Game 88: Red Sox at Washington Nationals (July 4, 2018)

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day! My family and I decided to stay inside and beat the ridiculous heat and humidity, especially as we've had enough of that lately with all of the time spent at ball fields watching the kids play. We took in one of the free movies at the local theater this morning and then came home to relax. With an 11am start time, I watched the Red Sox finale against the Nationals in my air conditioned house, relaxing on the couch with some snacks and cold drinks...does it get any more American than that? I don't think so!

Eduardo Rodriguez was looking to bounce back from his last two rough starts against the Mariners and Yankees and on that count, he passed with flying colors. He went six scoreless innings and only allowed three hits while striking out six and walking one. He did it all on only eighty-four pitches and I would have liked to have seen him go one more inning, but that's modern baseball: managers don't like starters to go deep into games because they'll face the same hitters a third time. Oh well. The game was actually scoreless until the seventh inning when Jackie Bradley hit a sacrifice fly on a foul ball to left field that brought Rafael Devers in. Devers tagged up and slid into home awkwardly, seemingly hurting his shoulder, but he stayed in the game so I don't think it was too bad. A couple of batters later Andrew Benintendi drew a walk, but ball four was a wild pitch that went to the backstop allowing Eduardo Nunez to score from third base. That made it 2-0 Red Sox and while it felt like it might be enough to hold off Washington, I was relieved when they tacked on an insurance run in the ninth. Bradley smoked a double to the gap in right center field to drive Nunez in and make it 3-0. Craig Kimbrel made it a bit interesting in the bottom of the inning when he gave up a couple of singles, but he struck out two (including Bryce Harper) and with the tying run at the plate he induced a foul pop up to Christian Vazquez to end the game. Harper had a miserable series to go with his miserable season and while I hate to make the obvious comparisons, while Mike Trout and Mookie Betts play with such infectious fun, Harper looks so joyless out there. Whether that's an artifact of his rough season or whether that's how he is now, I don't know but both are a shame to see as the game (and his team) are a lot better when he's performing up to his usual capbilities.

The series sweep put the Red Sox at 59-29, an amazing thirty games over .500, while it dropped Washington to 42-43. With series against the Royals, Rangers, and Blue Jays coming up before the All Star break, that's ten games that the Sox should be able to win. I'm not saying they'll win all ten, but they have a very good shot at doing so and being on the cusp of seventy wins by the break. With Benintendi (who only came in to pinch hit in the seventh) and Moreland getting some rest, they should be ready to go for this stretch (assuming Moreland's back is feeling alright). While I do think the division race is going to go down to the wire, I feel as though the Red Sox will be in good shape if they're still leading when they break for the All Star game. On to Kansas City now!