured list, laced a single off Ryu, sparking a three-run outburst in the inning. The Sox, collectively, totaled 16 hits.
“I just felt like I stuck to my plan,” Martinez said. “And that was it. I got some pitches I can hit and you know, put a couple good swings on him.”
The Sox scored one run in the second, then three more runs in the fourth to take a 7-2 lead.
But the Blue Jays always lurked and Springer delivered the final blow in the eighth as the Red Sox (65-49) dropped four games astern of the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays (68-44), who rallied from a 5-0 deficit for a 9-6 win in Baltimore. The Red Sox finished 2-8 on the road trip.
Garrett Richards submitted a serviceable five innings for the Red Sox, allowing four runs in that span.
“We didn’t win, so that sucks,” Richards said. “[I did] some good things, some bad things. Once it leaves my hand there’s nothing I can do. I’m just trying to attract guys and throw a lot of strikes and see what happens.”
The Red Sox now travel home for a three-game set against the Rays beginning Tuesday. The Sox, who have lost nine of their last 11 and are 10-13 since the All-Star break, understand the tough road ahead.
“All of us know that it’s a big series,” Barnes said. “It’s been a rough couple of weeks, particularly kind of since the All-Star break. But we have a good team. And this is a team that was in first place going into the All-Star break. Stretches like this happen.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.