Game 94: Texas Rangers at Red Sox (July 11, 2018)

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It was a beautiful night last night, both in terms of the weather and the Red Sox game. After dinner I took my son to the cages to get some swings in and have him practice pitching (as an aside, it felt damn good to be a catcher again!). After that, we headed home and were able to watch the Sox as they looked to win their ninth straight and sweep their third series in a row. With Chris Sale on the mound against Bartolo Colon (I was a high school senior when he made his debut, that's how long he's been around), the Sox looked to be set up nicely to pick up the sweep, especially with how dominant they've been the final game of a series this season.

As they've been doing lately, the Sox got on the scoreboard early when Eduardo Nunez reached on a fielding error by Rougned Odor which allowed Xander Bogaerts to score. It was 1-0 Boston and it stayed that way for quite a while. With Sale pitching, it might have been enough but I was nervous as it's always tough to win those one run games no matter who you're playing. JD Martinez must have heard what I was thinking because he smacked a double to left that drove in Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi in the bottom of the fifth to give the Sox a bit of breathing room and a three run cushion. Xander followed that up by hitting a triple to drive JD in and make it 4-0 Boston. It was his second triple in as many games which is not an easy thing to do! He's really been having a great season and flying under the radar in the American League. The big test will be to see if he can keep it up after the All Star break because he's typically been hot in the first half before flagging badly in the second half (and yes, I know last season his hand was hurt in the second half, but go back to 2016 for a prime example of what I mean). It ended up being a good thing they had the 4-0 lead because once the bullpen came in, Texas scored some runs. First, Nomar Mazara drove one in in the eighth inning with a single off of Heath Hembree (gee, what a surprise), and then Kimbrel walked in a run (an inherited runner, but still ugly) after coming in and inheriting the mess Hembree left. Kimbrel pitched a clean ninth inning to pick up his 28th save and secure the win for the Sox.

Chris Sale was dominant yet fact, it's getting to be so routine that I hope we Red Sox fans don't start taking it for granted. He went seven innings and struck twelve batters out while only walking one and allowing no runs. It lowered his ERA to 2.23 and was his tenth win of the season...imagine how many more he'd have if he'd gotten even a modicum of run support in a handful of his other starts. Heath Hembree was, unfortunately, Heath Hembree: the guy only pitched two thirds of an inning and gave up three hits and two runs. Why they keep going to him in anything other than a blowout win or loss (the Brandon Workman treatment) is beyond me. I'd rather see Joe Kelly or Matt Barnes in there any day of the week and neither of those guys inspires 100% confidence either (but they're better than Hembree!).

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The incredible Mookie Betts pushed his average up to .350 with a 2-3 night and Benintendi got his average over .300 with a 2-4 night of his own. How he didn't make the All Star game, I don't understand. The only thing I can think of is that six Red Sox All Stars would have been more than MLB fan voters wanted to see. Rounding out the top hitting performances of the night, Xander went 3-4 and has his average approaching the .300, sitting currently at .283. All in all it was a great night for the Sox; even with the Yankees finally managing to beat Baltimore (hah!) the division lead remained at 3.5 games. The final series of the first half of the season begins tonight against Toronto: four games that are ripe for the picking before the Sox get some much deserved time off. Having played the most games of any team in the first half of the season (as well as the most road games), Boston should have a decided advantage in the second half in terms of the schedule and the home/road split. It's going to be a fun ride, but first they need to take care of business against the Blue Jays.