Friday, September 21, 2018

Game 153: Red Sox at New York Yankees (September 20, 2018)

See? I told you this wasn't a repeat of 1978, didn't I? While the angst over how poorly the Red Sox have played over the past month was completely warranted, there was no reason for anyone to worry about them letting the division lead slip away. With a 9.5 game lead and ten games to play, it was only a matter of when, not if, the Sox would clinch. However, after blowing the opening game of this series and getting shellacked in the second game, a sweep at the hands of the hated Yankees looked like a real possibility. With another tough series in Cleveland immediately following the sojourn in the Bronx, it behooved Boston to wrap up the division as soon as they could so that they could rest players and tinker with the bullpen to see if they could patch something together that might be halfway effective in the postseason.

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Things got off to a good start in the first inning when JD Martinez drove in the Red Sox first run with an RBI single. In the second, Mookie Betts drove in two with a single of his own and the Sox raced out to a quick 3-0 lead. However, the suddenly pesky Luke Voit (who hit two home runs on Wednesday night) struck again when he hit a two run homer to shave the lead to one run. Brock Holt answered in the third with a solo shot to put Boston back up by two runs and it looked like the Sox had finally broken out of their scoring doldrums. And then...(if you didn't watch the game, have you guessed what happened next?)...the bullpen struck again. In the fourth inning Heath Hembree (there's nothing more I can say about this guy that I haven't already said that would be appropriate for a family website such as this) came in with the bases loaded and had the very first pitch he threw launched into the center field seats by Giancarlo Stanton for a grand slam. Just like that, the Yankees were up 6-4. With one pitch, Hembree managed to drain the blood from every Red Sox fan's face and conjure up the very real spectre of getting swept in New York. Even on a night where the team finally scored some runs, the bullpen (read: Hembree) seemed destined to derail it. Unlike in recent weeks, though, the Red Sox responded and kept on hitting. There was a prime opportunity in the fifth inning to put a lot of runs on the board with runners at the corners and no outs, but JD grounded into a double play. It drove in Mookie from third base but snuffed out any further potential rally. In the seventh, Jackie Bradley crushed a ball into the second deck in right field to tie the game at six and give the Sox some life. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Xander Bogaerts lofted a fly ball to center field that looked like it would be a routine sacrifice fly. It did indeed bring in Tzu-Wei Lin from third base, but Aaron Hicks' throw skipped into the stands which allowed Andrew Benintendi to score. Just like that, the Sox had a two run lead. While Steven Wright held down the fort beautifully out of the bullpen, the team added some insurance runs in the eighth when Mookie crushed a ball into left field with two outs for a three run homer and an 11-6 lead. All that was left was for Craig Kimbrel to seal the deal and he did. Even though he gave up a lead off triple to Andrew McCutchen, he managed to induce two quick outs via a strikeout and a foul out before whiffing Giancarlo Stanton and getting him to swing at three pitches that all bounced in front of the plate. That gave the team the victory and clinched the AL East for the third consecutive season (a franchise record).

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The Sox bashed their way to this win, outhitting the Yankees 13-7 and finally hitting some home runs (three in this game). Mookie was a beast and went 4-5 with five RBI, three runs scored, and a huge home run late in the game. Benintendi and Rafael Devers both had nice nights with two hits each and Bradley went 1-3 with two runs scored, an RBI (off his big game-tying homer), and a walk. On the pitching side, Eduardo Rodriguez was awful in only lasting 3.2 innings. He was charged with five earned runs and walked seven batters while only striking out four. Some of that was the inconsistency of the home plate umpire, but he also just looked out of sorts the entire time. Hembree was vintage Hembree (i.e. awful)...this guy is the opposite of what they used to call a "fireman" in baseball parlance. Instead of putting out fires, Hembree pours gasoline on them (metaphorically speaking, of course). Wright and Ryan Brasier were much better, only allowing one hit between them in their combined four innings of work. This was the first game in a while where the bats were able to pick up the pitching on a night where the starter stunk...hopefully it won't be the last (and hopefully the starting pitching will get back to where it was for most of the summer). For now, the team and all of Red Sox Nation can bask in the victory and the added bonus of clinching at Yankee Stadium. Then, it's off to Cleveland for the next series where Chris Sale will continue his conditioning toward October when he goes up against Trevor Bauer in the opener. Hopefully the hangover (which I mean in both the figurative and literal sense) won't be too much for the Sox to overcome and they can continue to tune up and get back to playing better baseball before the postseason. With the division wrapped up, the most important thing now is making sure the team is at peak performance come October.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Game 152: Red Sox at New York Yankees (September 19, 2018)

