Mitch Moreland Comes Through with Go-Ahead, Pinch-Hit Three-Run Home Run as #RedSox Rally to Top Mariners

After dropping their first game of the season on Thursday night, the Red Sox, like they did last year, bounced back with a come from behind 7-6 victory over the Seattle Mariners, marking their first win of 2019.

Making his first start of the 2019 season in this one was Nathan Eovaldi, who had only ever pitched at T-Mobile Field once before in his career.

Following up a performance in which Chris Sale surrendered seven runs and three home runs to Seattle on Opening Day, Eovaldi himself struggled on Friday.

Working the first five innings, the right-hander allowed six runs, all earned, on eight hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts. Similarly to Sale, three of those Seattle hits were home runs, courtesy of Mallex Smith and Domingo Santana in the first, and Omar Narvaez in the second.

It wasn’t just the home runs that were concerning though, it was the fact that Mariners hitters were making really solid contact off of Eovaldi’s pitches.

According to Statcast, the 29-year-old hurler gave up hits that had a registered exit velocity of 108.4 MPH, 107.7 MPH, 106 MPH, and 105.9 MPH.

If there is a positive to be taken away from this outing, it’s that Eovaldi’s arsenal is still as nasty as ever, he retired the final three hitters he faced in order in the fifth, and Jackie Bradley Jr. defensive highlights are back.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (63 strikes) and a top velocity of 99.5 MPH with his four-seamer, Eovaldi’s next start should come against the Oakland Athletics next Thursday.

In relief of Eovaldi, the Red Sox bullpen was actually nearly perfect, with Colten Brewer, Brandon Workman, Brian Johnson, and Matt Barnes combining to hold the Mariners scoreless on just two walks over the final four innings on Friday.

Brewer, in his official Red Sox debut, worked his way around those two walks by getting Jay Bruce to ground out to second to end the sixth.

Workman retired the side in order in the seventh, while Johnson, appearing in a game for the second consecutive night, struck out the side in the eighth. He was also credited with Boston’s first winning decision of the 2019 season.

And finally in the ninth, after his team had just gone up by one run, in came Matt Barnes, Red Sox closer.

Barnes, in his fourth full big league season now, did not need to over-exert himself in his first relief appearance of 2019, as he sat down the Mariners in 1-2-3 fashion to earn his first save since 2017.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Mariners left-hander Yusei Kikuchi to start things out on Friday.

In his first season in the majors after coming over from Japan last offseason, Kikuchi did a solid job of holding the Boston bats in check in his first start in Seattle.

Beginning in the second inning, Xander Bogaerts provided the Red Sox with their first run of the evening by mashing his first home run of the year. He’s coming off a 2018 season in which he belted a career-best 23 of those.

Fast forward to the fifth, after the Mariners had jumped out to a 6-1 lead, and it looked like a promising start to the inning with both Rafael Devers and Sam Travis reaching base with no outs, but just one run would manage to score on a GIDP off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. with Devers coming in from third. 6-2 Seattle.

That deficit for the Red Sox would shrink a bit an inning later though, as JD Martinez, like Bogaerts, also delivered with his first homer of the season, a two out 428 foot shot to dead center to make it a 6-3 contest.

In the eighth, with reliever Zac Rosscup now in the game for Seattle, a Christian Vazquez leadoff home run probably should have been the catalyst of a mult-run Red Sox rally.

Instead, after Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts all reached base to load the bases and the Mariners swapped out Rosscup for Cory Gearrin, Eduardo Nunez fell short by hitting into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.

A bizarre play to say the least, given the fact that Nunez just stopped and watch the play transpire rather than run to first base after avoiding the tag from Gearrin.

It looked as if it was going to be all gloom and doom from there, and the Red Sox were about to start a season 0-2 for the first time since 2012

But, in similar fashion to what they did in 2018, they rallied back in a tremendous way in their half of the ninth.

With new Mariners closer Hunter Strickland, a former Red Sox draft pick, in to protect a two-run lead, Rafael Devers got the late rally started with a line drive double to the opposite field.

Blake Swihart, who came on to pinch-hit for Sam Travis, unintentionally advanced Devers to third thanks to a passed ball and was awarded first after taking a slider from Strickland off his left toe.

Coming to the plate with the opportunity to make it a one-run game at the very least, Bradley Jr. was unable to score Devers, as the young third baseman was thrown out trying to score on a soft grounder to first.

Down to their final two outs with runners at first and second, in came another key substitution in Mitch Moreland, pinch-hitting for Christian Vazquez.

Similarly enough to what he did for the Red Sox coming off the bench in last year’s World Series, Moreland came through in the clutch yet again, delivering big time with the go-ahead three-run bomb to right field.

It was pretty evident that Strickland wasn’t exactly himself in this one, and that home run, which registered an exit velocity of 114 MPH, was quite evident of that.

Moreland’s first long ball of 2019 put the Red Sox up 7-6, and that would go on to be the final score in Boston’s first win of the season.

Some notes from this win:

As I mentioned earlier, the Red Sox hadn’t started a season 0-2 since 2012, and some guys seemed to be aware of that following Friday’s win.

Including the postseason, the Red Sox are 12-0 in games when Christian Vazquez hits a home run.

The Brock Holt/JD Martinez bromance is back in our lives.

More from Holt:

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll look to improve to 2-1 on the young season later Saturday night.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be getting the ball for the first time in 2019 for Boston, while right-hander Mike Leake will do the same for Seattle.

Rodriguez, 25, owns a 3.57 ERA over 17.2 innings pitched in three career starts at T-Mobile Field.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 9:10 PM EDT on NESN.

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Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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