By MyFM's Jake Archer - The Red Sox seem to have fallen under the radar despite still being the best team in baseball. Maybe it has something to do with the Bruins (before they were eliminated), the Celtics and the Patriots offseason drama, but even in baseball circles, the Sox talk has died down. They keep taking care of business though, as they went down to Texas and won three out of four against the Rangers. They've still only lost two series during the season and sit at 25-9. Let's take a look at how they fared in the Arlington heat.
The series started on Thursday night with David Price on the mound for Boston. Mike Minor, another big lefty from Tennessee, opposed him. After getting the Rangers in order in the first, Price ran into trouble in the next inning. With one out, he plunked Texas slugger Joey Gallo and then allowed a triple to Jurickson Profar to plate a run. Renato Nunez then lifted a sac-fly to left to make it 2-0 early. Boston came back with a run in the top of the third when Mookie Betts smacked his 12th homer of the season with two outs. Price couldn't get a handle on things though, and he let Texas grab the run back, plus another in the next frame. With one out, Delino DeShields singled and Shin-Soo Choo reached on an error by Rafael Devers at third. After an infield fly, Nomar Mazara doubled to bring in both runs.
Devers started the fourth off with a single and Eduardo Nunez reached on an error by DeShields. Blake Swihart, getting some rare action, walked to load the bases. Christian Vazquez drove in a run with a single and Betts added a sac-fly with one out. Boston wasn't going away and they'd clawed back to within one run again. It's just too bad that David Price has forgotten how to pitch again.
In the fourth, Price unraveled. He walked Profar to lead off the inning and then after recording an out, gave up back-to-back singles to Robinson Chirinos and Ryan Rua. It was 5-3 and the Sox decided it was time for a mound visit. The quick talk didn't help, and Price gave up another single to DeShields to load the bases. The lefty struck out Choo, but then walked in a run with a free pass to Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Alex Cora had seen enough and he pulled the struggling "ace." Price was still on the hook for all the runners around the bases, and Hector Velazquez would have to get out of the jam. That didn't go well as Velazquez unleashed a wild pitch to score a run and then gave up a three-run jack to Mazara. It was 10-3 and things had gotten ugly. Price's final line was nine runs (seven earned) on six hits and two walks in three and two thirds innings. He also struck out four.
Price has struggled mightily after opening the season with two dominant outings. Of course, those were against the Rays and came at the beginning of the year when most bats haven't quite rounded into form. It's safe to say I have no confidence in him moving forward. He's got to show something, and soon. Anyway, both sides went quiet on offense until the seventh, when Texas added another run. Renato Nunez reached on an error by Xander Bogaerts and then scored on a double by Chirinos. In the eighth, the Sox tacked on two to make the score a little more respectable. Swihart walked with one out and Vazquez followed it up with a single. After a strikeout by Jackie Bradley Jr., Betts doubled to drive in both runs. That was it for the night as Boston would fall 11-5. Price took the loss while Minor grabbed the win. It was a pretty gross to start to the series for the Sox.
On Friday, the Sox came back with Rick Porcello and the Rangers countered with the man, the myth, the legend Bartolo Colon. JD Martinez got the scoring going with a homerun to leadoff the second inning and Texas came back with a homer from Mazara in the fourth. That was all Porcello would give up, but Boston wasn't done scoring. Devers smacked a solo shot to lead off the fifth, Betts did the second in the sixth and then Devers homered again in the seventh. Up 4-1 heading to the seventh and having thrown 96 pitches, Porcello was done for the night. His final line was six innings pitched, one run on three hits, one walk and eight Ks. He’s been phenomenal to start this season and looks even better than he did to start off in his Cy Young Award season.
After seven, Colon was done as well. He wasn’t awful, but the long ball had hurt him badly. In seven innings of work he allowed four runs on five hits with four of them being solo shots. Colon also struck out four. The man that replaced him, Jake Diekman, did give up a run on a walk to Sandy Leon and a double by Hanley Ramirez. At 5-1, the Sox had the win. Porcello moved to 5-0 on the season and the 44-year-old Colon took the loss to fall to 1-1.
On Saturday, it would be Eduardo Rodriguez going for Boston against Cole Hamels for Texas. The Rangers drew first blood in the second with a one-out solo homer from Gallo, but Boston tied it up in the fifth. With one down, Vazquez walked and Betts reached on an error by Nunez at third. Both runners ended up in scoring position on the gaffe and Andrew Benintendi singled to drive in Vazqy.
Almost right away, E-Rod gave the Rangers the lead again. He struck out the first two batters of the bottom half but then allowed a single, a walk before DeShields took him yard to put Texas up 4-1. Boston battled back in the sixth with a single from Martinez and a one-out two-run shot by Mitch Moreland. Moreland has been hot despite being a bench guy and at this point, the Sox might need to think about playing him everyday rather than the automatic-out JBJ.
