BOSTON -- The Red Sox are just kind of staying afloat at the moment, and the man who is keeping them in there is Mitch Moreland.
The veteran first baseman took his role as Mr. Clutch to another level on Thursday night, smashing a game-tying homer in the seventh and an equalizing double in the ninth.
The Sox were just two outs from defeat in a game that would have dropped them to 3-10 on the season.
But Moreland simply wouldn’t allow it to happen. Instead, he helped the team escape an early 5-0 deficit and got it off the mat when it fell behind again, 6-5.
“I don’t think I’m carrying [us],” Moreland said. “If it’s not me, it would be somebody else.”
Upon further review, Moreland is carrying his team. In all four of Boston’s wins, Moreland has had the biggest hit. Or in the case of Thursday, the biggest hits.
With Moreland’s clutch heroics, the Sox are 4-9 and six games back in the American League East. Translation: You don’t want to know where they’d be without him.
In that first victory in Seattle back on March 29, Moreland mashed a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the top of the ninth that launched his team over the Mariners, 7-6.
It wasn’t until five days later that the Red Sox would win again, and once again it was Moreland who came up large, with a two-run double in the sixth to tie a game they trailed 3-0 at Oakland. Boston went on to win, 6-3.
There would be three losses until that next elusive victory. And it was Moreland who ended a gruesome, 11-game, season-opening road trip (3-8) on a winning note when he went deep to right for a solo shot in the seventh that stood up in a 1-0 victory at Arizona.
“I feel happy for him,” said Devers. “Just like everyone else, whenever one of my teammates does something special, I get happy for them, but especially for him. He’s been putting the ball in play a lot. He looks really good this season.”
And never was that more the case than Thursday, which felt like the biggest game of the year so far. The Sox had already lost their home opener on Tuesday with another subpar performance from ace Chris Sale. And after a team off day on Wednesday, Nathan Eovaldi sputtered, giving up five runs and two homers over five innings.
Give the Sox credit for this: They chipped away with three in the third, another run in the fifth and then had Moreland at the plate in the seventh ready to do his thing.
The left-handed hitter worked Joe Biagani for an eight-pitch at-bat and launched one into Boston’s bullpen in right-center field, sending such a loud jolt of energy through Fenway that it suddenly felt like 2018 again.
When Freddy Galvis took Ryan Brasier deep in the eighth to put Toronto back in front, it felt like the early-season 2019 Red Sox again.
But when Mookie Betts drew a one-out walk in the ninth, Moreland was coming up. At least at this point in the season, that’s the best news possible for the Red Sox.
This time, Moreland worked a seven-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, which he finished with a laser-beam of a double (106.8-mph exit velocity). The pitch from Giles purred in at 97. Betts roared around from first to tie it.
“It was just balls to the wall, let’s go. Let’s get after him,” said Giles. “And sure enough, he won. Hats off to him that he won the battle.”
Moreland won said battle with a mysterious drone flying over Fenway.
“It kind of threw me off,” Moreland said. “I looked up and I was like, 'Hey, they're not supposed to have these around here, are they?' But, I figured I'd try to hit it or something.”
The most impressive thing Moreland did in the at-bat was stay alive by fouling off a couple of nasty four-seamers, both of which came in at 97.9.
“Just trying to go up there and grind it out. Got in the hole kind of early,” Moreland said. “Able to foul off a couple of high fastballs and get one a little bit lower and put a good swing on it.”
There was still the matter of winning the game. Eduardo Nunez helped make that possible when he ran for Moreland and stole third. After a walk to Xander Bogaerts, Devers stepped up with the bases loaded and one out, but no RBIs yet on the season.
That changed when his non-descript grounder found some outfield grass and Nunez touched home to win it.
“Obviously it hasn’t went quite our way so far this year,” said Moreland. “But we’ve got a great group of guys; we’ve got a good team. We’re going to get it going. We just have to keep grinding it out and have good at-bats and create opportunities.”
And also get Moreland to the plate as much as they can when the game is on the line.