If Sunday was a dud that even the glass-half-full manager labeled a disappointment, Monday represented an inelegant sequel for the Red Sox.
The team spent virtually an entire game playing from behind, in the face of three separate deficits. There was sloppiness: A baserunning lapse when Rafael Devers drifted too far from third while bluffing to tag on a fly to shallow left, getting thrown out; a botched hit-and-run with Jackie Bradley Jr. thrown out at second as the potential tying run in the eighth.
It was the sort of game that easily could have prompted some shakes of the head, resignation that the Red Sox would have to summon solutions to their vexing problems on another night. But on Monday, that is not what transpired.
In a gritty-not-pretty performance, the Red Sox clawed slowly but insistently to wipe out disadvantages of 2-0, 3-2, and 5-3. With a death-by-papercuts attack from a lineup in which all nine starters — and one very important substitute — reached base at least once, and produced six separate one-run rallies, the Red Sox rebounded from two weekend losses to conjure a 6-5 walkoff win over the White Sox.
“There was a lot of stuff that didn’t go right,” acknowledged manager Alex Cora, “but in the end, you know what? We won, and that’s the most important thing.”
The decisive run was delivered not by one of the team’s recognizable stars, but instead from perhaps its most unlikely contributor. A player who spent all of 2018 on the roster, but didn’t play in a single game while recovering from multiple shoulder surgeries.
Andrew Benintendi doubled to lead off the ninth inning. After a strikeout, Benintendi advanced to third on a groundout. The White Sox then elected to walk Xander Bogaerts and, after the shortstop reached second on defensive indifference, Jackie Bradley Jr. intentionally.
Marco Hernandez, who’d entered the game one inning earlier as a pinch-runner, went with a 1-0 cutter down and away against lefty Jace Fry and sent a grasscutter into the hole between third and short. Hernandez raised his hands in triumph as he crossed the bag, then was engulfed by teammates who celebrated the Red Sox’ fifth walkoff win of the year, tied for the most in the A.L.
It wasn’t exactly Robert Redford knocking out a light tower, but for a team both in dire need of wins while in a midseason traffic jam of wild-card competitors, and against the backdrop of the two years that Hernandez missed while enduring one procedure after another, the moment was one to savor.
“It was amazing,” said Jackie Bradley Jr. “It couldn’t happen to a better guy. . . . I think it shows what kind of person and the tenacity that he has to be able to continue to fight back.”
The Red Sox, of course, recognize the collective need to demonstrate similar traits in a season where little has come easy to the defending champions. Such, certainly, was the case on Monday.
Chicago jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage when Yoan Moncada — the centerpiece of the Red Sox deal for Chris Sale after the 2016 season — destroyed a first-pitch fastball just over the Wall down the left-field line with two outs and one on in the second inning against Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez.
But one night after the Red Sox sleepwalked through a loss to the Blue Jays, an alarm went off. Bradley Jr. immediately countered against Chicago starter Lucas Giolito, blasting a fastball 418 feet — just to the right of the vertex of the triangle and over the Red Sox bullpen for his eighth homer of the year, bringing the Sox back within 2-1. In his last 33 games, Bradley, who went 1-for-2 with three walks (two intentional), is hitting .301 with a .628 slugging mark and eight homers.
After Rodriguez (6⅓ innings, five runs, four strikeouts, two walks) and Giolito (5⅔ innings, three runs, four walks, seven strikeouts) traded zeros for a pair of innings, the Sox tied the score in the fifth when Eduardo Nunez flicked a two-out single to right to score Michael Chavis from second.
The White Sox struck back quickly, with Jose Abreu crushing a sixth-inning Rodriguez pitch to left-center with such force, his 18th homer seemed to stretch the sign above the Monster Seats like a rubber band. But again, the Red Sox answered, this time with a quick rebuttal via a bases-loaded walk by Chavis against Giolito.
Asked to return to the mound for the seventh, a fatiguing Rodriguez lost what had been sharp command. A pair of walks and a one-out, run-scoring single ended his night with the Red Sox trailing, 4-3, a deficit soon extended to 5-3 when reliever Marcus Walden allowed another run-scoring single. But the Red Sox bullpen would allow no more, with Walden ending the inning with back-to-back strikeouts to strand a pair.
That proved significant, as Mookie Betts led off the bottom of the inning by ambushing a first-pitch fastball into the first row of the center-field bleachers for his 13th homer, and his second of the year on a first pitch. The Sox then tied the game, 5-5, in the eighth — despite the botched hit-and-run — when Nunez against delivered a two-out single that scored Hernandez, who’d replaced Christian Vazquez at second base.
With Josh Taylor and Brandon Workman (7-1) delivering a scoreless ninth, the stage was thus set. The win lacked for style points but not, in the eyes of the team, for satisfaction.
“We’re still hustling, still hungry. I think we’re not hungover like people say. It’s just that things aren’t working,” said Nunez. “We keep working hard. We have three more months to show up and put the game where we need to be.”