Devers makes Red Sox history with Hail Mary home run but can’t prevent Blue Jays sweep

How many times have the Red Sox lost to themselves more than their actual opponent?

Add Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays to a list that feels endless.

For the vast majority of this Red Sox season, pitching has been the problem. If only the starters were healthier, more effective at keeping runners off the bases and the ball in the yard, pitching deeper into games. How much better would this team be if their pitchers – who entered Sunday averaging an American League fifth-worst 4.85 runs allowed per game – were better partners to their lineup, whose 4.93 runs scored per game ranked fifth-best in their league?

In terms of plating runs, the Red Sox offense ranks just below four postseason teams: the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, and Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays entered Sunday’s series finale just below AL-average (4.59) with 4.54 runs per game, and the most runners left on base of any team in their league (1,077).

The company Boston’s pitching staff keeps paints a far more bleak picture. Only the Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and Oakland Athletics – all ranked fourth or fifth in the AL Central and West – average more runs allowed per game. All four have been eliminated from Wild Card contention. In this regard, the Blue Jays have the fourth-best mark, and the difference is clear: they hold the second AL Wild Card, and the Red Sox are 8 ½ games out of the race.

Yet all weekend in Toronto, the Red Sox had the complete opposite problem. They got excellent starts from Brayan Bello, Chris Sale, and Nick Pivetta, and came away with nothing to show for any of them, swept by the Blue Jays for the second time this year.

After Bello and Sale became the first two Sox pitchers to post double-digit strikeouts in back-to-back starts since Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez in May 2019, Pivetta dominated the Blue Jays lineup. Boston entered Sunday with a seven-game streak of starting pitching holding opponents to no more than three earned runs, and he kept it rolling. Over 6 ⅓ innings, the 30-year-old right-hander held the home team to two earned runs on four hits and struck out six. He hit one batter, but didn’t issue a walk.

Throughout the afternoon, the Boston bats out-hit and out-walked the home team consistently, with nothing to show for it. Knocking Blue Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu out of the game after 4 ⅔ innings made virtually no difference; the bullpen picked up where he left off. Between the second and sixth innings, the Red Sox put their first two runners on base three times and failed to bring anyone home to score. By the end of the sixth, they were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and had already left 10 men on base.

The top of the seventh began in similar fashion, with Rob Refsnyder drawing a walk to become Boston’s fourth leadoff base-runner of the afternoon. After striking out Justin Turner, Genesis Cabrera hit Rafael Devers with a pitch, putting the third baseman on base for the fourth time.

Finally, Pablo Reyes put a run on the board with a single. The season’s unlikely clutch hero singled to score Refsnyder, halving the Blue Jays’ lead, but that would be all they’d get through eight innings.

The Red Sox entered the ninth having out-hit their hosts 8-5, but trailing 2-1, because they’d left 12 men on base. Masataka Yoshida pinch-hit to lead off, and struck out. Justin Turner followed with his third strikeout of the day.

Down to their last out, nay, their last strike, Devers came through once again. His 33rd home run of the season and 172nd of his career tied the game and Jim Rice for the most career homers by a Red Sox player before turning 27. Devers is the 22nd player in franchise history to record 400 extra-base hits, but the first to reach the mark before his 27th birthday.

Unfortunately, the momentum of that stunning achievement evaporated almost immediately. Pitching in the ninth inning for the first time this season, Garrett Whitlock struck out the leadoff batter, then gave up a single to Cavan Biggio and a game-winning RBI double to Matt Chapman. The Blue Jays had walked off the Red Sox for the second day in a row.

Where does this team’s bat power go? It’s been disappearing and reappearing all season long, continuing the team’s trend of feast-or-famine stretches and inconsistent seasons; since 2020, they’re 17-128 when they score less than three runs.

Why can’t they score runs when they pitch well? Sunday was only the fourth time this year that a Red Sox starter pitched at least six innings, struck out six or more batters, and didn’t issue a walk. The team lost all four of those games.

The Red Sox entered Sunday leading MLB with 321 doubles, and ranked second in the AL in average (.261) and extra-base hits. They out-hit the Blue Jays in two of these three games, but the Boston bats were 3-for-33 with runners in scoring position and left 27 men on base this weekend, including 12 on Sunday. Since September 6, they’re hitting .151/.215/269 with runners in scoring position, with all three of those stats ranked last in the Majors over that span.

When they look at their record – now two games under .500 – they have only themselves to blame. They had their chances.

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