RECAP: #RedSox Fall Behind Early, Nearly Complete Comeback in 5-3 Loss to Athletics.

It took some time, but the Red Sox lost to the Oakland Athletics for the fourth straight time last night. After a rain delay that lasted approximately one hour and 40 minutes, the Red Sox found themselves behind early once again.

Eduardo Rodriguez got the start in this one, marking his eighth of the season. For the second time in a row, the lefty only lasted five innings on the mound, and despite not being as effective as he was last Wednesday in New York, he did a solid job of avoiding any major damage. In five full innings pitched, the native of Venezuela surrendered three runs on six hits, including a home run, to go along with no walks and four strikeouts. All three of those runs were scored over the first two innings, as Matt Chapman drove in a pair on a double in the first, and Stephen Piscotty mashed a solo home run over the Green Monster in the second.

For Piscotty, this home run is sure to be memorable. It’s his first one since he was activated from the bereavement list on Tuesday, as his mother passed away from ALS last week. Regardless of the result, it was a very cool moment to witness live.

Moving on, with his pitch count all the way up to 93 (53 strikes) through just five innings of work, Eduardo Rodriguez’s night would come to an end. He’ll look to build on this so-so performance next time out against the Baltimore Orioles this Sunday.

Rodriguez’s departure would make way for the return of Steven Wright in the seventh inning. Making his first big league appearance since April 29th of last season, I was curious to see how the knuckeballer would perform in his new role out of the Red Sox bullpen. In his first two innings of work, Wright certainly was not all that effective, but he held the Athletics scoreless over that stretch. He came back out to start the eighth inning as well, but that was probably a mistake.

After getting the leadoff man Jed Lowrie to ground out, Wright gave up two consecutive singles to put runners on first and second with just one out. That would be all for the California native, as he would later be charged with two earned runs when the base runners he was responsible for scored on a Mark Canha double.

Once Wirght departed, it was up to Bobby Poyner to get out of the eighth inning jam. Like Wright, Poyner had just been recalled from Triple A Pawtucket. As I just mentioned though, the lefty gave up a two-run double to the second batter he faced in Mark Canha, and that pretty much put this game out of reach.

Looking to keep it a one run game an inning later, Brian Johnson got the call for the ninth for the second straight win. Once again, Johnson did his job effectively. He held the A’s scoreless while tossing his second straight perfect inning in as many nights.

So, even with some newer additions from within, the Red Sox bullpen should still be an area of concern. Isn’t that right, Mr. Dombrowski?

Anyway, on the other side of things, The Red Sox lineup was held to just three runs last night. Similar to how he performed against them in Oakland, A’s starter Daniel Mengden pitched well against the Red Sox for the second time this season. He held them to just to runs, one of which was earned, over six innings pitched. The Athletics bullpen followed suit by tossing three innings of one run ball.

Trailing 3-0 essentially from the get go, the Red Sox had a chance to tack on a run in their half of the first. Unfortunately for them, a base running gaff from Andrew Benintendi as he was unwisely rounding third base cost them that chance.

Fast forward to the fourth, Mitch Moreland plated the first run of the game for the Red Sox on an RBI ground out that scored JD Martinez from third. This would not have been possible if, when Martinez led the inning off, Matt Chapman did not commit an error while making an errant throw to first base from third. Since the ball ended up out of play, Martinez was awarded second base, and he would eventually score in the inning.

An inning later, Andrew Benintendi redeemed himself from that base running blunder he made earlier by mashing his third home run of the season into the bleachers in right field.

That 437 foot bomb pulled the Red Sox within one run before the A’s pulled away in the eighth. Later in the ninth, down to their last three outs, it looked like a late night rally was about to be staged.

Rafael Devers led things off by reaching first on a strikeout. Pinch hitting for Christian Vazquez, Brock Holt followed that up by ripping a double to left field to put runners on second and third with no outs. With the top of the lineup now at the plate, I was thinking walk off. Instead, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Hanley Ramirez were retired in order. Devers did cross the plate to make it a two run game, but that would be all the Red Sox could muster in the final frame.

On the bright side of things, Andrew Benintendi is in the midst of an eight game hitting streak. Over that stretch, the Red Sox outfielder is slashing .308/.372/.538 with two home runs and six RBIs.

Having dropped their last two games, Chris Sale will have the opportunity to be the stopper later tonight. He’ll be matched up against A’s righty Trevor Cahill in the series finale. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET. Happy Sale Day.

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Carson Smith Has Been Placed on the 10-Day Disabled List.

A day after losing Hector Velazquez to a lower back strain, the Red Sox got more bad news today in the form of Carson Smith’s right shoulder/arm. Apparently, after he gave up a home run and left yesterday’s game in the middle of the eighth inning, Smith let out his frustration by throwing his glove in the Red Sox dugout. According to the tweet from Evan Drellich above, that throwing of the glove may have been costly for the righty reliever, as he is now set to miss an extended period of time on the disabled list.

