The Red Sox were only down one in the seventh Saturday when the Phillies put two runners on for Bryce Harper.
Alex Cora made the obvious decision: bring on Josh Taylor.
The left-handed Taylor entered with a streak of 26 consecutive scoreless outings, the longest streak by any major league pitcher in three years.
Finally, it came to an end.
Taylor allowed four runs as the Phillies blew it wide open and knocked off the Red Sox, 11-2.
“I could care less about the streak,” Taylor said. “It’s cool but I still have a job to do, I have a job to get the outs I need and today I didn’t do that.”
With the Rays’ win on Saturday, the Sox’ lead in the American League East fell to 1 1/2 games with one game left before the All-Star break.
When Taylor entered with two outs and two on in the seventh, his first order of business was a pick-off move to first base, where he caught the speedy Jean Segura leaning too far toward second for the final out of the frame.
The umpires checked on Taylor’s glove and hat, part of the new rules to check for foreign substances on the mound, and Taylor was laughing at the irony: he ended the inning without ever throwing a pitch.
But Harper was still due up to start the eighth, and Taylor lost the battle with a hanging fastball that Harper smoked to right field for a single. Andrew McCutchen walked and Rhys Hoskins doubled to score both runners and push the Phillies’ lead to 5-2.
Taylor then drilled Didi Gregorius and that was the end of his outing.
“Wasn’t locating today,” he said. “Was all around the zone. I’ll just take away the positives. Go back and watch video, figure it out, tomorrow we go back and we win the series.”
It was the first time Taylor had allowed a run since April 24, when his ERA was 9.72. Coming out of Saturday’s loss, his ERA had plummeted down to 3.86.
Cora bought early stock in Taylor during his rookie year in 2019, when he had just been acquired from the Diamondbacks for Deven Marrero. Taylor had a 3.09 ERA that year and quickly earned Cora’s trust, which has continued into this season.
“He’s been so great for two, two and a half months,” Cora said. “It just happens, right? That’s not typical. It just, one bad one in 28 outings. What he did was amazing. He’s been great. Hopefully he gets the ball tomorrow and he can do the job again.”
There hasn’t been a big leaguer with a scoreless streak as long as Taylor’s 26-game stretch since the Twins’ Taylor Rogers went 28 consecutive games without allowing a run in 2018. Koji Uehara holds the Red Sox record at 27 consecutive games.
“He’s on a great burner,” Adam Ottavino said of Taylor before the game. “That’s the type of thing you want to get on as a reliever. I’ve been on some of those myself. It’s a beautiful thing. You just try to get in that groove and stay there.”
Brandon Workman and Austin Brice made more of a mess behind him, as the Phillies scored eight runs in the eighth inning.
At that point it hardly mattered; the game was lost. But for the Red Sox bullpen, the inning put an ugly stain on an otherwise impressive first half. Sox relievers entered the game with a 3.46 ERA, eighth-best in MLB. They ended the day with a 3.62 ERA.
The Sox hadn’t allowed eight runs in an inning since April 4, when they got clobbered by the Orioles in the first series of the season.
Some other takeaways:
1. Martin Perez labored through 3 2/3 innings, allowing three runs before his day was over. It was a forgettable outing but enough to keep the Sox in the game until the bullpen unraveled in the eighth. Perez finished his first half with a 7-5 record and 4.04 ERA.
2. Harper had a tough game handling his defensive duties in right field. He let a foul ball drop between his glove and the wall down the first-base line. He also mistimed a dive on a shallow fly that found grass. And he threw one away when Christian Vazquez was rounding third and trying to score on a throwing error from the catcher, Andrew Knapp.
3. Xander Bogaerts connected on his 14th homer of the season. He turned on a high fastball and lifted it over the Monster for a solo shot in the second inning.