Game 147: Toronto Blue Jays at Red Sox (September 13, 2018)

The rational adult in me knows why Alex Cora does this, while the fan in me wishes he wouldn't. What am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about his tendency to put strange and somewhat weaker lineups on the field in the final game of a series after the Sox have already won it. He did it in Atlanta last week and he did it again on Thursday night for the finale against the Blue Jays. Mookie Betts sat to rest, Blake Swihart was at DH, and Christian Vazquez was behind the plate. At this point in the season the Red Sox spot in October is secured, but it's still strange how he doesn't seem to necessarily care to sweep a team before moving on. Still, it's a minor quibble and I can't complain with the results he's gotten thus far; as I said in my first sentence, the rational side of me gets it.

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For the first time in this series, runs were scored in the early innings by both teams. JD Martinez led things off by clubbing home run #41 in the second inning to give the Sox a one run lead, although Eduardo Rodriguez coughed it back up in the third when he allowed an RBI single to Justin Smoak to plate Lourdes Gurriel and tie the game. In the bottom of the inning, Ian Kinsler's sacrifice fly drove Jackie Bradley in to give the Sox the lead again, a lead which they added to in the sixth when Rafael Devers hit his 17th home run of the season to make it 3-1. (On a side note, it feels like it's been forever since Devers has hit a homer, doesn't it? What an up and down rookie season he's had!). Now, I'm going to warn you that what I'm about to say to you is going to seem like you've read it fifty times from me over the course of the season (and you probably have), but I have to say it again: it looked like that lead would be enough until the Sox bullpen took over. In the eighth inning Bobby Poyner gave up a solo homer to Gurriel which cut the lead to one run. Then, Joe Kelly (who is fast approaching Heath Hembree levels of dislike) hit Kevin Pillar with the bases loaded to walk in a run and tie the game. Joe Kelly...where do I begin? This guy has been with the Red Sox for four seasons and hasn't been able to put it all together either as a starter or a reliever. He's got good stuff and he throws hard, but he's incredibly hittable for a guy who throws in the high 90s/triple digits and there is zero finesse to his approach. Some guys are pitchers while some are just throwers...guess which category Kelly fits squarely into? The Red Sox need to cut bait with this guy as soon as they can because it's just not working and at this point. it's never going to get better. He is who he is and it's not going to change. Back to the game, it was up to the offense yet again to try and bail out the bullpen and clean up their mess. This time it was Xander Bogaerts to the rescue. He doubled and then stole third base during Blake Swihart's at bat which ended up being huge. Swihart hit a routine fly ball to second base that was horrifically botched by Yangervis Solarte. This allowed Bogaerts to score from third with the winning run. Craig Kimbrel picked up his 40th save with no drama in the ninth to secure the win and the series sweep. Eduardro Rodriguez was solid, going six innings and allowing only one run on five hits. He struck out seven and didn't walk anyone which I think is pretty good atonement for his previous start. Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman did their jobs out of the pen, but the middle relief continues to be a major, major issue for this team. Cora and his coaches have less than three weeks to figure it out because if nothing changes, it is going to kill this team in the postseason. Whether that's in the ALDS, ALCS, or World Series, it will rear its ugly head unless something is done.

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With the Yankees idle on Thursday night, the Sox were able to increase their division lead to 10.5 games and reduce their magic number to clinch the AL East to six. Friday night they'll start the final series of this homestand against the Mets. It won't be easy as they're sending up Hector Velazquez (in another spot start) against Noah Syndergaard. The Mets may be a bad team, but they've got some good pitching including NL Cy Young candidate Jacob DeGrom. That being said, Boston should be able to take care of business and pick up some more wins before they hit the road Tuesday. Next week should be really exciting with back to back road series in New York and Cleveland before wrapping up the final week of the season at home against the Orioles and Yankees. As a parting thought, while I can't wait to see what this Red Sox team will do in October, I'm not quite ready yet for this magical season to end.