BOSTON — As Curtis Granderson stepped into the box for his third plate appearance in as many innings Friday night, the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox had already combined for 14 runs, 12 hits, six walks, four errors, and one 331-foot home run, the fourth-shortest non-inside-the-park homer hit in the majors this season. It was an hour and a half after first pitch and the first out of the third inning had yet to be recorded.
It was that kind of night at Fenway Park, where the Blue Jays and Red Sox stood in the middle of the ring and exchanged haymakers until someone dropped. The two teams combined for 26 hits, 12 walks, and 20 runs in all. A baker’s dozen pitchers took the mound. Only three of the batters who started the game finished it without a hit. And from amidst the anarchy, the Blue Jays emerged bloodied yet victorious, 13-7, after a brisk three hours and 43 minutes.
It would take days to recap it all. Red Sox starter Rick Porcello lasted only two innings, allowing eight runs. Blue Jays starter Ryan Borucki lasted only three, allowing seven. The duo combined for eight walks and only seven strikeouts.
Kevin Pillar had three hits by the fourth inning, and finished with four to go along with the four runs he drove in. Justin Smoak drove in four as well, going deep in both the third and the eighth. Smoak’s hit seven homers over his last 13 games, and 20 of his last 27 hits have gone for extra-bases.
Dwight Smith Jr. hit a homer of his own in the third, wrapping what would have been a foul ball in most parks around Pesky’s pole in right for that 331-foot shot. By the end of the night, nine balls had been hit farther without leaving the yard. Mookie Betts alone hit a pair of triples at 404-feet apiece.
Speaking of Betts — he’s so insanely locked in at the moment that the Blue Jays chose to intentionally walk him in the third inning. He finished the night with three hits, driving in a pair and pushing his season OPS to 1.146, which is a patently absurd number. J.D. Martinez added a pair of hits, while putting three balls in play at harder than 100-mph. The Red Sox brought 45 batters to the plate and still lost. It was an utter mess.
In terms of big picture consequence for the Blue Jays, there is only Borucki, who struggled to contain baseball’s best offence in his fourth MLB start. The only break he caught was that three of the seven runs he allowed went unearned, as the Blue Jays behind him — and, at one point, even Borucki himself — spent the first few innings finding increasingly inventive ways to commit errors.
In the first, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. committed a throwing error trying to gun out a runner at home while the infield was positioned at regular depth, intending to concede the run. He committed one of the fielding variety an inning later, trying to charge a tough chopper that bounced off his glove.
Pillar added a throwing error two batters later, short-hopping Russell Martin as he tried to nab a runner at the plate. And four batters after that — yes, still in the second inning — Borucki threw wild of first in an attempt to pick off a base-stealer, slumping his shoulders on the mound as the runner scrambled all the way to third.
So, sure, none of that helped. But neither did the fact Borucki left far too many fastballs up and on the plate. Of the 14 pitches the Red Sox put in play off Borucki, not many were well located:
Eight of those balls came off the bat at 99.9-mph or higher, as the Red Sox hunted Borucki’s fastball and ended up with hits on each of the four change-ups they put in play, including the two Betts triples and a Sam Davis double.
Borucki’s change-up is his best pitch, but those results — and the fact he threw it only 12 times — indicate he didn’t have a good feel for it Friday. The left-hander went to his slider just as often, but couldn’t consistently locate it for strikes, which rendered him essentially a one-pitch pitcher on the night. Add in the four walks he issued, and you’ve got a pretty strong formula for the rough outing he suffered through.
Still, Borucki deserves some slack, considering the first four outings of his big-league career have come against the Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Boston — four of MLB’s top-10 teams in terms of batting average vs. left-handed pitching. The 24-year-old got through it with a 3.52 ERA over 23 innings pitched, striking out 21 while walking 10. His first start after the all-star break, against either the Baltimore Orioles or Minnesota Twins, will be a welcome reprieve.
Originally published at https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/blue-jays-red-sox-trade-haymakers-marathon-game/