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The Red Sox weren’t able to continue the momentum from Wednesday’s dramatic win over the Rays, losing to the White Sox 4-3 on Friday.
Here’s what happened and here are the takeaways from the first game of a three-game set.
After a scoreless first two innings, the White Sox were able to get on the board first in the third inning when slugger José Abreu took Red Sox starter Tanner Houck deep for a three-run homer, his 29th of the year.
The White Sox added to their lead in the fourth when Luis Robert singled to right, scoring Gavin Sheets from third to make it 4-0 and ending Houck’s night.
The Red Sox did battle back in the fourth, getting a solo home run from Bobby Dalbec, his 21st of the season. They rallied to get two more runs in the seventh with Christian Vázquez knocking Dalbec in from third on a fielder’s choice and Alex Verdugo getting a pinch-hit RBI single to score Danny Santana.
But Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks ended any remaining hope the Red Sox had of sending the game to extras.
Carlos Rodon: Five innings pitched, one earned run, seven strikeouts, three hits, zero walks.
Chicago’s lefty ace cruised through much of his start on Friday, with Dalbec’s homer being the lone mistake he made. Rodon kept the Red Sox bats at bay for much of the evening, not allowing more than one hit in any single inning.
With Rodon allowing just one run through five innings, the Red Sox only had two innings to make up the deficit before facing the White Sox strong bullpen tandem of Kimbrel and Hendriks, with the latter holding the AL lead in saves this season.
Losses this late in the season are never good news. The Red Sox are losers of four of their last five games, and the schedule isn’t any easier over the next five with two more against the AL Central-leading White Sox and three against the Mariners, who trailed the Red Sox by three games entering Friday, in Seattle.
The good news is that the Yankees and Blue Jays both lost Friday, meaning the Red Sox hold a one-game lead over the Yankees still for the top AL wild-card spot and are two up on the Blue Jays.
The Athletics and Mariners held leads in their respective games last Friday, making it likely that they’d cut the Red Sox lead over them to two games.
1. Tanner Houck wasn’t able to follow up his shutout start against the Indians on Friday.
The righty retired eight of the first 10 White Sox hitters he faced, appearing to get out of any trouble in the third after allowing a one-out walk. But that’s where his night changed. Yoan Moncada hit an opposite single to left, putting runners at first and second. Then, José Abreu pulled a slider to left to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead.
Houck continued to look shaky, allowing a single to Eloy Jiménez and hitting Yasmani Grandal on the first pitch. He only got out of the third because Christian Vázquez caught Jiménez sleeping on the basepaths, picking him off at second.
In the fourth, Houck allowed his third walk of the day, marking the second time in three starts he’s allowed three-plus walks. He allowed his fourth run of the night, which was unearned due to a Jose Iglesias error, later in the inning, ending his night. Houck faced only White Sox leadoff hitter Luis Robert three times, continuing the starter’s trend of not facing the opposing lineup three times.
2. Bobby Dalbec’s bat is one of the few consistent things the Red Sox have gotten in a time of inconsistency. After winning AL Rookie of the Month in August, Dalbec’s hitting .333 from the plate in September. He added his third homer of the month in the fifth inning, taking White Sox starter Carlos Rodon deep off a 91-mile per hour fastball for a solo shot.
Dalbec got a little rally going in the seventh with a leadoff triple to right. Even though White Sox right fielder Brian Goodwin misfielded the ball, Dalbec took advantage by aggressively turning what ordinarily would’ve been a single into a triple. He scored on a Vázquez fielder’s choice in the next at-bat.
3. Kiké Hernández and Xander Bogaerts are the first two Red Sox players to return to the lineup since testing positive for COVID-19 since the team’s outbreak began two weeks ago. Both players have had opposite results in their returns.
Hernández played in his third game since returning on Friday and is just 1-for-13 since coming back. He struck out twice on Friday and grounded into a fielder’s choice that should’ve been an inning-ending double play in the seventh.
Cora made the decision to pinch-hit Travis Shaw for Hernández in a key at-bat in the ninth.
The Red Sox leadoff hitter has failed to get on base since returning, but he certainly wouldn’t be the first athlete to struggle in their initial return from COVID-19. Boston better hope Hernández turns it around soon though, as it can’t continue to get nothing at the top of the lineup.
On the other hand, Bogaerts looked impressive in his first game back from COVID-19. The shortstop was able to pull a couple of singles to left, connecting with a 93-mph fastball and a slider for his two hits. He also drew a walk in the eighth, getting on base after a six-pitch battle in which he was down 0-2 with former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel.
The Red Sox are getting most of their starting lineup back, even though J.D. Martinez missed Friday’s game due to back spasms.
4. The Red Sox didn’t get what they wanted from their starting pitcher on Friday, but it got a solid performance from their bullpen.
Boston’s bullpen didn’t allow a run over 4 1/3 innings pitched. Darwinzon Hernandez made his first appearance since injuring his oblique in July, getting out of trouble in the fourth. He allowed just a walk and struck out two over 1 1/3 innings pitched.
Michael Feliz followed suit with a shutout inning of his own in the sixth, bouncing back from allowing two runs in his outing against the Rays on Tuesday.
Adam Ottavino took his turn in the seventh and it appeared his recent struggles would continue, allowing a leadoff walk in four pitches. But the righty battled back, getting Jiménez to strike out looking on a fastball away in the corner and getting Bobby Hamilton to strike out swinging on a slider to end the inning.
The Sox did face some trouble in the eighth, with Ryan Brasier allowing a couple of hitters to reach base and Josh Taylor hitting another to load the bases. But Taylor got Abreu to strikeout swinging to end the inning.
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