CHICAGO — It took a little extra for the Red Sox to escape this ugly series.
Sunday afternoon’s game with the Cubs ran well beyond the four-hour mark. It was the top of the 11th inning with two on and two outs and Trevor Story at the plate. Story hit a slow tapper back to Rowan Wick. It should have been the third out but Wick airmailed the throw to first, bringing in two runs in what was ultimately a 4-2 Sox victory to avoid the sweep.
“We got lucky,” manager Alex Cora said. “We didn’t hit the ball hard. It was a grind but in the end we ended up winning and it’s a positive road trip. Let’s get ready for tomorrow.”
The win came after the Sox bullpen leaked again. This time at the hands of Matt Strahm.
The Sox carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but that changed when Patrick Wisdom parked a 450-foot solo shot off Strahm to center field. The homer was an all-too familiar scene during this series. It was just Friday that Hansel Robles relinquished a game-tying homer, one that led to a 6-5 Sox defeat.
The homer off Strahm, however, carried a different weight. The Sox were on the brink of being swept and going 4-5 on this road trip. After sweeping the Guardians to begin this tri-city swing, it appeared as if they would go 1-5 to finish it. But some good fortune in what was an ugly game and series for the Sox decided Sunday’s contest.
The Sox offense gave the pitching staff little room to maneuver, failing to capitalize in high-leverage moments. The team was 2 for 19 with runners in scoring position and left 14 runners on base. Jarren Duran’s first-pitch homer in the first inning Friday was the Sox’ only home run of the series. They failed to record an extra-base hit Sunday.
Connor Seabold gave the Sox four innings, allowing six hits and an earned run. Seabold also had four strikeouts. It was Seabold’s second start of the year. The first came in the recent series in Toronto, where Seabold was shellacked for seven earned run in 4⅔ innings.
“The composure wasn’t there last time,” Seabold said. “I feel like I let little things bug me too much. And that’s something that me and [pitching coach Dave Bush] worked on this week. The mentality of when I’m out there, not letting things pile up and snowball like they did last time, and I think today was a good example of that.”
The bullpen, for what it’s worth, did have its contributions. Hirokazu Sawamura and Jake Diekman delivered two scoreless innings, each with Diekman shutting the door for the final two frames.
“We grinded,” said Xander Bogaerts, who left in the seventh inning after he was cleated by Willson Contreras. Bogaerts is day to day despite after receiving seven stitches in his left thigh. “These guys [Cubs] put up a fight, man. I mean, maybe the record doesn’t say that. But that’s what happens when you have young kids that want to go out there and want to prove themselves.”
The Sox (44-35) are entering a tough slate. Their next 14 games will be against the Rays (43-36) and the Yankees (58-22). The rotation for their series against the Rays starting Monday at Fenwaywas supposed to be Michael Wacha, Nick Pivetta, and a starter to be determined with Rich Hill on the injured list.
But Wacha is dealing with heavy arm, Cora said, so the Sox will go with a bullpen game in Monday’s matchup. Lefthander Austin Davis will start.
The Sox know what’s in front of them with the Rays, who are a game behind the Sox in the wild-card race, and the Yankees, who are the best team in baseball and have a 13 1/2-game game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East.
Nevertheless, the Sox are comfortable facing such formidable opponents for a long stretch.
“It’s not like we haven’t been there before,” Bogaerts said. “It’s just a matter of winning one game at a time.”