Sunday, May 13, 2018

Game 39: Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (May 12, 2018)

As the stink of the previous game still lingered, I was fully prepared for the Sox to either win this one or lose it in gruesome fashion. Anyone who has been a fan from before they broke the curse will tell you that winning a few World Series in the last fifteen years didn't take that ingrained mentality away. I had a busy day yesterday coaching softball in the morning and baseball after lunch, but I was home in time to catch this game from the first pitch. With David "Video Game" Price on the mound and Fortnite-gate still swirling around, I fully expected the worst, but thankfully he exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations as well as those o, I suspect, the majority of Red Sox Nation.

The Sox got the scoring started in the third inning with an Andrew Benintendi double that drove in Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez followed this up with a two-run homer to quickly make it 3-0 and it looked like the Sox were on their way to an easy victory, especially because Price looked surprisingly good. Not great, but good. He cruised through the first five innings and only gave up two runs, although he did walk three against only six strikeouts. An RBI single from Rafael Devers in the sixth gave the Sox another run, but an RBI single from the Jays' Anthony Alford in the fourth and a solo homer from Justin Smoak in the sixth cut it to a 4-2 Red Sox lead. The bullpen came in after 5.1 innings from Price and managed to hold the Jays scoreless the rest of the way, even though there were a few threats. Carson Smith, Hector Velazquez, and Joe Kelly held down the fort until the ninth. In the top of that inning, Andrew Benintendi drove in an insurance run to push the lead to 5-2 and that's how it would end. Craig Kimbrel struck out two and nailed down the save as the Sox atoned for their awful loss the night before.



There were a lot of good things to take away from this game, most notably Price's performance. While it wasn't the performance of someone considered (at least in name only) the #2 starter in this rotation, it was solid and a million miles away from the past few he's had which had been unmitigated disasters. The offense was solid, with everyone hitting except for JD Martinez (0-3, but everyone has a bad day now and then) and Jackie Bradley (0-4...more on this later). Mookie and Benintendi both went 3-5, while Devers went 2-4 and everyone else apart from Jackie and JD chipped in with a hit.  What to make of poor Jackie Bradley, though? He was back in the lineup after a few games on the bench and the hope was that the layoff would help snap him out of his slump. Instead, it only seemed to exacerbate it and made him look even more lost at the plate. The 0-4 was bad, but they included two very ugly strikeouts where even 89 mph fastballs down the middle of the plate blew right past him. He seemed to be quickly down 0-2 in the count every time (and he pretty much was). It was so bad that even Jerry Remy sounded depressed about it on the broadcast. I have no doubt it's just a bad slump, but usually guys in slumps still tend to walk or hit sacrifices to contribute in some small way. When Jackie isn't striking out (24 in his last 50 at-bats, they said on TV), he's not even putting the ball in play effectively. It will be curious to see how much longer (or often) the Sox can afford to keep his struggling bat in the lineup regardless of his defense.  Also, while Price's performance was nice, the whole ridiculous theatre this past week of his carpal tunnel syndrome being attributed to his binge video game playing (of Fortnite in particular) and his ill-advised comments on the matter just further contributed to the strange aura that has swirled around this guy since he came to the team in 2016. As long as he pitches well, fans and the media will (mostly) overlook it, but five innings per start isn't going to cut it, especially for a guy who has been known as a dominant innings-eater throughout his career. The jury is still out on the 2018 version of David Price.

With the Yankees also winning, the Sox remained tied atop the AL East. After the series finale against the Jays come two home series against the A's and Orioles, so if there was ever a time for the Sox to feast on some bad teams and pile up some wins, this coming week is it.

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