Game 137: Red Sox at Chicago White Sox (September 1, 2018)

Here we are in September...can you believe it? It's been a fantastic season so far and now we're in the final month. That finds the Red Sox in the middle of their series against the White Sox having split the first two games. The big buzz before this one was the return of Eduardo Rodriguez who was making his first start since getting injured right before the All Star break. It was hoped that he could give the rotation a much needed shot in the arm and eat up some innings to spell the bullpen. Of course, even if he did all that it wouldn't mean anything if the bats were as quiet as they were the night before. As you can see, there were a lot of questions in this one and by the end of the night, most of the answers would be good for Boston.

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For the first time in this series the Red Sox scored first. The game was scoreless until the fifth inning when Eduardo Nunez' line drive just barely cleared the fence for a solo home run. It was initially called a double but the replay showed the ball to have hit the railing above and beyond the fence, a call which the umpires rightly reversed to give Nunez the homer. Jackie Bradley followed with his own solo homer and by the end of the inning it was 2-0. Nicky Delmonico got the White Sox in the scoring column with an RBI double in the sixth, but that was all Chicago would get. The just-returned Christian Vazquez scored on a throwing error by White Sox starter Carlos Rodon in the seventh when he tried to throw Andrew Benintendi out at first base. That gave the Red Sox life which they used to do some more damage, first when Steve Pearce drove in Mookie Betts with a single and then when JD Martinez singled to push Benintendi home. Boston  completed their scoring in the eighth when Ian Kinsler hit his first home run as a Red Sox to make it 6-1. That's how the game ended and with that, Boston is guaranteed at least a split in this series. While it was nice to see the offense get back on track and outhit Chicago 9-5 en route to the win, the big story in this one was Rodriguez. He only went 5.2 innings but he struck out twelve batters and only walked one while surrendering a single run over three hits. It looked like he picked up right where he'd left off before he got injured and if this is indicative of what he's going to do for the rest of the season then the rotation just got a whole lot better. At the plate, Mookie, Bradley, and JD all had two hits and the attack was very balanced overall. I'll admit I was surprised Vazquez was put back into the lineup so quickly and if I'm being honest, I'd been hoping in the days leading up to his return that he would be moved back to the third catcher spot. The team played better without him and Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart both did a better job behind the plate and in the batter's box than Vazquez had been doing before his injury. The team has had great chemistry in his absence and I didn't want that disrupted by shoehorning Vazquez back into the mix. Every Red Sox pitcher has gone as record as preferring to throw to Leon and the stats back them up, but with Vazquez getting his big contract extension prior to this season I can understand why Alex Cora probably feels the need to play him.

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The series wraps up Sunday afternoon with Brian Johnson starting for the Red Sox against James Shields. While a split would be fine, it would be nice to win both this series and the season series against Chicago before moving on. That would leave Oakland as the only team with a winning record against the Sox this season. After Sunday's finale it will be off to Atlanta for a series against the NL East-leading Braves. September is only going to get tougher for Boston, but as long as they can keep the Yankees at bay and continue to get healthy and tuned up for the postseason then they should be just fine.