Game 123: Tampa Bay Rays at Red Sox (August 17, 2018)

Even though the Red Sox had Thursday off, we still got to see Mookie Betts up close and personal. That’s because my son and oldest daughter attended his baseball clinic and got to meet Mookie, take a photo with him, and work on baseball drills with him. They had a blast and I think I had as much fun watching them for the entire afternoon as they did playing. Mookie seemed like a genuinely nice guy and the fact that he had his parents there hanging out with him the whole day said a lot to me about what type of person he is. At least I know how he spent his day off, right? On Friday, the Sox got back down to business at home when they started a new series against Tampa Bay. The Rays had just taken two of three from the Yankees and helped us add a half game to the division lead so now it was Boston’s turn against this pesky team.

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Brian Johnson got the start for the Sox and looked to continue his solid pitching as of late, but by the end of the first inning it seemed like it might have been an off night. The Rays jumped on the scoreboard early when Joey Wendle’s two RBI double and Carlos Gomez’ single quickly made it 3-0 Rays. As this Red Sox team has done all season, though, they came storming back. In the bottom of the first they plated two runs when Xander Bogaerts tripled to drive in Andrew Benintendi and JD Martinez. The Sox would tie it in the fourth off of Eduardo Nunez’ RBI single and from there, they never looked back. Mitch Moreland put the Sox ahead in the fifth with an RBI single to drive in Mookie and they continued to add to their lead as the game progressed. Jackie Bradley (who had a GREAT game at the plate and in the field) doubled to drive in Blake Swihart in the sixth and in the seventh, JD drove in a run and then scored later in that inning on a wild pitch. Tyler Thornburg finished off the game and the Sox won 7-3. Johnson pitched very well after the first inning, settling down and finishing with a line of five hits, three runs, two walks, and two strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work. That’s not the pitching line of a Chris Sale or Rick Porcello, but he did enough to keep the Rays off balance and get the win. On the offensive side, everyone had at least one hit except for Swihart and Ian Kinsler (who returned from the DL the same day Rafael Devers was put on the shelf with a hamstring injury). Bradley and Moreland had nice 2-4 nights while Xander went 3-4 with a triple, two doubles, two RBI, and a run scored. So far he isn’t exhibiting his usual late season slowdown at all, which is very nice to see even though he’s gotten banged up a bit recently (he was hit on the hand by a pitch last week and in this game he fouled a ball off his shin). And after making yet another highlight reel catch in center field, surely this has to be the year Bradley finally wins a Gold Glove, right?

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The series continues this weekend with David Price facing his former team in the second game on Saturday. He’s been pitching very well as of late and I’ll be looking for that to continue against Tampa. With a 10.5 game lead and a little more than a month to go, the Sox sit at 87-36 and look destined to not only finish with the best record in the majors but also to break the 100 win plateau. Honestly, that second bit doesn’t concern me as much because come the postseason it won't matter one bit. As long as they win the division and can secure home field advantage throughout October, I’ll be happy. I really feel like this year they’ll have a much better showing in the postseason than they did in 2016 and 2017. A small part of me wants to fast forward to October right now, but more than that I’m really looking forward to enjoying the rest of the regular season and seeing how this team amazes us next.