By MyFM's Jake Archer - The weather is getting warm and the bats are getting even warmer. On Wednesday afternoon, the Red Sox rode another offensive outburst to a series sweep of their American League East rival, the Toronto Blue Jays. With the 6-4 win, Boston is now a full 22 games over .500 and the calendar still has not turned to June! I sure am glad we have a great baseball team to pay attention to this summer as the Celtics and Bruins ended in disappointing fashion and drama continues to surround the Patriots.
Today it was Eduardo Rodriguez toeing the rubber for the Sox. He was opposed by Sam Gaviglio, a 28-year-old righty in his first season with the Jays. Neither pitcher allowed a runner to reach base until the bottom of the third, when Gaviglio fell victim to Boston's offense. The Sox first baseman for the day, Blake Swihart, led off the frame with a single and moved up to second on a groundout by Christian Vazquez. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s bat has finally shown up in 2018 and he smacked an RBI double off the Green Monster to start the scoring.
After JBJ's rip, Andrew Benintendi singled to put runners on the corners. With Xander Bogaerts up at the dish, Benny took off for second but was thrown out on the steal attempt. When Toronto's Luke Maile threw down to second, Bradley sprinted home and the throw came back to the plate. It was close, and JBJ made a nifty slide to be called safe on the play at the plate. Not so fast though! Toronto wanted to take a look and challenge the play, and the replay review would show that Maile had tagged Bradley before he touched home. JBJ was out and the inning was over with only one run scored.
Meanwhile, E-Rod was dealing for the Red Sox. It took until the fifth inning with one man out for him to allow a hit, a single to center by Kendrys Morales. Nothing would come of the baserunner, and we'd head to the bottom half of the inning. That's where Gaviglio made a mistake to Eduardo Nunez, who smoked a solo-shot over the Monster that was confirmed by replay review. Nunez has been swinging it a bit better lately, and now Boston had a 2-0 lead.
In the sixth, Rodriguez got the first two outs before issuing an eight-pitch walk to Toronto's number nine hitter, Gio Urshela. Walking the ninth hitter, especially with two outs, is a big no-no in baseball. You almost had to know that E-Rod would somehow pay for that one, and he did when the next batter, Teoscar Hernandez, launched a changeup up and over the Monster to tie the ballgame at 2. Rodriguez had been cruising, and then out of nowhere things had gone sideways.
Luckily, the Sox bats seem to be finding a way to pick up their pitchers quite a bit lately. In the next half inning, Benintendi led off with a single and then JD Martinez hit a one-out two-run homer over everything in left to put the Sox back in front. The homerun was the 18th of the year for Martinez and it moved him back into a tie with Mike Trout for the league lead. All the guy seems to do is hit and I've loved every second of it.
E-Rod gave up a hit but also got two outs in the seventh before he was lifted for Matt Barnes. It was another really good performance for the lefty, and after Barnes worked out of the inning, the book was closed on him. He allowed just two runs on three hits, one walk and seven Ks in six and two thirds innings. At 100 pitches, it was a good time to take him out but it's worth noting that he seems to be keeping his pitch count down more effectively lately. I'm happy with how he's been throwing and I hope it continues.
On the other side, Gaviglio was done to start the seventh and replaced by Seunghwan Oh. The final line for the starter was four runs on seven hits, no walks and four strikeouts in six innings of work. It wasn't the worst outing, but he didn't put his team in position to win. After Oh got through the inning, he was replaced by Ryan Tepera to start the eighth. Tepera gave up a leadoff single to Bogaerts and then made a throwing error to allow Martinez to reach base. A batter later, Nunez doubled to bring in a run and make it 5-2 Boston. Things weren't going to get better for the Toronto reliever, as after a mound visit he let Brock Holt smack an RBI single to left. Now all Boston needed to do was shut it down in the top of the ninth and secure the win.
Yesterday, the Sox had turned to a long-reliever, Hector Velazquez, to work a non-stressful ninth inning. That didn't work out well and Velazquez got the team into trouble, forcing Alex Cora to pull Craig Kimbrel out of the bullpen for a save. Today, they'd need to try to stay away from Kimbrel to avoid overworking him/save him for a pretty important series with the Houston Astros this Thursday-Sunday. I was really hoping they could just keep him in the bullpen and the guy that they tabbed to work the ninth, another long-reliever, Brian Johnson, would get the job done.
Of course, that was too much to ask. Johnson came in with a 6-2 lead and allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning to Kevin Pillar and Yangervis Solarte. Cora then decided to summon Kimbrel again, who would walk Justin Smoak to load the bases and then allow a double to Morales to score two. By no means was this not Kimbrel's fault, but you also have to place most of the blame on Johnson. He allowed the Jays to start a rally and made Kimbrel come in when he wasn't supposed to. Anyway, the closer got the next three batters in order to put the game to bed and Boston had won 6-4.
The win went to Eduardo Rodriguez, who improves to 6-1 on the season. Gaviglio took the loss to drop to 2-1 and Kimbrel earned his 18th save of the year. The Red Sox are now 39-17 while Toronto falls to 25-31, a full 14 games back in the AL East. Boston still owns a two-game lead over the Yankees and the best record in baseball. They now head to Houston to face the defending World Series champion Astros, the team that bounced them from the playoffs in the ALDS last season. Houston is the third best team in the American League behind Boston and New York at 35-22. They'll pose a tough challenge for the Sox and I can't wait to see how this series plays out.
Tomorrow night, Boston will throw the struggling Drew Pomeranz against Houston's Lance McCullers. Pomeranz has been awful and needs a good start to keep his rotation spot. McCullers on the other hand, is probably Houston's fifth best guy and yet he's pretty good. The 24-year-old righty is 6-3 with a 3.98 ERA and although he got pounded for seven runs against Cleveland in his last time out, he's pitching to a 3.19 ERA in his last seven starts. Pretty good for a fifth starter, I'd say. Boston's bats will need to stay hot to keep pace with Houston, so tune in and listen here on MyFM 101.3! First pitch tomorrow is scheduled for 8:10 p.m.