Friday, April 27, 2018

Game 24: Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (April 26, 2018)

You know what's a good sign? That on a night when Chris Sale didn't have his best stuff, the Red Sox still managed to scratch and claw and fight their way to a win. I coached two hours of travel baseball practice and my youngest daughter's softball game so I got home to watch in the fifth inning right after JD Martinez belted a three-run homer to give the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. Prior to that, they had been playing catch up all night, falling behind 2-0 by the end of the second inning before Andrew Benintendi drove in the Sox first run. After the Jays got another run to go up 3-1 in the third, Rafael Devers drove in a run in the fourth to cut it to 3-2 before JD hit his home run in the fifth. From there, the Sox pitching would clamp down on the Jays and, apart from giving up a run in the seventh, they held on to win 5-4.

The big home run from Martinez was very timely and nice to see...that's something we wouldn't have seen last season with the power outage the Sox suffered from in the wake of David Ortiz' retirement. Even better was the fact that on a night when Chris Sale wasn't particularly sharp (six innings, four strikeouts, two walks, three earned runs) the Red Sox were still able to fight back and get the win. Carson Smith came on in the seventh and promptly gave up two hits and a run and to my eyes, looked awful. He nibbled around the edges of the plate and didn't scare any of the Blue Jays hitters with his stuff. I've not been a fan of his all season and it baffles me why Cora continues to send him out there. As I've been saying all season, middle relief continues to be the Sox Achilles heel and that was shown once again in this game. Another one of the Red Sox "hold-your-breath-and-cover-your-eyes" middle relievers, Matt Barnes came in after Smith and actually pitched really well. While he did walk two, he didn't give up any hits and struck out three, including one on a nasty slider. Craig Kimbrel came in for the ninth and picked up the easy save, striking out one and inducing two pop ups. 

One last thing I want to bring up yet again is another mention of how bad the Red Sox are on the base paths. The culprit in this game was Benintendi, who was picked off in ugly fashion. As much as I love the guy, for someone with his speed he's an awful base runner when it comes to decision making and running into outs. The team as a whole has suffered from this affliction the last few seasons and while it used to be blamed on former third base coach Brian Butterfield, we now know it's a systemic issue since Butterfield was let go after 2017. Heck, for my fellow Red Sox fans who go back a long time, I'm sure we all still remember "Wave 'Em In" Wendell Kim! I understand being aggressive on the bases, but you also have to be smart and far too often, the Sox run into outs or kill rallies with poor choices (case in point, the other night when Carlos Febles sent Eduardo Nunez home on a play that wasn't even close). If the Sox can somehow tighten that up, they'd score even more run. It's something to watch over the rest of the season to see if it improves or if it ends up continuing to be an issue.

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