First of all, let's get it out of the way and dispense with the inevitable comparisons. This is 2018, not 1978, and the Red Sox are not going to blow this. They're going to win one more game of their final ten, the Yankees are going to lose one of their final ten, and Boston will clinch its third straight AL East division title. With that being said, though, there is some very valid and very serious cause for concern with this Red Sox team. Unlike the Dodgers and Astros (to name but two teams) who are playing their best ball of the season right now, the Red Sox have been playing their absolute worst for the better part of a month. The starting pitching has been erratic, the bullpen atrocious as always, and the potent high-scoring offense has been silent apart from a few small bursts here and there. It all came to a nadir in what may be simultaneously the most embarrassing and enlightening Red Sox loss of the season Wednesday night.

David Price was starting for the Red Sox and trying to exorcise some of his demons at Yankee Stadium. He'd been the Red Sox best pitcher by far since the All Star break so it looked like everything was lining up for him to finally have a strong outing in the Bronx. Opposite Price was Luis Severino who has been a complete trainwreck since the break. It looked set up perfectly for Boston to win and clinch the division, but as always games are played on the field and not on paper. The night got off to a bad start in the bottom of the second when Miguel Andujar hit a solo homer to get the Yankees in the scoring column first. The lowest point was later in the inning when Eduardo Nunez horrifically botched an Aaron Judge grounder at third that allowed two Yankees to score. It was a Little League error, through the legs on a routine grounder and it might be the most embarrassing error of the season (and with as many gaffs as Rafael Devers has made at third this season, that's saying something). Luke Voit hit a solo shot in the fourth to put the Yankees up 4-0 and the Red Sox looked dead, dead, dead. There was a bit of hope in the fifth when Nunez hit a double and Sandy Leon got his first hit of the month to drive him in, but any rally the Sox may have mounted was snuffed out by Severino in what ended up being the calm before the storm. That tempest came in the next inning when Voit hit another home run, a two-run version this time, in the sixth and the rout was on. Joe Kelly came in for Price and promptly gave up a two-RBI triple (shocker, I know) to make it 8-1. Finally, in the eighth Alex Cora waved the white flag (which he'd already done by putting Kelly in as far as I'm concerned) and put William Cuevas in who proceeded to cough up two more runs to the Yanks, one on a Greg Bird fielder's choice and the final one on Aaron Hicks' RBI single. The final humiliation was a 10-1 loss to a Yankees team that looked like dead men walking up until two nights ago and now look like they've woken up and are rounding into form as October approaches. You know, basically the exact opposite of how the Red Sox have played since mid-August.

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Price wasn't horrendous in this game, but he wasn't good either. Yes, he was charged with four earned runs but he wasn't responsible for the two Nunez gifted New York. What was more concerning was his control; he only struck two batters out, but he walked four. The bullpen continued their season-long trend of being awful by surrendering four runs on six hits, but let's not absolve the offense. It's been over a month since they've consistently put up 4-6 runs per game and during that stretch they've been mostly silent. Apart from the odd burst of runs in an inning or two here or there, there's been no urgency, no clutch hitting, and no sustained rallies to speak of. It doesn't matter how good or bad your pitching and bullpen are, if you're only scoring one or two runs a game, you're most likely losing. The lone bright spots in the batting order were JD Martinez (3-3) and Nunez (2-4, one run scored). Otherwise, even though the Red Sox were only outhit 11-9, they stranded twenty-three and didn't make anything happen.

