Before heading to the Bronx for a pivotal three-game weekend series against the Yankees, the Red Sox had some business to take care of against a Los Angeles Angels team they had yet to lose to this season.
With Steven Wright being placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, Alex Cora went with Brian Johnson for the spot start in the knuckleballer’s place last night.
Having already appeared in 22 games for the Red Sox this season, this was just Johnson’s second start. The first came back on April 2nd against the Miami Marlins, where he tossed six innings and only gave up one run on six hits and two walks.
This time around, the lefty hybrid was efficient yet again. In four innings pitched, Johnson held the Halos to just one run while scattering three hits, one walk, and two punchouts. He received some help from his outfield as well with this phenomenal catch from Jackie Bradley Jr. in the first.
The only real mistake the former Florida Gator made came in his final frame of work, when with one out in the fourth, Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons leaned into a 1-0 75 MPH curveball and sent it 375 feet into the Monster seats in left field.
Other than that, it was a solid outing from Johnson. And given the fact he has transitioned into more of a reliever now, it’s understandable why he only pitched into the fourth inning of this one. But with Hector Velazquez, the Red Sox essentially have two guys in their bullpen who are capable of both starting and working in relief.
Speaking of Velazquez, he got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen starting in the top half of the fifth. In the two innings he appeared in, the Mexico native held the Angels to just two baserunners to go along with three K’s. Since his team scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth, Velazquez was able to pick up his sixth winning decision of the season thanks to his efforts.
From that point on, Brandon Workman tossed a scoreless seventh inning for his third straight scoreless appearance. That made way for Joe Kelly in the eighth, and for the second time in as many nights, the Angels made things a little interesting.
After walking Mike Trout to lead off the inning, Kelly gave up back-to-back singles to Justin Upton and Albert Pujols to score Trout from third to make it a 4-2 game and put runners on first and second with still no outs.
With Angels rookie David Fletcher at the plate now, Kelly gave up what looked like what could have been a double to left field. Instead, the Red Sox outfield came through yet again, as Andrew Benintendi made the leaping catch against the wall for the second out of the inning.
Kelly escaped any further damage by getting Luis Valbuena to fly out to center field and end a hellish eighth inning for the Red Sox set up man. Over his last seven appearances, Kelly owns a 7.20 ERA and 2.20 WHIP in five innings pitched.
Entering the ninth with a two run lead to work with, Craig Kimbrel made his second appearance of this series, and he managed to strike out the side on the way to his 24th save of the season.
On the flip side of things, the Red Sox lineup was held scoreless over the first four innings of this one against Angels righty Jaime Barria.
It wasn’t until fifth when, already trailing by one run, Rafael Devers tied things up at one run a piece by mashing his 13th home run of the season. A 414 foot shot sent to dead center.
An inning later, with Halos reliever Jose Alvarez on the mound and JD Martinez at first after taking the walk, a double off the bat of Mitch Moreland put the Red Sox in an ideal scoring spot.
Oddly enough, Mike Sciosca decided to pitch around Xander Bogaerts and pitch to Brock Holt with the bases loaded. That decision clearly did not pan out the way he wanted it to, because Alvarez walked Holt on seven pitches to drive in the go-ahead run.
In the seventh, Jackie Bradley Jr. decided to top his stellar catch earlier in the first inning by coming through with arguably the clutchest hit of the night.
Facing off against old friend Noe Ramirez with Christian Vazquez at first, Bradley Jr. went down 0-2 on the first two pitches of the at bat. On the very next pitch though, he must have seen something he liked, because he took a 91 MPH two-seam fastball from Ramirez and sent it into the first row of the bleachers in right field on the hardest hit ball of the night, 110.1 MPH.
That two-run blast put the Red Sox up by three runs, and they would not have to look back on their way to win number 55.
Some notes from this W:
From @SoxNotes: The Sox went 6-0 against the Angels this season, marking the first time Boston has ever swept an opponent in a season series of at least 6 games.
From @RedSoxStats: (In this series)
Trout: 2-10 3 BB
JBJ: 5-11 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI
The bottom third of the Red Sox lineup (Devers, Vazquez, Bradley) went 4/9 with two home runs and three RBI last night.
Heading into New York winners of their last four and sole owners of first place in the American League East, the Red Sox will send Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound for the series opener later tonight. He’ll be matched up against another lefty in CC Sabathia for the Yankees. I don’t need to tell you this series is important, because it 100% is.
Do the Red Sox really belong amongst the elite teams in all of baseball? Well this series is a sure-fire way to find out about that. First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
Also, shout out to Steve Pearce. You can read about him here.