What a way to end an uneven first half.
The undermanned Phillies, who placed scheduled starter Aaron Nola, third baseman Alec Bohm and two relievers on the COVID injured list Sunday morning, pulled off a series win on the road over the team with the best record in the American League to head into the All-Star break.
And they did it by piecing things together in a bullpen game.
It was a 5-4 victory for the Phils, who took two of three at Fenway Park after winning three of four at Wrigley Field. They finish the first half 44-44 and 3½ games behind the Mets, who blew a ninth-inning lead and lost to the Pirates.
Ranger Suarez, now the closer, picked up the final seven outs of a one-run game for his second save.
"Extremely proud," manager Joe Girardi said afterward. "I’ve said all along this is a resilient group and we’ve probably had as many tough losses as any team in baseball."
Suarez loaded the bases in the eighth inning but stranded them by getting Alex Verdugo to ground out softly. He faced J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in the ninth but retired the side in order.
It was the kind of save you do not see anymore, the longest non-three-inning save by a Phillie since Ricky Bottalico went 2⅔ innings on June 21, 1995 at Shea Stadium.
"He’s played a huge part in a lot of our wins, whether it's been multiple innings or just one inning," Girardi said of Suarez, who has a 0.77 ERA in 35 innings. "He's had a great first half."
Girardi said after the game that it's the longest he can recall pushing his closer since Mariano Rivera threw 41 pitches to close out the Phillies in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series.
Left-hander Cristopher Sanchez was instrumental in the win with three innings of relief. Brandon Kintzler served as the opener and faced four batters. He had a 1-2-3 first inning, then allowed a leadoff homer to Bogaerts in the second before being replaced by Sanchez.
Sanchez, a hard-throwing 24-year-old acquired from the Rays in November 2019 by former Phils GM Matt Klentak, threw 50 pitches. He struck out two of the game’s best right-handed hitters in Martinez and Bogaerts. He picked up a big groundball to short with two on and two outs in the fourth inning to finish his portion of the job. Command has been an issue for Sanchez throughout his time in the minors but was not on Sunday as he pounded the Red Sox with two-seamers.
"I feel very, very happy," Sanchez said. "I’m very grateful to God and to the team. It’s a great opportunity to have. Any time they call me up, I have to take advantage of that opportunity."
Archie Bradley was also effective in navigating out of a jam caused by Jose Alvarado, who has been scored upon in six of his last seven appearances and has put 19 men on base in his last seven innings.
"We tried to map out what we could possibly do knowing we could get six innings out of five guys," Girardi said. "We kind of felt like if we could get Kintzler and Sanchez through at least three that we would be OK.
"I give Sanchez a ton of credit because he threw a light side session yesterday. I don’t think he was supposed to pitch again until Monday."
Ronald Torreyes, who had a great first half for the Phillies defensively and a surprisingly productive one at the plate, was their offensive standout Sunday. Batting eighth, he started their first rally with a single to left and followed an inning later with a three-run home run over the Green Monster.
Both hits came against former Phillie Nick Pivetta, who had a costly meltdown in the second inning. With two outs, he gave up an opposite-field RBI single to J.T. Realmuto and was too busy expressing frustration to back up third base. The throw from right field got past the third-base bag and went into the stands, allowing a second run to score.
Realmuto appeared amused by the ordeal. After the inning, Pivetta screamed his way back to the dugout and stormed down the tunnel. Red Sox manager Alex Cora quickly called to the bullpen, in part because Pivetta had thrown 51 pitches but probably more so because of his body language. Keeping the emotions in check was an issue for Pivetta in his four seasons with the Phillies.
This trip was a true family reunion. The Phils beat Jake Arrieta on Tuesday, Pivetta on Sunday and scored three runs Saturday off of Brandon Workman, who failed to record an out.
The Phillies lead the majors in runs per game in July and rank fifth since June 1. They're fifth in slugging and sixth in OPS over that span. It may not seem like the ideal time to have four days off, but the guys who have spent most of the season dealing with nagging injuries -- notably Bryce Harper, Realmuto, Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura -- will take it.