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This team is continuing the ignominious tradition of the final two John Farrell teams by playing their worst, most listless baseball of the season at the end as they once again back into October. Regular season win-loss records mean nothing when everyone starts the postseason 0-0 and right now based purely on their play, the Red Sox are not the best team in baseball (that would be Houston). Given how they've played most of this season up until now and how the last two years ended, anything less than an appearance in the ALCS would be an unmitigated disaster; however, with how this team has looked the last month I don't even see that happening. They'll look to Eduardo Rodriguez to turn things around in the series finale Thursday night as he'll go up against Masahiro Tanaka. After that, it's on to Cleveland to play another very good playoff team. I don't mean to be fatalistic, but since I 'm old enough to actually remember the bad old days pre-2004, I can't help it: the way this team is stumbling to the finish line, it might not be until the Baltimore series next week before they finally clinch the division. I know that's hyperbole and that probably won't be the case, but nothing I'm seeing right now is inspiring confidence. At all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Game 151: Red Sox at New York Yankees (September 18, 2018)

Red Sox vs. Yankees in a late season tilt...is there anything better? Well, yes...when they both actually have something to play for. There wasn't a lot of drama coming in to this series with the Sox up 11.5 games in the division with twelve remaining, but there was the goal of clinching the division at Yankee Stadium left to accomplish. Also, the Yankees are fighting for their Wild Card lives trying to fend off the Oakland's A's so any damage to that the Red Sox could do would be an added bonus. Still, for the most part this game was relatively meaningless. That being said, it's always good to beat the Yankees (especially on their field), so I and the rest of Red Sox Nation went into this game hoping for an victory so that the team could celebrate clinching the division right in New York's faces. However, that never happened and if you watched the game then you know it was for the same tired, predictable reason.

(A quick aside: this game was originally scheduled for a 1pm start on Tuesday due to it being Yom Kippur, but they ended up pushing the time back to 7pm because of rain in New York). 

Have you guessed yet? Let me set the scene. JD Martinez drove in the first Red Sox run in the third  inning off of JA Happ with a sacrifice fly that brought in Ian Kinsler. The Red Sox had other scoring chances throughout the game but couldn't capitalize. Nathan Eovaldi pitched a really good, gutsy game with some big moments. Perhaps none was bigger than striking out Giancarlo Stanton with runners on the corners in the sixth inning; it was a huge moment that quieted the New York crowd and seemed to show everyone how much more talented and composed the Red Sox were. Up to that point Eovaldi had only given up two hits while whiffing five and walking two. He'd thrown eighty-three pitches and seemed like he'd be good to go for one more inning, yet for some inexplicable reason Alex Cora decided to lift him and sent Brandon Workman out for the seventh inning instead. As it has done all season, the bullpen proved to be this team's undoing. Workman looked terrified on the mound on the big stage of New York and while he did get absolutely squeezed in Gary Sanchez' at bat (I have no idea how the umpire called what should have been strike three a ball, but it ended up costing them since it resulted in a walk), he put two on before being replaced by Ryan Brasier. Brasier worked the count full against the light hitting Neil Walker before hanging one over the plate that ended up in the right field stands. Up to that point the Yankees looked dead, tired, and defeated, but with one swing of the bat Walker gave them life and a 3-1 lead. There was some drama in the top of the ninth when the Yankees seemed determined to give the game away by botching two straight double play balls and allowing Brock Holt to score on a Zach Britton throwing error, but the third time was a charm as they turned two on Ian Kinsler's grounder to escape with a 3-2 win. The Red Sox clinch party was postponed for another night while the Yankees acted like they won the pennant or something.

