Off the crack of the bat, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts sank immediately, as if all the air had been sucked out of him. The sound was undeniable, the ball hit by White Sox slugger Jose Abreu wasn’t coming back, and the Red Sox’ rally from a three-run deficit was wiped away with one swing.
Abreu’s two-run, ninth-inning homer off Matt Barnes was the decisive blow in an 8-7 loss Wednesday afternoon that sent the Red Sox off to London with the bitter taste of a blown opportunity.
The White Sox avoided being swept thanks to Barnes’s sixth blown save of the season.
“To give it up like that is tough,” Barnes said.
Barnes gave up three hits, but Abreu’s at-bat was a 10-pitch battle that ended in the worst possible way. When Barnes left a 96.9-mile-per-hour fastball over the plate, he knew he was in trouble, cursing as soon as Abreu made contact.
“That [stinks],” Barnes said. “I don’t want to be blunt, but not good.”
It was the fourth homer Barnes has allowed this season.
“You’ve got to continue to execute pitches,” he said. “The entire at-bat. The only mistake I made was the one he hit. It’s unfortunate. I executed damn near every single pitch that I wanted to, and the one that didn’t get there, he hit a home run. So that’s tough to swallow when you execute 90 percent of the time and the one time costs you the game.”
The Red Sox bullpen has had a heavy workload all season. Barnes is tied for the second-most appearances on the staff. He’s made 13 outings this month. Overall, he’s pitched on no days rest 10 times.
“He was the guy today,” manager Alex Cora said. “Got some guys that we’ve been using a lot. Steven [Wright] did a good job in the eighth, and we liked the matchups there . . . I know usage is there, but everybody’s being used a lot. We’ve just got to get the job done.”
Settling for a 3-3 homestand was disappointing for a team still trying to establish itself at Fenway. The Red Sox dropped back to .500 (20-20) at home.
“We’ve been talking about dominating at home,” said Cora. “We have to do that. We have chances to start bottling up wins at home and we haven’t done it.”
Chris Sale gave up five runs on six hits in six innings. Despite striking out 10 batters, he hit two and walked another, putting the Red Sox in a 3-0 hole in the first inning and leaving them to come back from a 5-3 deficit when he left the mound.
“I think we made some adjustments throughout the game,” Cora said, trying to pinpoint the issue in Sale’s outing. “Sometimes it’s not having the stuff. Others, it’s game planning. It looked like they were hitting his soft stuff early in the game.”
Trailing, 6-3, in the seventh, the Red Sox’ comeback was sparked by J.D. Martinez’s RBI double in the bottom of the frame.
The Red Sox kept the momentum in the eighth when Eduardo Nunez came through with a one-out single, and Brock Holt followed with a pinch-hit ground-rule double.
Nunez scored on a ground ball from Mookie Betts, beating the throw to the plate by third baseman Jose Rondon to cut the deficit to 6-5. Two batters later, Bogaerts stroked a two-run single through the middle that put the Red Sox ahead.
The Red Sox were 33-3 when leading after eight innings.
“I think the word inconsistency has been following us around all season,” Cora said.
Rafael Devers went 3 for 5 with three runs scored. Martinez went 2 for 5 with a homer and three RBIs. Bogaerts went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.
For the White Sox, Leury Garcia went 3 for 5 with two runs scored. Abreu went 3 for 5 with the homer and four RBIs. James McCann went 2 for 5 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Getaway days had typically been kind to the Red Sox this season. They had lost only twice on days when they were set to hit the road. But this time, they headed out for a long trip with the question lingering about how they can bounce back after letting another opportunity slip away.
“We will see. Obviously, we wanted to finish the homestand in a good way,” said Cora. “We came back with some strong at-bats. We just didn’t finish the game . . . We’ll see how we do in London.”
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