Ever since the Red Sox acquired Smith prior to the 2016 season, there has been pretty lofty expectations placed upon his shoulder. He was made out to be this borderline elite arm who could pitch in the seventh, eighth, or even ninth inning. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Texas native has appeared in only 29 games with the Red Sox, and owns a 2.66 ERA over that span.

In a short tenure that’s been riddled with multiple injuries, this season looked like the one where Smith was going to put it all together as a member of the Red Sox bullpen. With all of those injuries keeping him sidelined in the past, this is the most relief work he has gotten in three years. Although Red Sox fans may not have had the most confidence in the 28-year-old up to this point, losing him for an extended amount of time certainly won’t help things with an already shaky Red Sox bullpen.

Lefty Bobby Poyner has taken Smith’s spot on the 25-man roster, and Steven Wright took Hector Velazquez’s spot yesterday. Just a few moments ago, Dave Dombrowski said the Red Sox bullpen is, “not an area of concern”, which in my mind, is completely false. But there’s nothing to gain from the President of Baseball Operations saying he has no confidence in his teams bullpen.

I’m sure once the trade deadline rolls around in July, the Red Sox will be in the market for a reliever or two that are on expiring contracts. That’s not for a while though, and for now, the Red Sox bullpen needs to prove they can be reliable outside of Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly. If they do that, then maybe the Red Sox can break out of this .500 rut they’ve been on the past three-plus weeks.

RECAP: #RedSox Don’t Get No-Hit by Sean Manaea, Still Lose to Athletics by One Run.

These Oakland Athletics, man. 20-21 on the season, 3-1 against the Red Sox. That’s frustrating, even more so after the Red Sox lost by one run to them last night. I guess one early positive to take away from the series opener was that A’s starter Sean Manaea did not throw another-no hitter.

Rick Porcello got the start for the Red Sox in this one, and for the second start in a row, the righty certainly did not have his best performance. In his last start in New York, Porcello surrendered five runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings pitched. Last night against the Athletics, he surrendered another five runs, this time on nine hits and zero walks in six innings pitched.

Things started to go awry for the New Jersey native in the third inning, when Matt Joyce took him deep to right field for the A’s first run of the game. An inning later, the opposition knocked Porcello around for another three runs on four hits. In his final frame of work, Matt Olson took Porcello deep to center to put his team up by two.

Last night marked the first time this season in which the 29 year-old has given up more than home run in a start. In the four starts he’s made since April 24th, Porcello owns a 5.02 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 25 innings pitched. On the bright side, at least he’s going fairly deep into his starts, as none of the four previous outings mentioned have been shorter than five innings for Porcello. With a pitch count of 108 (69 strikes) through six innings, Porcello’s night would come to a disappointing end. He’ll look to rebound next time out when he goes up against the Baltimore Orioles.

In relief of Porcello, Heath Hembree got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen to start off the seventh inning. For the second day in a row, Hembree somewhat impressed, as he held the Athletics scoreless while holding them to one hit.

An inning later, after Rafael Devers had just momentarily pulled the Red Sox within one run, Carson Smith, who had been looking better as of late, served up a solo homer to the first person he saw in Khris Davis. He went on to retire the next three batters he faced, but that home run would prove to be crucial for the A’s given what transpired half an inning later.

After JD Martinez had just made it a one run game once again, Brian Johnson would be responsible for holding the Athletics scoreless. Last time we saw Johnson out of the ‘pen, he gave up a game-winning home run to Luke Maile in Toronto. With that in mind, I’m happy to say that Johnson did not allow last night’s game to get further away from the Red Sox than it already was. The lefty did his job by tossing a perfect ninth, giving his team one last chance in the bottom half of the inning.

On the other side of things, A’s starter Sean Manaea was certainly not as sharp as he was last time the Red Sox saw him in Oakland. After going hitless in the first inning, a JD Martinez single in the second finally gave the Red Sox a hit off the lefty this season. With the monkey off their back, three straight singles from the top of the Red Sox lineup in the third inning put the Red Sox on the board. Hanley Ramirez gave them the lead for a brief moment, as he ripped a single to right field to score Andrew Benintendi from second after he had driven in Mookie Betts on a single of his own. Things were looking up for the Red Sox at this point, but that would not be the case half an inning later, and they would be clawing to get back in this game for the rest of the night.

Fast forward to the fifth, Hanley Ramirez was at it again, as he plated the third run of the game for the Red Sox on a fielder’s choice that scored Sandy Leon from third. That cut the A’s lead to only one run, but once again, that wouldn’t last long.

Two innings later and the Red Sox trailing by two, Rafael Devers cut the deficit in half on his seventh long ball of the season.

