Thursday, August 9, 2018

Game 115: Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (August 8, 2018)

There was no shortage of interesting story lines to follow in this second game north of the border. The Red Sox were able to overcome Drew Pomeranz' putrid start the night before to win in extra innings, so how would they fare with Brian Johnson taking the mound for this middle game against Toronto? Johnson was very good against the Yankees his last time out and has been giving the Sox what they need in spot starts. This game also marked the return of Rafael Devers from the DL; he'd been scuffling a bit before being put on the shelf. How would he fare in his first game action in two weeks? All of those questions were emphatically answered by the time this game was over...

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...and the answers were very, very encouraging. We'll get to both of those talking points a bit later because this game was almost all Red Sox from the very start. Andrew Benintendi has been quietly having an excellent season in the shadows of Mookie Betts and JD Martinez and he got things started with a sacrifice fly in the third with the bases loaded and no outs to get Boston on the scoreboard first. Mitch Moreland followed a couple of batters later with a double ripped over Kevin Pillar's head to the center field fence that brought in two more, followed by a sac fly from Xander Bogaerts to bring Moreland in. That made it 4-0 Red Sox and it was nice to see them do some damage with the bases loaded because far too many times this season they've come away empty handed in those situations. (As an aside it seems strange to find things to complain about with this team, but they've been so good that sometimes that's all you can do!). Xander picked up another RBI in the fifth when he walked with the bases loaded. Devers showed he was back in a big way with his second hit of the night, a towering two run blast to center field that made it 7-0 Boston. With the way Johnson had been flummoxing the Jays, it seemed a comfortable lead. However, the Jays managed to get on the board when Teoscar Hernandez hit a two run shot in the sixth followed by Randal Grichuk hitting a three run homer in the seventh. Xander added an RBI double in the top of the seventh so heading into the eighth, it was suddenly a lot closer at 8-5. As this team has done all season, though, they responded to put the game out of reach in the later innings. JD Martinez socked an RBI single in the top of the eighth and a few batters later Benintendi scored on a wild pitch from Joe Biagini. Ryan Brasier and Joe Kelly each pitched an inning to close out the game as the Red Sox cruised to the 10-5 win.

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Back to Devers and Johnson, both of them were really good in this game. Devers made some nice plays at third and looked good at the plate. He went 2-4 with a double and the two run homer, scored two runs, and walked once. He had been slumping in the weeks before his stint on the DL, so it looks like the time away to recover and clear his head may have been all he needed to get back on track. It's only a one game sample size, but I'm hoping this is indicative of how he's going to hit the rest of the season. As for Johnson? He was excellent and really, he only threw two bad pitches all night. Unfortunately, they both just happened to land on the wrong side of the fence. Besides the two homers given up, he was superb over seven innings, giving up six hits while striking out six and only walking two. I think he's earned the fifth spot in the rotation for the time being and with Nathan Eovaldi in the fourth spot it would be a good time to demote Pomeranz to either the bullpen or the "DL"(read: Pawtucket). When Eduardo Rodriguez comes back Johnson will head back to the pen as Eovaldi will slide into the fifth spot, but for now he (Johnson) is giving them exactly what they need at the back of the rotation. The final two Sox I want to highlight are Benintendi (2-2, an RBI, a run scored, two walks, now hitting .305) and JD (3-4, an RBI, a walk, a run scored, now hitting .332 and catching up to Mookie). Both of these guys have been having stellar seasons and with Mookie's average dipping to .340, JD has a real shot at the Triple Crown this season. The Sox will go for their seventh win in a row and the series sweep with Rick Porcello on the mound. Boston is an incredible 81-34 on the season and at this point we need to just sit back, enjoy the ride, and see how they can amaze us next.

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