After the Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays 6-5 Tuesday night, the team’s vaccination status was pushed to the forefront. The Sox were without both center fielder Jarren Duran and closer Tanner Houck, who are both unvaccinated and could not make the trip to Toronto due to Canadian laws regarding international travel.
Houck in particular drew focus, as the back end of the Red Sox bullpen struggled without him. Leading 5-4 heading into the ninth inning, the Red Soxturned to Tyler Danish who had just thrown a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Danish couldn’t replicate that success in the ninth, allowing a hit and a walk before being pulled for Hansel Robles. Robles then allowed two hits including the walk-off from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. In total, Red Sox pitching did not record an out in the ninth inning.
With more crucial games in Toronto on their schedule, plus a potential playoff matchup with the Blue Jays, the availability of these players has been put in the spotlight. Prior to Wednesday’s series finale, manager Alex Cora addressed their statuses.
“We’re still talking. We’ll see. I do believe when we come into September, it’s going to be different,” Cora said, referencing the team’s penultimate regular season series at the Rogers Centre September 30-October 2. “I do believe for September, it’s going to change from our end. Leave it at that. I bet you $1 it’s going to change.”
That dollar bet comment isn’t new from Cora. As MLB.com’s Ian Browne pointed out, Cora made a similar remark regarding J.D. Martinez’s bounce-back season in 2021.
The real question for the Red Sox is what will the impact of those games in late September and early October be. They’re currently 13.5 games behind the Yankees for the top spot in the AL East, while a half a game behind the Blue Jays for the top Wild Card spot, and a game and a half up on the Rays for the final Wild Card spot. If those games do end up being pivotal, a shakeup could help the Red Sox, who are 1-5 in Toronto so far this year entering Wednesday night.
A lot of the team’s season will be decided over the next few weeks – six of the seven series ahead of them on the schedule (including this current one against Toronto) are against AL East opponents. It’s a chance for the Sox to really gain some ground after going 7-16 against the division to this point.