Apparently, all it took for the Red Sox to finally win a game was six hours and nineteen innings. After falling behind early on, the Red Sox tied it up 2-2 in the ninth. Both teams then remained scoreless (and virtually hitless) until the nineteenth inning. It’s the longest game by innings in the MLB this season, and the second-longest game in franchise history; in 2015, they played a nineteen-inning, seven-hour game against the Yankees, featuring a power outage and a 6-5 victory. Combined with the Yankee loss to the Orioles, the Red Sox are now 3.5 games ahead in the division, still in first place. So yes, we got home at 1:30, and I’m sleep-deprived and too tired to pack for my flight to California tomorrow. But was the longest game of the entire league this season worth the wait? Actually, it kind of was.
Since Opening Day, this Red Sox team has been beset by injuries, controversies ranging from racism to attacking former players, and as of yesterday, allegations of cheating. And let’s not forget the fact that the Red Sox hold on first place has gone from firm to precarious in the past ten or so days. The Red Sox not only needed this win to preserve their rankings; they needed to get their act together.
Last night, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t looking forward to attending a Red Sox game. After reading about Applegate, I felt sick to my stomach; it’s hard to see the once-humble, ne’er do well, cursed Boston Red Sox become the failing, cheating, stupid Boston Red Sox. The problem with cheating is that once the accusations are made, the bad taste lingers, whether or not it’s true. It’s simple psychology: a singular bad experience can deter you from ever wanting to experience it a second time. So seeing the team actually win, especially when they’re under the microscope, is an important morale boost for them and for the fans. We need to know that they can win, and win honestly.
There are some great things to take away from this game, in case I’m not the only one who needs some reassurance about this team. For starters, the bullpen was almost entirely incredible. Farrell avoided using the recently-returned Matt Barnes, who has been less than satisfactory of late but he utilized almost every other pitcher on the roster after turning to closer Kimbrel too early in the ninth. With each passing inning, I worried that someone would slip up, but everyone from Workman to Boyer to a newly-activated Carson Smith held the Blue Jays down until the Red Sox remembered how to hit. JBJ made a great catch in the 11th and helped complete a double play, keeping the game going for another eight innings. Ultimately, it was Betts and Ramirez who finally ended the game, not Devers and Nuñez, who until recently had been picking up the offensive slack for a lot of their teammates. Ramirez has been underwhelming as DH, though anyone would be compared to David Ortiz. He managed a walk-off hit and a final RBI to end the game around 1 AM. Betts scored both the tying and winning runs of the night, so perhaps he’s turned a corner and is headed back to his 2016 MVP-runner-up self.
After the longest night of baseball, I left Fenway Park feeling elated, exhausted, and confused. This team is so weird. Do I think the Red Sox could make the playoffs? Yes, I still believe they could, though whether or not they deserve to be there is a topic for another day.