Red Sox treat raucous fans to wild victory

June 11th, 2021

BOSTON -- In one wild Thursday night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox stopped getting pushed around by the Astros and put together perhaps their most entertaining performance of 2021, salvaging the finale of a three-game series with a much-needed 12-8 victory.

With an electric crowd of 23,378 making their presence felt all night, the Sox and Astros traded haymakers and weirdness. The Red Sox added great outfield defense to the mix.

Though the Sox finished their season series against Houston by losing five out of seven, Thursday’s parting performance left them wanting more of this growing rivalry when it really counts -- in the fall.

“We did a good job bouncing back last week [in Houston]. We did a good job today bouncing back,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “The fact that they beat us, yeah they did -- three out of four there, two out of three here -- they have a good baseball team. They're a complete team, offensively they're very dangerous. But we do believe we can play with them. Hopefully we have the chance to do that when it really matters, kind of like in '18.”

Considering that Thursday’s crowd felt like a Red Sox-Yankees Friday night crowd, circa 2004, it would be intriguing to hear what Fenway would sound like if the Astros could get back to Boston for the third October in the last five years.

“Yeah, it was loud,” said catcher Christian Vázquez. “We missed this. We missed the crowd. I think it was loud and felt like a playoff game. That team is good. The Astros are a good team. It’s fun to play those games like that.”

There were six – count them – six lead changes, the most of any game in MLB this year.

No wonder the crowd was so into it. For a 38-25 Red Sox team trying to rebuild its identity as a playoff contender after a couple of down years, this was a statement game.

“It was good. The music was louder, the fans were into it. Just two good teams battling,” said Cora. “For how much baseball purists like the 2-1, 1-0 game, fans like 12-8 and going at it, back and forth. To manage those games is not fun. But I understand why people like it.”

The haymakers

J.D. Martinez belted an early solo homer to left-center to tie the game in the third before Vázquez provided a lead with an RBI single. The Astros answered with four runs in the top of the fifth, highlighted by a bases-clearing double by Kyle Tucker.

No problem, said the Sox. Christian Arroyo swiftly answered in the bottom of the fifth with a 437-foot, three-run moonshot that soared over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street or perhaps beyond to tie the game, 7-7. So much had already happened at that point that it felt like the eighth inning instead of the fifth. Arroyo, a pleasant surprise this season, pounded his chest as he rounded the bases.

“That’s my first Fenway homer in front of fans, so it was pretty awesome. I’m an emotional player when it comes to that stuff, I love to win,” said Arroyo. “I hit it, I saw it and at that point that I knew it was out, I kind of just blacked out a little bit and I was just excited.”

The tie lasted about as long as it took a fan to flag down a Fenway Frank. Jose Altuve belted a two-out, solo homer in the sixth and the Astros were back on top.

“It was kind of like, we had the lead, then lost the lead and it just felt like one of those things where it was like, 'All right, let’s just regroup here,'” said Arroyo.

As you could probably guess, Houston’s latest lead didn’t last the inning. The Red Sox took all the momentum back and kept it with a five-run sixth that was capped by slumping rookie Bobby Dalbec nearly putting a hole in the Green Monster with a laser-beam, two-run double.

“It was a tremendous change of emotions about eight times. We’re cheering one moment and kind of lamenting the next moment,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “That was a weird ballgame. The whole game was very strange. It’s hard to explain.”

The weirdness

The teams combined to score four runs on either a walk or a hit by pitch.

There was an infield fly rule called with Rafael Devers batting that was hit 211 feet in the air into short center field, where Carlos Correa camped under it and dropped it as the crowd roared with excitement and then with anger when they realized it was an out.

Though fly balls that travel more than 200 feet typically don’t get called automatic outs, Cora thought it was the right call.

“One hundred percent,” said Cora. “He was under control. He got to it. He actually did an amazing job sprinting back. I was OK with it.”

It felt like there should have been a full moon over Fenway. Seconds after Vázquez took ball one in the sixth a fan flew onto the field in what seemed like record time, only to be gang-tackled by a slew of security guards.

The defense didn’t rest

The Fenway security team wasn’t alone with its strong defense.  

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts don’t play in Boston anymore, but the Fenway fans are still being treated to some highly-entertaining defense from the outfielders.

A night after right fielder Hunter Renfroe uncorked a 98-mph throw to nail Alex Bregman, Sox left fielder Alex Verdugo came up with a 95-mph throw to cut down Altuve trying to stretch a single into a double.

In the top of the eighth, it was center fielder Kiké Hernández who earned his way into the highlight reel by making an all-out, sprawling catch to take a hit away from Tucker, who mostly wore the Red Sox out over the last two weeks.

Per Statcast, there was only a 35 percent catch probability for Hernández, who needed to cover 44 feet in 3.2 seconds. His jump was +9.2 feet vs. MLB average on similar plays this season.

By the end of the night, the crowd went home in a state of delirium not often seen in June.

“Every win is great,” said Vázquez. “We had a loud crowd tonight and they earned this win and it was a fun game.”