On the night following a tight 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Monday, the Red Sox were back out there on Tuesday looking to clinch an interleague series on another hot night in the nation’s capital.
Making his second start since Steven Wright was placed on the disables list on June 26th, Brian Johnson, although effective, found himself making another short start last night. In his last time out against the Angels on Thursday, the lefty managed to toss four innings of one run ball in a game his team won. And on Tuesday, Johnson went two outs deeper than he did in his previous start.
Pitching into the fifth inning of this one, Johnson surrendered two runs, both earned, on eight hits and two walks while fanning two as well. Those two runs came in the Florida native’s last full frame in the fourth, an inning in which the Nationals reached base four times.
In a bottom half of the fifth that saw Washington reach base two times in three attempts to lead things off, Johnson’s night came to an end after he got Daniel Murphy to line out to JD Martinez for the second out of the inning.
Unable to pick up the winning decision, the 27-year-old finished with 77 pitches (52 strikes) on the night, 16 more than he threw in his last start. Out of those 77, Johnson went to his four-seam fastball 54% of the time and topped out at 91 MPH with it.
As for his next start, all signs are pointing towards Steven Wright making a return to the Red Sox rotation before the All-Star Break. Now, I don’t know if that means Wright will be ready to start a game within the next five days, but it’s something to watch for. And regardless of who’s pitching, Johnson or Wright would more than likely start against the Texas Rangers next Monday.
Anyway, in relief of Johnson, Heath Hembree was inserted into this one with one more out to get in the fifth. With runners already at first and second, Hembree proceeded to make things more difficult for himself by giving up a single to Mark Reynolds to load the bases.
Remember, at this point in the game, the Red Sox had just gone up by seven runs thanks to a six run effort in the top half of the fifth. If Hembree, were to have given up anywhere from to two to four runs here, the momentum of the game could have shifted just like that. Instead, he got Michael A. Taylor to strike out on six pitches to get out of the jam.
After striking out in his first career at bat in the top half of the sixth, the righty reliever would come back out for a second inning of work in the bottom half. With that, Nationals catcher Pedro Severino greeted Hembree by blasting a 425 foot home run to lead off the inning. Luckily, Hembree rebounded by striking out the side and ending his night on a more positive note.
From that point on, Brandon Workman picked up his first win of the season by tossing a 1-2-3 seventh. William Cuevas made his first appearance for the Red Sox since 2016 as well last night, and despite giving up a run on two hits, wrapped this win up by going the last two innings.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was powered by two three-run homers and one two-run homer, so that’s eight of the 11 runs scored right there.
Facing off against a starter who had only made one career appearance against Boston in Nationals righty Tanner Roark, Eduardo Nunez got the scoring started with his 6th home run of the season, a three-run jack in the second inning.
Three innings later, it was Brian Johnson, yes Brian Johnson, who got a six run rally started with a one out single.
Capped off by a JD Martinez 2 RBI single, a Steve Pearce RBI single, and a Xander Bogaerts three run home run, the Red Sox went into the halfway point of this one with a 9-2 lead.
Fast forward all the way to the top of the ninth, with this game already out of reach, JD Martinez decided he was not satisfied with his 2 RBI night, so he added on another two with his league-leading 26th big fly of the season.
That put the Red Sox up 11-4 and all but ensured the team their 58th win of the season heading into the final game of this interleague series.
Some notes from this W:
Not related to the Red Sox, but the Nationals managed to let Tanner Roark pitch seven innings in this game. He gave up NINE runs, so credit to him for eating some innings in a game that was lost in the fifth inning.
Back to Red Sox related stuff, Mitch Moreland had to depart from this game in the third inning due to back spasms. He should be ready to go in time for the series opener in Kansas City on Friday.
Since joining the Red Sox five days ago, Steve Pearce is 4/9 in three games with at least one at bat. He’ll be starting at first base tomorrow morning.
Going into Wednesday, JD Martinez leads all of baseball in home runs (26) and RBI (71).
Before tomorrow morning’s series finale, the Red Sox will activate Tyler Thornburg from the 10-day disabled list, meaning he will make his first appearance for Boston since he was traded from the Brewers two offseasons ago.
Looking for the series sweep, the Red Sox will be going with lefty Eduardo Rodriguez for the finale. Winless in his last two starts, Rodriguez will be matched up against Nationals rookie Erick Fedde, who owns a 6.00 ERA in five games started this season. With it being the Fourth of July and all, first pitch is scheduled for a rare morning start at 11:05 AM ET. Happy Independence Day, time to break out the brooms.