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There isn't anything bad you can say about Eovaldi, who showed a lot of guts and nerve in his performance. If that's anything to go by, he'll continue to be an asset for the team in the postseason especially in the bullpen where they desperately need help. As for what not to like, the initial take would be to pick at the team's quiet night at the plate. They outhit the Yankees 5-3 but only had the one run to show for it until the ninth inning and squandered a few opportunities along the way (most notably runners on the corners with one out in the seventh that resulted in nothing). However, this loss lies squarely at the feet of the bullpen and I'll tell you why. Pitching in the postseason is better and scoring is lower, so a 1-0 game heading into the seventh inning is exactly the type of situation most teams and bullpens are going to encounter in October. If the Red Sox bullpen, which is already suspect, can't hold a slim lead in a relatively meaningless regular season road game, how are we supposed to be confident they'll be able to do the same in the crucible of October against the likes of Houston, Cleveland, or even these Yankees? In the postseason, starters typically have even shorter outings than in the regular season, where managers like to go to the pens after four or five innings to play the match up game. With as horrifically bad as the Sox bullpen is (they've blown 50% of their save opportunities since the All Star break, which is by far worst in the league), Cora and the team need the opposite: they need starters to go seven or eight innings to minimize how much the bullpen appears. That's wholly unrealistic and a sure recipe for disaster. Given how the last two postseasons have gone, this team absolutely needs to make it to at least the ALCS for this season to not be considered a failure and right now, I'm at best 50/50 over whether that will even happen.

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As a final note, and one more reason not to feel too bad about this loss, the Sox played with a pretty weak lineup: no Mookie Betts, no Andrew Benintendi (until he pinch hit late in the game), and a whole host of backup players (Brock Holt, Brandon Phillips, Christian Vazquez at this point, Sam Travis, Blake Swihart) getting playing time. To still only be one bad pitch from beating the Yankees with that anemic lineup should make the team feel pretty good regardless. It will be a much better pitching match up in the middle game of the series Wednesday with David Price against Luis Severino. Severino has been atrocious since July, but Price hasn't been able to beat the Yankees in big games so it will be interesting to see who will break through first. It's still only a matter of time before the Sox clinch the division, but it would be so sweet to shove it in New York's faces in front of their home fans...hopefully Wednesday night will be the night.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Game 150: New York Mets at Red Sox (September 16, 2018)

Having split the first two games of this series with the Mets, Alex Cora opted not to start a spring training lineup and instead went with most of his regulars in order to go for the series win. This included Chris Sale on the mound to start the game although the team announced beforehand that he would be limited to only three innings. That didn't bode well for the Red Sox who had to contend with Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom. To the consternation of Red Sox fans near and far, Sale's truncated start meant six innings of bullpen work; combined with deGrom not allowing more than three runs in twenty-six consecutive starts and the Boston bats not producing lately, it seemed like it could be a potential recipe for disaster.

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The Red Sox got to deGrom in the third inning when they put up three runs. Mookie Betts drove the first one in with a sacrifice fly and was followed later in the inning by the suddenly hot Brock Holt's two-run homer. That was all they'd get off of deGrom whose streak is nonetheless still alive and well. Sale got through his three innings just fine, only allowing one hit and striking out one on forty-two pitches. It was of course the bullpen that made this game much more interesting (read: needlessly difficult) than it needed to be. In the sixth inning Drew Pomeranz (who has surely pitched his way off the postseason roster, right?) gave up two runs on a Wilmer Flores sac fly and a Michael Conforto RBI double to get the Mets back in the game at 3-2. The ineptitude of the relief corps continued in the seventh when Joe Kelly (another one who shouldn't be on the postseason roster) surrendered an RBI single to Amed Rosario. That tied the game at three runs and put the pressure back on the offense, a group that has constantly had to bail out the bullpen and clean up their messes all season. The hero turned out to be Andrew Benintendi who drove in the go ahead (and ultimately winning) run in the bottom of the eighth with a sac fly to drive in Tzu-Wei Lin. That proved to be the difference as the Sox held on for the 4-3 win and series victory. There was some panic in Red Sox Nation when Mookie left the game in the sixth inning with an apparent injury, but after the game the team announced it was just "left side soreness" and that he should be ready to play in the series against the Yankees starting on Tuesday.

