Game 141: Red Sox at Atlanta Braves (September 5, 2018)

If I have one gripe with how Alex Cora has managed the Red Sox this season, it's with the way he rests players. Granted, this is a minor complaint over the course of a long season, but hear me out. I'm all for resting players to keep them fresh, heal up nagging injuries, and have them at their best when the postseason rolls around. However, with an afternoon game to finish off this series against the Braves and a scheduled day off on Thursday, it seemed strange to me that Cora would sit so many of his players and put a glorified spring training lineup out there. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and JD Martinez were all out of the lineup and veteran call-up Brandon Phillips was at second base. With Hector Velazquez getting the spot start, it was certainly one of the weakest lineups Cora could put out there behind him, but I suppose with the series already won and a showdown with Houston beckoning on Friday he wasn't too concerned with getting the sweep against Atlanta.

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Things certainly didn't get off to a good start when Ronald Acuna took Velazquez' first pitch deep to left field for a lead off home run. Two pitches later, Ender Inciarte hit a triple and was driven in by Nick Markakis to give Atlanta a quick strike 2-0 lead after one inning. In the second Brock Holt drove Brandon Phillips in with a fielder's choice to cut the lead in half, but the Sox just couldn't seem to get anything going against Mike Foltynewicz. In the fifth inning Atlanta exploded for five runs which seemed to suck the life out of Boston. Markakis struck again with an RBI single to get it started for the Braves. Kurt Suzuki drove one in on a fielder's choice and was followed by an Ozzie Albies triple which knocked two more runs in. Tyler Flowers finished the rally for the Braves with a single that drove in Albies. When the dust settled it was 7-1 Braves and the Red Sox looked finished. All five of those runs were charged to Drew Pomeranz who is pitching himself right off the postseason roster with every appearance he makes. Seeing as this is his walk year and he's heading into free agency after this season, I'm sure he realizes he's costing himself a lot of money with every terrible pitch he throws. With the six run deficit and the ragtag spring training lineup, it felt like the Red Sox were just playing out the string and that they weren't serious about getting the sweep. However, in the eighth inning the Red Sox incredibly crawled out of the grave they had dug  for themselves and scored six runs to tie the game! Blake Swihart doubled in two runs and then Andrew Benintendi's single brought in another to make it 7-4. Steve Pearce's sacrifice fly brought Swihart in to cut the deficit to two and then Ian Kinsler ripped a single to left field which brought in two more to tie the game. It was an unexpected turn of events and I had to temper my enthusiasm and keep my cheering quiet since I was watching/listening to the game in my office at work!  However, it seemed like they might have run out of gas after that since Atlanta got the lead back in the bottom of the inning when Freddie Freeman hit a solo homer off of Brandon Workman. Unbelievably, the Sox took the lead back (and this time for good) in the top of the ninth when Phillips crushed a two run bomb to left field. Craig Kimbrel came in to get the save and made it a little interesting when he walked the tying run after getting the first two outs. He ran the count full to the last batter before getting the strikeout to preserve the win and the series sweep.

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This may have been the Red Sox most improbable win of the season. It was the definition of an "all hands on deck" game with a ridiculous number of pitching substitutions and pinch hitters. Everyone contributed in some way, but the two heroes were Benintendi (3-5, two runs scored, and an RBI) and Brandon Phillips. His home run in the ninth gave him two RBI on the day and he also scored three runs to go along with his two walks. It was great to see his reaction after he swung on that pitch and his smile heading into the dugout was priceless. I'm sure a veteran like him is relishing the opportunity to play on a contending team after toiling away in obscurity for most the season.  Now the Sox go into their off day Thursday on a high note as they get ready to host Houston for three games starting on Friday. It should be a great matchup with David Price going up against Gerrit Cole in the opener. Both teams look to be in the mix for the American League pennant and I'm sure the Sox would like a little revenge for last season's ALDS. It should be a great series and I can't wait, but for now let's relish this sweep of a very good Braves squad.

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