Game 48: Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays (May 22, 2018)

After a much needed day off for the Red Sox (and me!), they were back at it with this short three game road series against the Rays. My oldest daughter had a game so it wasn't until after it was done that I got home to catch up on the Sox. With Chris Sale starting, I was hoping that they could take this first game against the pesky Rays and actually score enough runs to support him. In the end, it was close but they got the job done.

Take a wild guess who got the scoring started in this one? If you said "Mookie Betts" (and of course you did), then you get a cookie because this guy is just dominating. He hit a three-run blast in the top of the third with Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley on base to quickly make it 3-0, which was a good thing because while Sale pitched really well, he did give up some runs in this one. Willy Adames hit a solo shot in the fourth and Daniel Robertson drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 3-2. Thankfully, Rafael Devers hit a solo homer in the sixth to push it back up to 4-2 where it would end as the Red Sox won behind 7.2 strong innings from Sale. Chris struck out nine, walked two, and only gave up those two runs on four hits. Craig Kimbrel made it interesting in the ninth by giving up two hits and walking a batter, but he held on to get his 14th save of the season. With the win, the Sox moved a half game ahead of the Yankees for the AL East lead.

There were some very encouraging things from this game: Sale returning to form and going almost eight innings to give the bullpen a much needed. break, Mookie continuing to do Mookie things, and perhaps nothing bigger than some production out of the bottom of the lineup. Sandy Leon continued to hit, going 1-3 with a walk, and Jackie Bradley (finally!) went 2-4 and only struck out once. I am really hoping that this is the start of Jackie snapping out of his prolonged slump and getting hot because if it is, combined with his defense it will make this Sox lineup even more potent than it already is. Speaking of that, Mookie is once again in sole possession of the league lead in home runs as well as batting average (.368). What seemed like maybe just a hot start to the season has so far encompassed the first two months; barring an extended slump, this seems like it's what Mookie is going to all season. Red Sox fans should sit back and enjoy the show, while the rest of the league should be very worried.

One final thought from this game...once again, every Red Sox run was driven in by the home run, as were half of the Rays' runs. I've been harping on this one-dimensionality for the last week, but this is the modern game and for better or worse this is where baseball is at right now. I guess there's nothing I can do but shrug my shoulders and move on (although you can be sure that I'll continue to point it out throughout the season).