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The Red Sox win coupled with the Yankees loss expanded the Boston lead in the AL East to a season-high 11.5 games while reducing the magic number to two. That should get to zero in the Bronx over the next few days. Once the Sox clinch the division Cora will most likely spend the final two weeks of the season resting starters and trying to figure out what he can do to paper over the gaping holes in the bullpen. Unfortunately, the old saying (if you'll pardon my language) that "you can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit" holds true; Cora's task is to try and do just that with what he's been given by Dave Dombrowski, a challenge that looks to be his tallest task of the season. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Game 149: New York Mets at Red Sox (September 15, 2018)

Before the game on Saturday I spent a little bit of time chatting online with other Red Sox fans about the current malaise this team has been suffering from over the last month. There were several theories put forth and all of them were plausible. Is this team exhausted? Pressing? Injured more than what they've let on? Just slumping? Of course none of us know for sure and even if someone managed to guess correctly, the team isn't going to come out and admit anything anyway. One thing I do know for sure is that if the Red Sox hadn't been on such a torrid pace throughout the summer and if the Yankees hadn't been scuffling for most of the last two months, we might be having a very different conversation right now about the standings, playoff seeding, and possible Wild Card scenarios. Instead the Red Sox and their fans have the security of a huge division lead and the knowledge that they're all but locked in to the top record in the American League (and all of MLB).

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It was Rick Porcello's turn (again) to try and establish some semblance of normalcy as he took the mound for Boston in this middle game of the series. Perhaps the poster child for the team's inconsistency, he's followed up a stellar first half of the season with a really up and down second half. On some outings he's looked unstoppable and in others he's been a trainwreck. This game against the Mets ended up being a microcosm of his season. Xander Bogaerts finally got the Sox on the scoreboard against the Mets with an RBI single off of Corey Oswalt in the first inning which drove in Mookie Betts. That lead held up until the fourth inning when the bad Rick Porcello came out to play. With two outs, he was unable to put two consecutive batters away and instead allowed them to reach base. It cost him dearly because after battling with Brandon Nimmo to a 1-2 count, he gave up a fat pitch that Nimmo deposited into the right field stands. Just like that, it was 3-1 Mets and the entire complexion of the game changed. That was only the second Mets hit of the game, but it was enough to give them the lead and all of the momentum. It wasn't until the fifth inning that the Boston bats finally came alive and did some damage. With two outs, consecutive singles from Steve Pearce and Ian Kinsler were followed by a Jackie Bradley hit that appeared to everybody but the umpires in New York to have cleared the Green Monster before bouncing back onto the field. Instead of a three run home run, the call on the field was overturned and it was ruled a double instead. It still tied the game, but with the way they'd been swinging the bats lately it would have been better if the call had stood correctly and resulted in a one run lead. In the end it didn't end up mattering because two batters later Brock Holt hit a double off of the Green Monster to drive in Bradley and Rafael Devers and give Boston a 5-3 lead. That was all the offense for either team as the Red Sox won the game and tied the series. While Porcello picked up his 17th win of the season, he continued the troubling trend of Boston starters not going deep into games. In this case, he only went five innings and while he surrendered just two hits, they resulted in all three Mets runs. The five strikeouts and one walk weren't bad, but he's got to be better in October. The bullpen held New York hitless the rest of the way and apart from the two walks issued by Steven Wright, they didn't allow any base runners either. Most of the Sox damage at the plate was done by Bogaerts (1-4, RBI), Pearce (3-4, a run scored), Holt (1-1, two RBI), and Bradley (1-4, two RBI).