Again, E-Rod gave Texas life. With two outs in the sixth, Gallo launched a homer to put the Rangers up 5-3. In the top of the seventh, Hamels was out. He’d be pretty good as he went six innings and gave up only three runs (two earned) on five hits, two walks and five Ks. They probably shouldn’t have taken him out (although he was at 103 pitches). The Rangers bullpen faltered again and Jose Leclerc walked Betts with one out. On came Alex Claudio, who allowed an RBI double to Benintendi and then an RBI single to Martinez to tie the game. In the bottom half, Heath Hembree came on to replace E-Rod. Rodriguez’ final line was five runs on four hits in six innings pitched. He also walked two and struck out 10 while throwing 107 pitches.
The Boston bullpen did its job well and in the ninth, the offense helped them out. Keone Kela was in for the Rangers on the mound and he allowed a one-out triple to Benintendi and a sac-fly by Hanley. Boston had taken the lead and they’d bring Craig Kimbrel in for the bottom of the ninth. The flame-throwing righty got the Rangers to go 1-2-3 and he picked up his ninth save of the season. It was also his 300thsave of his career and he became the fastest to that mark in the history of baseball. Some people may not love Kimbrel, but I think those people are nuts. He’s the best at what he does.
With the 6-5 win, the Sox had secured at least a series split. Like I said, Kimbrel picked up the save but Joe Kelly got the win for Boston and Kela took the loss. Now the teams would finish up on Sunday afternoon with Chris Sale going against a former Red Sox pitcher, Doug Fister. Fister was a steady starter in his short time in Boston but he gave up a run to his former teammates right away.
Leading off the first, Betts stayed hot by smacking a single to right. The next batter, Benintendi grounded to first for what looked like a double play. Ronald Guzman fired to second to get Betts but the throw hit the runner in the back. Betts was hit in the right shoulder blade and went down for a slide into second. He was safe but he looked to be hurt. Despite the throw hitting his shoulder, he grabbed at his wrist and it was fair to wonder whether he had injured it on the slide. It was a scary moment as a Sox fan, but the rightfielder remained in the game after being looked at by the trainer.
JD Martinez drew a walk in the next at-bat to put runners on first and second, and then Moreland doubled to right to score Mookie. After Fister got out of it and Chris Sale struck out the side, Betts got another AB in the second inning. He lined out to center, but then was replaced in the outfield by Blake Swihart in the bottom half. I believe it was precautionary and the Sox later said that he was day-to-day with a shoulder issue, but you never like to see that. I’m hoping he can play in tonight’s game with the Yankees. Anyway, in the third inning Boston tacked on another run. Martinez doubled with one out and then Bogaerts smacked an RBI single to left. In the sixth, they grabbed three more. After Fister struck out the first two batters of the frame, he allowed a single to Eduardo Nunez, hit JBJ and then gave up a three-run bomb to Sandy Leon. It was good to finally see some offensive production from the catching position.
In the seventh, JD Martinez went opposite field to right for his eighth homer of the year. Martinez has been scorching hot at the plate and no one is really taking notice because Betts has been even better. The Sox led 6-0 at this point and Doug Fister was done. His final line was six runs on nine hits, two walks and five Ks in six and a third innings pitched. He’d ultimately take the loss in this one. Meanwhile, Sale was cruising. The only blemish on his day came in the seventh, his last inning, when he allowed a leadoff solo homer to Rua. He went seven innings while giving up only one run on four hits, one walk and 12 strikeouts. It was probably his best performance of the year and he moved to 3-1 with the win. The Sox bullpen closed it down and the 6-1 victory meant they had taken 3 of 4.
Boston moved to 25-9, which is still the best record in the majors and good for first place in the AL East. They’ll have an extremely tough test now though as they head to the Bronx for a three game series with the red-hot Yankees. New York is only a game back of Boston in the standings and they’ve won 15 of their last 16. The opponents they have faced have all been formidable as well. With a combined winning percentage of .721, this is the best mark the two have had with at least 60 games played between them since 1946. It’s also the first time that they’ll meet up as the two best teams in baseball since June of 2002. It’s going to be a real showdown of juggernauts.
Now despite being a game better, I feel like the Sox are the underdogs here. They are on the road, they aren’t as hot and the pitching matchups favor New York. The Yankees get to see a mediocre Drew Pomeranz, a struggling David Price and then will get hit with Porcello, who has been fantastic. I think it’s reasonable to expect the Sox to lose two of the three, but I sure hope they don’t. Tonight, Pomeranz faces Yankees ace Luis Severino with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Be sure to tune in on MyFM 101.3!