And then came the bath.
Xander Bogaerts sneaked back onto the field and dumped a bucket of red Gatorade on Vazquez, who moments earlier had crushed a walk-off three-run home run to almost straightaway center field. It was quite likely the hardest ball the Boston catcher has ever hit, and it ended probably the strangest game you will see all season, a 12-10 Red Sox victory over the Cleveland Indians.
“This was a PlayStation game, you know?” Bogaerts said. “You keep bouncing back and forth. It was like PlayStation.”
Consider the wackiness of Tuesday night in Fenway Park:
Red Sox ace Chris Sale, the Cy Young favorite in the American League, gave up a season-high seven runs — five in the first two inning — after allowing a total of five runs in his previous six starts.
Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco gave away a 5-0 lead in the second inning and lasted only 1 2/3 innings, the shortest non-injury start of his career.
A Red Sox second baseman not named Dustin Pedroia notched three hits and four RBIs. And with Pedroia going on the disabled list earlier in the day, Eduardo Nunez might get a lot more time at second. One thing is certain: Nunez will stay in the lineup, having gone 11-for-22 with four doubles and two homers in five games since being acquired last week in a trade with the San Francisco Giants.
Indians center fielder Austin Jackson leaped to rob Hanley Ramirez of a home run in the fifth inning, tumbled over the bullpen wall and held on to the ball. It was such a terrific catch that Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel said, “You want to start clapping, but then you realize he just took a run away from us.” Sufficiently impressed, the Fenway crowd gave Jackson a standing ovation. “I was just so pumped up, it’s like I didn’t even hear them,” Jackson said. “I was glad I was able to hold on to it, especially going over like that.”
Here’s where things really got weird. Indians relief ace Andrew Miller couldn’t hold a 7-5 lead in the sixth inning and blew only his second lead of the season.
Not to be outdone in the ninth inning, Kimbrel gave up a leadoff homer to Francisco Lindor and allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch. It was the fourth blown save for Kimbrel, who has struck out 81 of the 165 batters he has faced this season.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mitch Moreland struck out but reached base on a wild pitch from Indians closer Cody Allen. After another wild pitch, Vazquez turned around a 95 mph fastball for only his second homer in 208 at-bats.
And we haven’t even gotten to the ovation Dennis Eckersley received in the third inning, a show of support for the Hall of Fame pitcher who still hasn’t received an apology after he was mocked and cursed by Red Sox lefty David Price on the team plane June 29.
Bonkers, right? If you didn’t know better, you’d think there was a full moon over Fenway.
“I think that was the best strikeout of my career so far,” Moreland said after 22 runs, 28 hits and four lead changes. “I think to date, that right there was probably the most exciting game. That was a fun one for us.”
Said manager John Farrell: “We haven’t had a game like this in a long time.”
Indeed, the biggest gripe among Red Sox fans — if it’s even fair to gripe about a 59-49 record — is that the the team has lacked excitement. The Sox don’t hit many home runs (a league-worst 107 in 108 games) and are prone to quick bursts of offense sandwiched between long scoreless droughts.
But in sliding back into first place, a half-game ahead of the New York Yankees, the Red Sox provided enough excitement to last a week. And while it’s never wise to dwell on the potential impact that one game can have on a season of 162, it’s victories like this that propel a team to bigger, better things, as long as right-hander Rick Porcello doesn’t lay an egg or the offense doesn’t go quiet again in the series finale on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball.
The Red Sox, 10-14 since the Fourth of July, can certainly play better than they have lately. Odds are, they will. Maybe all it takes to get them going is one of the most bizarre games they have played.
“I think this kind of win sets the tone for anybody,” Moreland said.
Said Kimbrel: “Right now is the time to roll. Get through August and then we get to September and you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully we can catch some fire here in August and play some good ball.”