That's more like it, Red Sox! I coached my youngest daughter's softball team in their two tournament games last night so I didn't get home to watch the Sox game until the last half, but what I saw on my phone updates had me very pleased. Before I get to recapping the game, please indulge me as I recap my daughter's team's games last night. I'm so proud of these 7 and 8 year old girls for how they played. We went into the tournament with the second best record in the league and played against a very good team for the first game. After getting in an early hole, we rallied and pulled away for an easy 12-6 win. The second game pitted us against the team that was in first who had been beating up on the rest of our league all season. They had already beaten us this season and when we went down early to them 4-0 our girls started to get down. I and the other two coaches kept their spirits up and reminded them we finished with the same record as them (they were ranked higher because they had the head-to-head tiebreaker). We started chipping away at the lead: after the second inning it was 4-2 and we exploded for four runs in the third to go up 6-4. We added another in the top of the fourth to go up 7-4 and victory seemed within reach until our opponents scored three quick runs to tie it at 7. It looked like they were going to score the winning run but we made a great out at third base to preserve the tie. In extra innings, we plated one run and then held them off in the bottom of the fifth, getting the last out on a pop fly to win 8-7 and take sole possession of the top seed in the tournament. We play again tonight, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best games I've ever seen/coached any of my kids playing. The girls on both sides played their hearts out...the hitting was great, the defense was great, and the best part for me was seeing how much fun they were having the whole time. The smiles, the cheers, the looks on their faces when they made a great play or a great hit...THOSE are the moments that make coaching kids so worthwhile. It was a great life lesson for the girls, too, on never giving up and trying your very best. I'm so, so proud of all of them!
Thanks for letting me digress a bit...now back to the Red Sox. The first thing that caught my eye before the game started was what a bizarre lineup Cora put out there. No Mookie Betts (understandable...need to ease him back in), with Nunez as the DH...leading off?! I have no idea what the thought process was behind that, but okay. When Baltimore's Joey Rickard hit a solo homer in the bottom of the first it seemed like it was going to be another one of those nights, but Rafael Devers put that fear to rest when he belted a two-run shot in the top of the second to put the Sox up 2-1. Andrew Benintendi stayed scorching hot and smacked a solo homer (his twelfth of the season) in the third to add to the Boston lead. Of course, as is their wont the Sox gave it right back the next half-inning when Danny Valencia drove in Rickard with a single. However, Benintendi struck again with another RBI, this time walking with the bases loaded to bring Brock Holt in. A rare balk happened in the next inning, bringing Christian Vazquez home. In the sixth, Vazquez hit an RBI single to drive in another run and suddenly it was 6-2 Red Sox. It was a good thing, too, because it got a bit dicey in the bottom of the ninth when Mark Trumbo crushed a two-RBI double off of Craig Kimbrel to cut the lead in half. Kimbrel settled down enough to preserve the 6-4 win against the pesky O's.
Eduardo Rodriguez pitched a solid game, going 5.2 innings and only giving up two runs. He only walked two and struck out four while allowing eight hits. He threw 109 pitches and while he wasn't spectacular, it got the job done. I sure would like to see the Red Sox starters routinely go deeper into games and pitch six, seven, eight innings and give the bullpen a break. That's probably a pipe dream as this is the way pitching in MLB is today, sadly. With the news yesterday that Carson Smith will be having season-ending shoulder surgery (all from slamming his glove down in the dugout...remember?) the already shaky bullpen needs as much rest as it can get. At the plate, everyone on the Sox had a hit except for Jackie Bradley. By clinching the series against Baltimore and keeping pace with the Yankees, the Sox remained tied atop the AL East and have a chance to go for the series sweep with Chris Sale on the mound today. Here's hoping they can actually score a run or two for him this time!