Finally, a rare night where I didn't have anything to coach so I could just relax after getting home from work and eating dinner with my family. It was really nice to sit down on the couch with my oldest daughter and son and watch the opening game against the Royals. (I confess that I was switching back and forth between the Sox and the Celtics' playoff game against Philly!). Mookie Betts had a second straight day off to rest although he should be back for the next game. In his absence Andrew Benintendi played centerfield with Jackie Bradley moved over to right (a move I HATE), and JD Martinez in left. I don't have many complaints about Alex Cora as a manager, but the times he puts JD in left and moves Bradley over to right really irritate me. Jackie is so good and so entrenched in centerfield that it makes no sense to me why he does this. If it was up to me, I'd either put Benintendi in right or leave him in left and stick JD in right. If it was really up to me, JD would barely play in the field and would be installed as the permanent DH, but I'm just a guy sitting at home managing in front of the TV so I guess it doesn't matter.
As for the game, it seemed like yet another case of the Red Sox getting behind early when they spotted the Royals three runs in the top of the first. Eduardo Rodriguez did not look good at all and only ended up pitching four innings. He did strike out six, but he also walked three and gave up five earned runs. Two of the runs he gave up in the first were on bases loaded walks which is always an ugly thing to see. Mitch Moreland got the Sox on the board with a solo home run in the second and contributed again when he walked with the bases loaded and two outs in the third. That set the stage for Xander Bogaerts to crush his second grand slam of the season (and the team's sixth!) to put the Sox up 6-3. As soon as he hit the ball I could tell it was going out...if you've watched baseball long enough, you can tell just by the sound. I'm getting chills just thinking about it. He absolutely killed that ball, too, hitting it just inside the foul pole and over the Green Monster. Back to back doubles in the fourth, however, drove in two more Royals runs and made it 6-5. Benintendi was able to drive in Jackie Bradley on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning to give the Sox some breathing room, and I want to take the time to highlight this play before continuing. Before Benintendi was up, Bradley walked and then ran the bases very smartly, going from first to third on a Christian Vazquez single up the middle. It's little things like heads-up base running that can make a huge difference which is why it's always so maddening when the Sox run into outs on the bases. From here, the Sox would tack on a few more runs and hang on for the 10-6 win. On such a cold and rainy night, any win is good even if the pitching was lousy on both sides.
With the Yankees losing, the Sox were able to get a little breathing room and pushed their division lead up to three games. With only two more home games against the Royals before their road trip begins, these are games the Sox need to win to stay ahead and keep the Yankees at bay. With NY playing two more in Houston, it's as good a time as any to try for the sweep of the Royals and hope the Astros can continue to shut down the Yanks. If the Sox can then take at least three of four from Texas, they should ideally be 3+ games ahead in the division when they roll into the Bronx next week.