TORONTO — There comes a time when you crumple up the script and put everything you have into winning the game in front of you.
For the Red Sox, that moment came in the bottom of the eighth inning on Monday night.
They had just scratched for two runs against the Toronto Blue Jays to tie the game. The Jays had the bottom of their order coming up against Nate Eovaldi, who had thrown only 72 pitches.
With Alex Cora back in Boston recovering from COVID-19, bench coach Will Venable called for lefthander Matt Strahm.
Not too much later, Venable was left trying to explain a 6-2 loss.
“It was a really good pocket for Strahm,” he said. “We kind of highlighted that spot going in. Nate gave us everything we needed tonight. Regardless of pitch count, it was just really a spot for Strahm there.”
Instead the Jays came to life, collecting four consecutive hits capped by Bo Bichette’s grand slam off Tyler Danish to beat the Sox, 6-2, before a crowd of 20,981 at Rogers Centre.
The Sox have lost three straight and four of five without Cora.
Pitch count did matter. Eovaldi, who averaged 90.6 pitches over his first three starts, clearly had plenty left to give given the 98.8-mile-per-hour fastball he threw in the seventh.
“I felt great,” said Eovaldi, who carved the Jays up outside of solo home runs from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Matt Chapman “I wasn’t really aware of the pitch count. I knew I was in the seventh inning. Any time the starter can get to the seventh inning you’re going to rely on the bullpen guys you trust … Obviously I respect Will’s decision.”
Who do the Sox trust? Venable preferred Danish over Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier and only wanted to use Hansel Robles if there was a lead to protect.
Jake Diekman, who struck out three Yankees for a save on April 10, has faced 17 batters since and put eight of them on base.
Strahm got one out before Santiago Espinal singled. Bradley Zimmer then bunted down the first base line. Strahm was able to flip the ball to Bobby Dalbec, but it popped out of his glove for what was ruled a hit.
With a string of righthanded hitters coming up, the call was to Danish, a 27-year-old rookie righthander who had pitched twice since being called up last week.
“We were looking to get a ground ball in that spot and Danish has a great sinker,” Venable said.
Danish threw a curveball that George Springer rapped into center field to load the bases. Danish did throw a sinker to Bichette, but it was up and over the plate and landed well beyond the fence in right field.
The Sox have scored only 18 runs in their last seven games. A team that once wore down opposing pitchers is now a jittery bunch that makes quick outs, chases pitches out of the strike zone and only occasionally strings hits together.
“I think we have a good idea of what we want up there, and we might be chasing a little bit more than what we should be,” left fielder Alex Verdugo said. “Probably have to get a little bit more selective on certain pitches that we want.”
The Sox snapped a string of 15 consecutive scoreless innings by clawing for two runs in the eighth inning.
Dalbec and Christian Arroyo started the inning with singles off Blue Jays starter José Berrios. With Berrios at 89 pitches, Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo went to righthander Adam Cimber.
The Sox resorted to small ball. Kevin Plawecki bunted the runners to second and third. Slumping Kiké Hernández followed with a single to left field and the Sox were finally on the board.
Verdugo’s fly ball to center field was deep enough to score Arroyo and it was 2-2.
But that was the extent of the offense. Outside the eighth inning, the Sox were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
J.D. Martinez, back in the lineup after missing four games with a left adductor strain, doubled to left center with one out in the second inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a walk and Dalbec singled to right field to load the bases.
Arroyo, in the lineup at second base with Trevor Story getting a day off, swung at the first pitch and hit a sharp one-hopper back to Berrios.
Like he was throwing another pitch, Berrios fired back to the plate to start a 1-2-3 double play.
Xander Bogaerts led off the fourth inning with a single to center. That led to nothing.
Plawecki, who was activated off the COVID-19 injured list before the game, lined a Berrios fastball to the gap in left with two outs in the fifth.
Springer took off in a full sprint from center and made a leaping catch to steal a double away from Plawecki. Springer popped off the turf pumping his fist, having made one of the best plays of the season.
The Jays maintained that energy. It’s what the Sox are searching for.