First of all, I hope we all take some time on this Memorial Day to reflect upon and honor those who gave their lives so that we could have our freedom. It's always a particularly somber day for me as I lost a great-uncle who I never met in WWII and a childhood friend in Iraq. With that being said, yesterday (Sunday) was the day before Memorial Day and another busy one for me and my family as I first coached my son's travel team in the second day of their tournament on a hot and sweltering day. We then spent the entire afternoon and evening at our friends' house for a cookout and pool party that was capped off by an outdoor showing of The Sandlot. In total, it was a great day.
Sandwiched in between all of that was a Red Sox game that I was able to watch most of in the cool of my air conditioned house. With the Sox taking the first two games of this series and Chris Sale on the mound, it seemed like a sweep was well within reach. Fate had other ideas, though, as Sale had an uncharacteristically poor outing only lasting 4.1 innings. He struck out eight but walked three and gave up six earned runs on five hits, none bigger than Tyler Flowers three run bomb in the top of the second. The Braves added three more runs in the fifth inning to go up 6-0 and with the weak lineup Alex Cora trotted out there, it made the task of coming back against the Braves for a third straight day insurmountable. Mookie Betts was a late scratch from the lineup so the reshuffled outfield had Benintendi in centerfield, Jackie Bradley in right, and Blake Swihart in left. Again, I don't understand what they're trying to do with Swihart at this point, but whatever it is it didn't work for this game. Rafael Devers was back in the lineup, but at DH while Eduardo Nunez took Devers' spot at third base. No JD Martinez and no Mookie meant that this lineup would have to rely on Swihart, Nunez, and a newly returned Pedroia, who was only in his second game back, to pick up the slack. The end result was fairly predictable as the Sox only mustered four hits the entire game and scored a single run off of Mitch Moreland's RBI triple in the sixth. The Braves tacked on another urn in the ninth but it didn't matter as the Sox went down meekly in this one, 7-1. With the Yankees winning, the Sox lead in the division is down to a single game again. In all, a forgettable game but one that didn't hurt too badly as the Sox still took two of three from Atlanta.
I hope that Cora isn't going to start forcing Swihart into the lineup at the expense of other guys who are more productive, especially if the end goal is to just increase his trade value. I know it's only been two games since Hanley Ramirez was jettisoned, but he went from being the 25th guy on the bench to all of a sudden starting two games which seems a little strange to me. As cliche as it sounds, every game counts this season. The Yankees are going to be breathing down our necks all summer and this Red Sox team can't afford to experiment with lineups at the expense of winning games or losing ground in the division. I'm going to temper my concern at the risk of coming off too reactionary since it's only been two games so far, but this is something I'm definitely going to keep a close eye on as the most important part of the season (June through August) unfolds before us.