After dropping the series finale to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night, the Red Sox looked to rebound against one of the more surprising teams in the National League, the Atlanta Braves, last night back at Fenway Park. With Hanley Ramirez no longer a member of this ball club, it was going to be interesting to see how the rest of the lineup would respond, and they put together a fairly decent all-around performance against Julio Teheran and the Braves bullpen.
Eduardo Rodriguuez made his first career start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday, and he had himself a pretty nice night. The lefty surrendered two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out seven in 5.2 innings pitched. Despite only throwing one 1-2-3 inning in this one, the only costly mistakes made by Rodriguez came in the third. That occurred when Nick Markakis plated the Braves only two runs on a double after Ronald Acuna and Freddie Freeman each singled. After that, the native of Venezuela settled down and pitched until there were two outs in the top half of the sixth.
With his pitch count north of 100 after walking Braves third baseman Johan Camargo, Rodriguez’s night would come to an end. I thought it was a bit of a quick hook from Alex Cora, but understandable nonetheless, especially given the fact he needed 110 pitches in his last start against the Orioles.
With one out still to get in the sixth, Heath Hembree got the call first out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he retired the only batter he faced in Dansby Swanson on a six pitch strikeout.
Next up out of the bullpen was Joe Kelly for the seventh inning and Matt Barnes for the eighth. They both tossed scoreless frames, and that set up the opportunity for Craig Kimbrel to close this game out in a non-save situation. The Red Sox flamethrower gave up a one out single, but bounced back by retiring the next two Braves he faced on seven pitches to wrap up his teams 35th win of the season.
So, overall, once ERod left this game in the sixth, the Red Sox bullpen combined to toss 3.1 scoreless innings on Friday night. And that now marks six straight contests in which the ‘pen has not surrendered a single run. They entered last night with the sixth best bullpen ERA in baseball, and I’m sure that’s going to go down some more after that stellar performance against one of the best lineups in the National League.
Speaking of lethal lineups, the Red Sox lineup put on a bit of a home run derby against Julio Teheran and the rest of the Braves bullpen on Friday night.
Trailing by two going into their half of the fourth inning, JD Martinez put the Red Sox on the board with his 16th long ball of the season that just cleared the Green Monster.
Two batters later, Xander Bogaerts knotted this thing up at two runs a piece, as he launched his seventh big fly of the season over the Monster as well.
An inning later, Andrew Benintendi drove in the only run for the Red Sox that did not come on a home run, and that came on a sac fly to center field to score Jackie Bradley Jr. from third. Bradley nearly scored on an inside the park homer himself two at bats prior, but he settled for a one out triple on the hardest hit ball of the night (109 MPH off the bat).
Fast forward to the seventh, with two outs in the inning and a brand new pitcher on the mound for the braves in Matt Wisler, Mookie Betts continued his crazy season by retaking the league lead in home runs.
With both Mike Trout and JD Martinez homering last night, it only made sense for Betts to hit one of his own. That one was sent 387 feet to left field, and it left the Red Sox outfielder alone atop the Major League home run leaderboard.
Another inning later, Mitch Moreland got in on the action by mashing his eighth home run of the season off of Wisler, and that pretty much put this game out of reach if it was not already.
443 feet to dead center on that one, which was definitely a reassuring thing to see given the news from earlier Friday morning.
Some notes from this win:
According to @RedSoxStats on Twitter, Craig Kimbrel threw his five fastest pitches of the season last night, as he topped out at 99.1 MPH.
The 3-4-5 hitters in last night’s lineup combined for four hits and three home runs.
With that triple I mentioned earlier, Jackie Bradley Jr. now has hits in four of his past five games.
In his first game as the everyday first baseman, Mitch Moreland went 2-for-4 with a single and a home run. He now owns a 1.029 OPS in 35 games this season.
It was certainly an unusual day for the Red Sox with Hanley Ramirez being designated for assignment, but they responded in a great way with a win last night.
Next up is the middle game of this series later this afternoon, and it will be local boy Sean Newcomb getting the start for the Atlanta Braves. The Massachusetts native has seemingly emerged as the best pitcher in the Braves rotation in just his first full season in the major leagues. For the Red Sox, it will be lefty Drew Pomeranz on the mound it what should be a very critical start. I mean, there was a point last season where it looked as if Pomeranz was going to be moved to the bullpen, but he turned his year around and become the best starting pitcher on that staff not named Chris Sale.
This time around, history is hopefully repeating itself because Pomeranz has not been close to great in the six starts he has made this season. If the struggles continue this afternoon, I can’t imagine he would make his next start. With guys capable of starting like Steven Wright and Hector Velazquez available in the bullpen, why would Pomeranz deserve a spot in the rotation if he continues to stink? We’ll have to wait on that though. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM.