After an impressive three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays this past week, the Boston Red Sox (101-47) are leading the entire league, while also getting closer to the AL East Division crown, currently sitting at 10.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees within the East.
With final scores of 4-3, 1-0 and 7-2 over the three game series, the Red Sox showed they could win games through incredible offensive play, a mentally tough defense and a plethora of pitching talent.
The Blue Jays did give the Red Sox some trouble though, as the 4-3 victory came down to the wire. The Thursday night matchup in Boston on Sept. 13 was a quiet game heading into the eighth inning. Leading 3-1 going into the top of the eighth, the Red Sox appeared to be wrapping things up until Blue Jays’ shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a 390-foot bomb over the left field fence, giving Gurriel Jr. his eighth home run on the season and bringing the score to 3-2.
Making a substitution after Gurriel Jr.’s score, Boston put in pitcher Joe Kelly. Kelly had a rough start to the inning, as he loaded the bases by walking back-to-back batters and then physically hitting back to back batters with pitches, walking in the scoring run. Now sitting with the score at 3-3, the pressure was on for Kelly, as the bases were still loaded and outfielder Billy McKinley stepped into the batter’s box for the Blue Jays. However, Kelly was up for the challenge, and swiftly struck McKinley out to end the inning and send the Red Sox out back on offense.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts came out swinging for Boston, popping a double shot to the left corner of the outfield. Catcher Blake Swihart stepped up to bat and sent a fly ball out just past second base. Normally a textbook out, Blue Jays second baseman Yangervis Solarte didn’t properly track the ball down, and was forced to contort his body in an attempt to corral the ball, but was unsuccessful in his efforts. This error allowed Bogaerts to run in, giving Boston a 4-3 lead.
Boston’s defense proceeded to wrap the game up in the top of the ninth inning, with pitcher Craig Kimbrel on the mound replacing Kelly. The Blue Jays offense sputtered to a halt, with infielder Aledmys Diaz and Gurriel Jr. both flying out and catcher Danny Jansen being struck out by Kimbrel on five pitches.
Going into next week as the only team in the league that has already successfully secured a playoff berth, the Red Sox are sitting pretty in the driver’s seat of the playoff picture for the American League.