In the 118 years of the program’s existence, the Boston Red Sox never started 8-1, until now. On Sunday, down 7-2 in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox scored six straight runs. This Red Sox comeback included five runs coming with two outs. Since falling to the Rays on Opening Day, the Red Sox have won eight straight and started this season better than any other team in franchise history.
While the Sox have largely relied on their pitching through the first eight contests, it was the offense’s turn to carry the team in this one. The Rays got to starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez early on, as the lefty gave up five hits and three runs, all earned, in only 3.2 innings of work. Manager Alex Cora had to get creative with his bullpen in this one. He trotted out four different middle relievers before handing the ball to Carson Smith in the 8th and Craig Kimbrel in the 9th. In their lone innings of scoreless work, Smith (1-1) took home the win while Kimbrel secured his third save of the young season.
Red Sox Comeback Best Start in Program History
Down 7-2 in the eighth inning, Mitch Moreland got things started with his first double of the season, driving in Hanley Ramirez. He crossed the plate soon after on a double by Rafael Devers, his fourth of the season. RBI singles by Christian Vazquez and Mookie Betts tied the game at 7.
Andrew Benintendi has struggled to begin the 2018 campaign, batting only .154 with 6 hits. Stepping up to the plate in a game knotted at 7, with two outs and the go-ahead run on second base, he had a chance to turn the page on his rocky start.
Turn the page he did, as Benintendi knocked his first double of the year to center field, scoring Mookie Betts and putting an exclamation point on Boston’s explosive eighth inning.
Even with all of the positive takeaway’s from Sunday’s game, the Red Sox experienced a scare in the seventh inning when shortstop Xander Bogaerts was helped off the field with a left ankle injury. After a J.D. Martinez throw from the outfield bounced away, Bogaerts slid into the stairwell of the Rays’ dugout, unsuccessfully trying to corral the ball and save the run.
Bogaerts has been the undisputed sparkplug of the Red Sox offense so far this season. Through nine games, Xander Bogaerts has hit .368 with two home runs, including a grand slam in his 6-RBI performance on Saturday. He added one hit on Sunday before Brock Holt replaced him in the seventh inning.
Injuries Can’t Cloud Red Sox Comeback
Manager Alex Cora has said that Xander Bogaerts will be further evaluated on Monday. Not only has Bogaerts put this offense on his back, but Boston’s middle infield is already undermanned with Dustin Pedroia still recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Should Bogaerts miss any time, Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt will likely man the middle infield for the time being. While solid defensive options, their bats are undoubtedly a downgrade from Boston’s hottest hitter, especially in an offense reliant on baserunners and contact. The status of Xander Bogaerts should be followed closely, as Boston’s middle infield can’t afford any more setbacks.
The streaking Red Sox, after nine games against the Rays and Marlins, will go for their ninth straight victory in their first true test on Tuesday when the Yankees visit Fenway Park at 7:10pm.