Saturday, July 21, 2018

Game 99: Red Sox at Detroit Tigers (July 20, 2018)

The Red Sox were finally back in action after the All Star break with this series opener in Detroit. My one concern after such a long layoff was whether they'd be a little sluggish. They had been playing incredible baseball the two weeks heading into the break and I was a bit worried they'd lose that momentum. As I sat down at the end of a long week to watch the game, I was treated to an interesting and oftentimes bizarre game instead.

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David Price got the start for this first game of the second "half" of the season and at least in my mind, needed to show that he could be better than his three uneven (if not downright bad) starts from before the break. On the whole, he passed the test although I'm keeping in mind that he did it against a pretty bad Tigers team. He went 6.1 innings and struck out five while walking one and giving up four hits. He was also involved in a potentially scary play in the fourth when he backed up a wild Andrew Benintendi throw at home. Price held the runner at third but didn't notice Brock Holt waving at second to throw it to catch Jeimar Candelario in no man's land. By the time Price threw it, Holt was vulnerable and took Candelario's spikes to his knee. It initially looked like it could've been really bad, but after the game Holt and the team said it was just a contusion and that he would be day to day. If that ends up being true, the Sox dodged a bullet because they are thin on depth at second base and Holt has been having a very nice year to this point. The only scoring for the Red Sox came in the top of the first when Steve Pearce's double drove in Benintendi. That was all they'd end up needing as the pitching and defense held fast and kept the Tigers scoreless. That's not to say there weren't some threats, though. In the fourth Detroit loaded the bases with no outs but came away empty handed. And the eighth inning was one of the most bizarre innings I've seen in a long time. Matt Barnes struck out the first two batters but both were on dropped third strikes (his damn curveball!). The first batter (Niko Goodrum) reached first safely and then advanced all the way to third on the second one. The Sox got him out in a rundown between third and home and managed to get out of the jam unscathed. Craig Kimbrel came on in the ninth and picked up his 31st save but it wasn't as easy as he usually makes it look. He allowed a hit and his control wasn't quite as sharp as it usual. In fact, the whole team didn't look as smooth as we've come to expect...the rust of having five days off is what I'm chalking it up to. In any event, a win is a win and the Red Sox took this game 1-0.

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In news almost as good as Boston winning their 69th game of the season, the Yankees lost to fall 5.5 games behind in the division. The Sox have a few more series against some bad teams (after the Tigers, they visit Baltimore before hosting the Twins and Phillies, who aren't bad but are not nearly as good as Boston). That leads into a series against the Yankees at Fenway Park to kick off August. If the Sox can hold or even increase their current division lead by then, they can really do some damage and hurt New York's chances in the AL East. But that's looking too far ahead; for now, they need to focus on getting win number 70 and winning this series in Detroit. Game two will be the bullpen game with Brian Johnson getting the spot start so they're going to need a whole lot more than one run of offense in order to make that happen.

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