Mitch's Sports Report: Vazquez Clutch Homer Ends Red Sox Skid; Sharipova Upsets Halep At U.S. Open

Aug 29, 2017

The Boston Red Sox were in danger of hitting a season high losing streak, already having lost four straight, and they were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 heading into the seventh, still showing few signs of being able to deliver with runners in scoring position.

But catcher Christian Vazquez, more valued for his defensive skills and prowess at throwing out runners, has upped his game on offense this season, and drove in Hanley Ramirez with a two-run homer in the seventh, keying a four-run inning that propelled the Red Sox to a much-needed 6-5 victory. Vazquez had four hits on the night, his best overall performance at the plate since he hit an extra innings walk-off home run against Cleveland, and it couldn't have come at a better time to stop the bleeding and give the Red Sox some confidence that they can get their game back in order.

Drew Pomeranz won his eighth straight decision to improve to 14-4 on a night when he wasn't especially sharp. He gave up two runs in the first inning, a pattern over the recent losing streak of falling behind early that the Red Sox would dearly love to break. He also walked five and was fortunate to wriggle out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth on a nice play by third baseman Rafael Devers, who fielded a tough grounder and threw out the runner at home, then helping his own cause by snagging a sharply hit line drive back to the mound that was destined for center field to end the threat.

The Sox scored twice more in the seventh after the go-ahead home run by Vazquez on a Mitch Moreland RBI single and a bases loaded walk taken by Xander Bogaerts. Addison Reed and Brandon Workman each provided an inning of scoreless relief and there was a bit of a scare when closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a two-run homer in the ninth to Justin Smoak, but retired the Jays the rest of the way to secure the save and the 6-5 win.

No summary of the game would be complete, though, without mentioning the defensive highlight of the night by a player who makes many of them. Center fielder Kevin Pillar robbed Mookie Betts of extra bases in the sixth when he raced to the warning track for a line drive shot that looked certain to fall into the gap before Pillar made a full extension in the air dive, snow-coning the ball in his glove before hitting the ground and sliding head first into the wall without dropping the ball. Pitcher Marcus Stroman put his arms in the air and his hands to his head in disbelief and gratitude and the nearly 40,000 fans at the Rogers Centre gave Pillar a well-deserved standing ovation as Mookie trotted back to the dugout, laughing and shaking his head at the incredulous nature of the play. Just an unreal catch by Pillar. It's multiple-view-worthy:

But the Red Sox comeback win did more than snap their losing skid. It also gave them a bit more breathing room in their bid to remain in first place ahead of the NY Yankees in the American Leage east. The Yankees lost 6-2 at the Stadium to the Cleveland Indians in a duel of both team's aces, Corey Kluber for the Indians and Luis Severino for New York. Kluber came out the winner, going eight strong innings while gving up just three hits and one run when Chase Headley led off the third with a home run. Severino was victimized by the long ball, with Carlos Santana's blast off him in the seventh breaking a tie for the game winning margin, and Severino also yielded two solo home runs, both to Jose Ramirez in the loss, which drops the Yankees to three and a half games behind the Red Sox, with a four-game showdown looming between the two squads in New York starting Thursday.  

So these two games the Sox and Yanks have to play against Toronto and Cleveland are critical. Boston has their ace Chris Sale going tonight, and he's trying to snap an unusual two-game losing streak. The Yankees have Jaime Garcia going tonight in the Bronx.

The NY Mets were idle last night. They take on the Reds in Cincinnati tonight.

The Vermont Lake Monsters went wild, but not in a good way, losing a tight contest to the Brooklyn Cyclones 2-1 with the winning Brooklyn run scored in the eighth inning after three wild pitches by reliever Malik Jones.

Jones struck out the first batter he faced to start the inning, but the ball got away from the catcher and the batter reached. A wild pitch was ruled on the play and then Brooklyn's Walter Rasquin stole second and eventually scored the winning run after two more wild pitches by Jones. The Monsters put two on in the ninth before Brooklyn's Marcus Renteria struck out the side to end it.

The big news out of the U.S. Open is the triumphant return of Maria Sharipova, playing her first major tennis match in more than a year since being banned for illegal doping. All Sharipova did was go out and upset the world's number two ranked women's player Simona Halep, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory on the opening night of the tournament.  The 30-year old Sharipova was fortunate even to get into the Open on a wild card entry. She was denied that wild card to compete in the French Open and a thigh injury forced her to miss Wimbledon, but she made quite the statement in defeating Halep in New York last night.

Finally, the Detroit Lions have for some reason made quarterback Matthew Stafford the highest paid player in NFL history, committing to paying him $135 Million over the next five years.