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The win combined with the Yankees' loss put the division lead back up to 10.5 games and reduced the Sox magic number to four. It's only a matter of time before they clinch the AL East and the way it's lining up, it just might happen in the Bronx this coming week. First, though, there's a series to win against the other team from New York. Chris Sale will make another truncated start (three innings) and go up against Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom. I really hope the bats have finally woken up because they're going to have their work cut out for them in facing deGrom; he's given up three or fewer runs in twenty-six consecutive starts and has an ERA of 1.71. His issue all season has been the Mets not giving him any run support as evidenced by his 8-9 record. Hopefully that means the Sox can score enough to win the game and the series. After Sunday's finale, there's another off day before a big series at Yankee Stadium begins Tuesday. Those final dozen games (six against the Yankees and three each against the Indians and Orioles) will be the final chances for the Sox to get tuned up and build some momentum heading into October. It'll hopefully be a fun (and more consistent) end to the season than the last two years.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Game 148: New York Mets at Red Sox (September 14, 2018)

You would think that fans of a team that has won over 100 games this season wouldn't have much to complain about, but then again we're Red Sox fans. There is one thing that no fan of this team has felt good about all season and that's the bullpen. In fact, as the season has gone on we've felt worse and worse about the relief corps and with good reason. Their inconsistency and inability to hold on to leads as they bridge from the starting pitchers to Craig Kimbrel has made many games this season more difficult than they needed to be; it's also outright lost more games than it should have. With the news a few hours before game time that spot starter Hector Velazquez was going to be scratched (due to illness) and replaced by recent call-up William Cuevas, that meant this opening game against the Mets would be a bullpen game and a chance for Alex Cora to see what he had (or didn't have) in preparation for setting the postseason rosters. The results were predictably ugly.

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Of just as much concern as the bullpen has been the sudden erratic performance of the Red Sox offense. Over the last month or so they just haven't looked as sharp and consistent as they had all season. That was the case again on Friday night as this game was all Mets and in particular, all Jay Bruce. He hit an RBI double in the first inning to bring in the first Mets run and then he clubbed a three-run homer in the third to make it 4-0. That home run in the third was off of recent call-up Robby Scott who should promptly be sent back down to the minors never to be seen again (I haven't been a fan of his at all over the last few years). In the fourth, Brian Johnson gave up a solo homer to Jeff McNeil and then Tyler Thornburg completely imploded in the eighth when he gave up three runs. First, Austin Jackson went deep with a two-run homer and then Amed Rosario smacked a solo shot to finish the scoring. The Red Sox went down in ugly fashion 8-0 and were outhit 9-4. They couldn't get anything going at the plate against Noah Syndergaard who pitched seven solid innings and only gave up three hits while striking out six and walking three. Meanwhile, the Red Sox pitching was just putrid. When the only reliever who didn't give up any runs was Drew Pomeranz, you know you had a bad night. Thornburg was the worst of a rotten bunch and I think we can now say with 100% confidence that we completely and utterly got swindled on that trade. Thornburg has been awful this season after finally coming back from injury while Travis Shaw hit 31 homers last year, has hit 29 so far this year, and is playing third base (a huge area of need with Rafael Devers' growing pains) for a playoff team in Milwaukee. I"m sure if Dave Dombrowski had a do-over he wouldn't make that trade...I know I wouldn't. Of equal concern is the Sox continued inconsistency at the plate. With as good as the pitching is in October, the Sox won't be able to afford offensive lulls in a short series the way they've been able to weather them over the course of a long regular season.

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Things should get back to normal for game two of this series on Saturday when Rick Porcello gets the ball for the Red Sox. Hopefully he can continue to try and regain his form from the first half of the season because with this bullpen, Boston will need all of their starters to be at their best and go deep into games once it's playoff time. I realize this series against the Mets doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things but it would be nice for the Sox to take care of business so they can have good showings against the Yankees and Indians next week. Those are two teams they will face in the postseason (depending on how far they get) and I'm a big believer in momentum carrying over into the postseason. With the way John Farrell had this team backing into October the last two seasons, I'd like to see something different this year. (I just realized I made it to the end of an entire interleague recap without saying how much I hate interleague play! But I just did...and I still do.)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Game 147: Toronto Blue Jays at Red Sox (September 13, 2018)

