In Boston’s three games over the weekend, they played their best baseball by sweeping the Rays. They showed life when they needed to, made big plays when opportunity knocked, and, most importantly, the three wins secured a Red Sox save to their season after a horrendous start.
The Sox’s biggest score over the weekend was an ample source of momentum. After weeks compiled with struggles and reflection, the club finally gained a reason to play for 2019. They proved to themselves that they can play with baseball’s best (Tampa Bay had MLB’s best record entering Friday – now second best). They also proved they can win big games on the road.
Sox hit 5 home runs over weekend
Boston’s plethora of home runs, which helped move them out of the AL basement of ‘trouble slugging’ teams, came at the right time to help the Red Sox save their season. Starting on Friday, Christian Vázquez socked a pitch from Rays southpaw Ryan Yarborough over the center field wall. This hit came moments after Rafael Devers plated J.D. Martinez from first base on an RBI double. Then, in the eighth inning, with the game tied 4-4, Mookie Betts led off with a homer to center. As Betts rounded first and headed towards second, he pumped his right fist as a sign of elation. Mitch Moreland then went back-to-back. His blast sailed to right-center.
On Saturday, the Sox went up 1-0 when Sandy León was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Andrew Benintendi then hit a grand slam to left-center to put the Sox up 5-0. On Sunday, Moreland homered again to score Boston’s first run. It was his seventh long ball in 21 games played.
In a collaborative effort, Vázquez stands out
From Boston’s very first run on Friday against Tampa Bay, to a pickoff throw to Steve Pearce at first to win game 2. And ending with yesterday’s game-winning sac fly in the 11th inning, Christian Vázquez was the star of the series and played a major role in the Red Sox save to their season.
As mentioned above, the Sox’s first run on Friday came on a Devers RBI double. Martinez scored from first, which was impressive considering his size and lack of speed on the base paths. Martinez scored the run on a bang-bang play at home plate, in which if he slid a split-second late, he probably would have been thrown out. What stood out from the play, however, was that the catcher called the runner safe milliseconds before the ump. Talk about focus!
Arguably the best play of Vázquez’s career came while catching, with two runners on base (one in scoring position), and two outs in the bottom of the 9th. The Sox were clinging to a one-run lead. The catcher noticed Tommy Pham was taking a big lead off of first base, and thus pre-determined a pickoff throw before the second pitch of the impending at-bat arrived. His throw was perfect and Steve Pearce tagged out Pham to win the game. With much excitement, Vázquez hugged relief pitcher Ryan Brasier. He then looked towards his other teammates with a smile, thrilled to seal the victory.
In the series finale, in extra innings, Vázquez hit a sac fly to deep right-center to score the winning run. Number-seven rounded first and clapped three times above his head before heading towards the dugout. He clearly had the largest impact of any Red Sox against TB.
A rookie gets his first career hit
Michael Chavis, Boston’s top prospect, was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket before Friday’s game. He made his first career at-bat in game 2, in the top of the 9th inning, and with a runner on first. His clutch performance at this dish was a big boost to the Red Sox save to their season. Dave O’Brien, the team’s play-by-play commentator on NESN, said it best, “Chavis rips a double!” His double traveled more 400 feet, over Gold Glove Kevin Kiermaier’s head. The 23-year-old Chavis could not have produced a better first at-bat.
Starting pitching finally coming along
Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and David Price gave the rest of their team a fair chance to win their starts over the weekend. The trio’s contributions helped quiet the doubters, for now, and were key to the Red Sox save to the season. E-Rod and Porcello each pitched more than five innings and allowed 3 earned runs or less. Price allowed just 2 runs, struck out 10, and did not allow a long ball. They all saw their pitch count rise above 90.
Red Sox Save Their Season – Ideas to consider moving forward
- Do not take foot off the gas pedal — Chris Sale starts tonight and is still looking for his first win. Coming off a successful and emotional weekend, Sale should be ready to kick butt. The Tigers are last in the AL in runs scored. They are also last in home runs and OPS. This should only give Sale a better chance for a quality start.
- Continue to play Chavis — After a pinch-hit double on Saturday, manager Alex Cora elected to start Chavis yesterday – a decision I agree with. He responded by reaching base just once in five plate appearances. Devers has been playing better recently (4-game hitting streak), but could be subject to sharing some time at third, which is Chavis’s natural position. There also still lies a huge hole at second base with Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt nursing injuries. Cora should be confident in playing Chavis regularly this week.
- Do not panic over losing Eovaldi — The starter is meeting with his doctor today after an MRI showed two loose bodies in his pitching elbow. According to multiple sources, surgery is the most likely outcome. I know this seems hard, but the Red Sox still have a solid four-man rotation in Sale, Price, Porcello, and Rodriguez. Add in Héctor Velázquez (2 games started, 6 combined innings, 1 earned run) and the rotation looks even better. They do not have starters ready to go in the farm system. The team could opt to pitch similarly to the Rays – by rolling out relievers to begin games. The case is a strong one, as Tampa Bay leads the AL with a 2.85 team ERA.