Newcomer Eduardo Nunez and Sandy Leon combine to push Red Sox past Royals in 10 innings
It took a while, but fate was on the Red Sox’ side last night at Fenway Park. The outcome was bound to be determined by — of all people — Eduardo Nunez.
And Sandy Leon was there to complete the heroics.
After hitting two solo home runs to pace a rejuvenated offense, Nunez, the newcomer playing just his second game since arriving in a trade, put the ball in play on a full count and let fate take its course. His walkoff groundout to shortstop in the 10th inning was the difference as the Sox escaped with a 9-8 victory against the Kansas City Royals in an ugly, sloppy game that lasted four hours, 45 minutes.
“There was a lot going on back and forth,” manager John Farrell said. “Lead changes, overcome some mistakes, whether it’s defensively or on the base paths, but a much-needed win on our part. There’s no doubting that.”
After Leon opened the 10th with a double, the Royals elected to intentionally walk Mookie Betts with one out to bring up Nunez.
A wild pitch put Betts and Leon at second and third. Nunez’ hard-fought at-bat included falling behind 0-2, the wild pitch and his fouling off three pitches before it ended with the grounder. The ball was snagged by Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, who threw Nunez out, but Leon raced home on first baseman Eric Hosmer’s throw and eluded the tag by catcher Drew Butera for the win.
“Eduardo’s come in here and given us a huge lift,” Farrell said. “Two nights, he’s swung the ball extremely well. Two big home runs obviously, but the infield out and somehow Sandy finds a way to elude a tag with just a great slide to finish it off.”
The Red Sox put on their best offensive showing since July 4, but poor pitching and defense nearly cost them in this one.
Nunez’ second homer — a shot that hit the AAA sign above the Green Monster — gave the Red Sox a fifth-inning lead before Jackie Bradley Jr. came around to give them a 6-4 lead, but the advantage was immediately given away. Already into the bullpen by then after Eduardo Rodriguez’ four-inning start, the relief trio of Fernando Abad, Blaine Boyer and Robby Scott — combined with some poor defense — were the culprits in the sixth. Soon enough, the 6-4 lead turned into an 8-6 deficit.
After a throwing error and walk allowed the first two Royals to reach, Boyer relieved Abad, and the results weren’t much better. A passed ball, infield single, wild pitch, single and walk tied the game and loaded the bases as Scott entered the game. And there were still no outs.
Hosmer grounded into a fielder’s choice in which Nunez, playing second base, overthrew shortstop Xander Bogaerts as he tried to turn a double play. That gave the Royals a 7-6 lead and Perez’ sacrifice fly made it 8-6.
Farrell had to get into the bullpen early. After escaping the first three innings unscathed, Rodriguez pushed his luck in the fourth and a harmless fly ball down the right field line from Lorenzo Cain somehow snuck inside Pesky’s Pole for a three-run homer and 4-2 Royals lead.
The Red Sox tied it right back up in the fourth, went ahead in the fifth and then fell behind by the 8-6 count in the sixth. In the seventh, Bradley’s sac fly brought the Sox within a run, and an inning later, Betts tied the game with another sac fly.
In the Royals’ ninth, Perez led off with a single off Craig Kimbrel, before pinch-runner Terrance Gore was thrown out by Leon trying to steal second. In the home half of the inning, the Sox had runners on second and third with two outs, but Mitch Moreland grounded out.
In the 10th, though, the Sox didn’t waste their opportunity.
“We’ve had our fair share of games that have extended deep into the night, and to win this with the seesaw battle that it was, take the lead, give it back multiple times, this was a good win,” Farrell said.