The rational adult in me knows why Alex Cora does this, while the fan in me wishes he wouldn't. What am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about his tendency to put strange and somewhat weaker lineups on the field in the final game of a series after the Sox have already won it. He did it in Atlanta last week and he did it again on Thursday night for the finale against the Blue Jays. Mookie Betts sat to rest, Blake Swihart was at DH, and Christian Vazquez was behind the plate. At this point in the season the Red Sox spot in October is secured, but it's still strange how he doesn't seem to necessarily care to sweep a team before moving on. Still, it's a minor quibble and I can't complain with the results he's gotten thus far; as I said in my first sentence, the rational side of me gets it.

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For the first time in this series, runs were scored in the early innings by both teams. JD Martinez led things off by clubbing home run #41 in the second inning to give the Sox a one run lead, although Eduardo Rodriguez coughed it back up in the third when he allowed an RBI single to Justin Smoak to plate Lourdes Gurriel and tie the game. In the bottom of the inning, Ian Kinsler's sacrifice fly drove Jackie Bradley in to give the Sox the lead again, a lead which they added to in the sixth when Rafael Devers hit his 17th home run of the season to make it 3-1. (On a side note, it feels like it's been forever since Devers has hit a homer, doesn't it? What an up and down rookie season he's had!). Now, I'm going to warn you that what I'm about to say to you is going to seem like you've read it fifty times from me over the course of the season (and you probably have), but I have to say it again: it looked like that lead would be enough until the Sox bullpen took over. In the eighth inning Bobby Poyner gave up a solo homer to Gurriel which cut the lead to one run. Then, Joe Kelly (who is fast approaching Heath Hembree levels of dislike) hit Kevin Pillar with the bases loaded to walk in a run and tie the game. Joe Kelly...where do I begin? This guy has been with the Red Sox for four seasons and hasn't been able to put it all together either as a starter or a reliever. He's got good stuff and he throws hard, but he's incredibly hittable for a guy who throws in the high 90s/triple digits and there is zero finesse to his approach. Some guys are pitchers while some are just throwers...guess which category Kelly fits squarely into? The Red Sox need to cut bait with this guy as soon as they can because it's just not working and at this point. it's never going to get better. He is who he is and it's not going to change. Back to the game, it was up to the offense yet again to try and bail out the bullpen and clean up their mess. This time it was Xander Bogaerts to the rescue. He doubled and then stole third base during Blake Swihart's at bat which ended up being huge. Swihart hit a routine fly ball to second base that was horrifically botched by Yangervis Solarte. This allowed Bogaerts to score from third with the winning run. Craig Kimbrel picked up his 40th save with no drama in the ninth to secure the win and the series sweep. Eduardro Rodriguez was solid, going six innings and allowing only one run on five hits. He struck out seven and didn't walk anyone which I think is pretty good atonement for his previous start. Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman did their jobs out of the pen, but the middle relief continues to be a major, major issue for this team. Cora and his coaches have less than three weeks to figure it out because if nothing changes, it is going to kill this team in the postseason. Whether that's in the ALDS, ALCS, or World Series, it will rear its ugly head unless something is done.

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With the Yankees idle on Thursday night, the Sox were able to increase their division lead to 10.5 games and reduce their magic number to clinch the AL East to six. Friday night they'll start the final series of this homestand against the Mets. It won't be easy as they're sending up Hector Velazquez (in another spot start) against Noah Syndergaard. The Mets may be a bad team, but they've got some good pitching including NL Cy Young candidate Jacob DeGrom. That being said, Boston should be able to take care of business and pick up some more wins before they hit the road Tuesday. Next week should be really exciting with back to back road series in New York and Cleveland before wrapping up the final week of the season at home against the Orioles and Yankees. As a parting thought, while I can't wait to see what this Red Sox team will do in October, I'm not quite ready yet for this magical season to end.