That 373 foot shot over the Monster, followed by Sandy Leon reaching on a fielding error, put an end to Sean Manaea’s night, and made way for a mediocre Athletics bullpen. Unfortunately, the top of the lineup could not capitalize on that error, as Yusmeiro Petit ended the inning on nine pitches.

In the eighth, now trailing by two runs again, it would be JD Martinez who cut the deficit in half this time with his 11th homer of the season.

That would be the lone hit of the bottom of the eighth though, and after a scoreless top half of ninth from Brian Johnson, it would be up the 8, 9, and 1 hitters to either tie this thing up or send it into extras.

Facing off against Athletics closer Blake Treinen, Rafael Devers led the inning off by grounding out to first base. After Mitch Moreland came on as a pinch hitter for Sandy Leon, he flew out to left for the second out. Down to just Mookie Betts now, I was somewhat expecting a lengthy, dramatic at bat. Instead, Betts grounded out to short on the second pitch he saw from Treinen, thus ending a very frustrating game and ending the Red Sox winning streak at two.

Some notes from this one:

Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, and Sandy Leon were the only Red Sox hitters to reach base more than once last night.

There was only one walk drawn between the two sides in this game.

With his eighth steal of the season last night, Mookie Betts is now in a three-way tie between himself, Mike Trout, and Kevin Pillar for fourth most swiped bags in the American League.

After his 2-for-4 performance at the plate on Monday, JD Martinez has the eighth best OBP (.396) and is tied for the third best SLG (.641) in the AL. He is one of eight players in all of baseball with an OPS north of one (1.037)

Rick Porcello was dealt his first loss of the season in his ninth start (5-1).

Since starting the season 17-2, the Red Sox are 11-11 over their last 22 games.

Next up for the Red Sox is the middle game of this series later tonight. It will be Daniel Mengden on the mound for the A’s, while Eduardo Rodriguez, coming off maybe his best start of the season last time out in New York, will be taking the mound for Boston. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.

RECAP: JD Martinez Homers as #RedSox Hold on to Take Series from Blue Jays.

With a ten game road trip coming to a close for the Red Sox today, a victory today would ensure both a series win in Toronto and a winning road trip as well.

Drew Pomeranz got the start for the Red Sox in this one, and he was matched up against Blue Jays righty Joe Biagini. It’s safe to say this matchup was not exactly a pitcher’s duel, because neither starter could make it through the fifth inning.  Despite what the numbers may say, Pomeranz struggled in his fifth start of the season today. Right from the get go, the lefty looked a bit out of sorts. That being said, the Blue Jays did not score their first run of the game until the fifth inning. Up until that point, despite not surrendering any runs, Pomeranz had just one clean inning over the first four. Walks were also an issue for the Tennessee native, as he allowed a season-high five free passes on Sunday.

Like I said though, despite all the baserunners Pomeranz had to deal with early on, he somehow did not give up any runs until his fifth and final frame of work. With some help from Mookie Betts, Pomeranz got out of a fourth inning jam in style. If that ball off the bat of Richard Urena dropped in front of Betts, it more than likely would have plated a run.

The Blue Jays rally was started by the top of their lineup, as three straight hits plated their first two runs of the game. With his pitch count up at 103 already, Pomeranz’s day would come to an end before he could even record an out in the fifth. Since he could not make it through five innings, Pomeranz did not factor into the decision later on. The final line for Pomeranz looks like this: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, and 6 K’s. After the performance he put on in the Bronx last week, the 29-year-old hurler did not have the same type of stuff going for him this time out. He’ll look to rebound in his next start against the Baltimore Orioles next weekend.

Anyway, with no outs in the bottom of the fifth and runners on first and second, Hector Velazquez would get the call first out of the Red Sox bullpen. Inheriting somewhat of a mess, Velazquez did a solid job holding the Blue Jays to just one run while also getting Kendrys Morales to ground into an inning ending double play. The righty also came back out for the sixth inning, and he tossed another scoreless frame to lower his ERA all the way down to 2.10.

After that, the Red Sox bullpen continued to hold the Blue Jays scoreless for the rest of the game. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Joe Kelly combined for three scoreless frames to go along with three strikeouts to wrap this one up. For Hembree, a reassuring performance given the road trip he has had up to this point. And for Kelly, with Craig Kimbrel not available, a shut down ninth inning helped the Red Sox flamethrower notch his second save of the season today.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup had plenty of scoring opportunities against Joe Biagini and the Blue Jays bullpen today. JD Martinez got things started right away in the first, as he launched his 10th home run of the season 386 feet to right field.

Another vintage opposite field home run for Martinez. According to FanGraphs, 60% of the homers the Miami native has hit this year have gone over the wall in right field. That put the Red Sox up by two runs early, and they would have a golden opportunity to tack on some more two innings later.

With Joe Biagini on the mound, Jackie Bradley Jr. led the third off by drawing an eight pitch walk. A single from Mookie Betts moved Bradley up to third. After Andrew Benintendi flew out and JD Martinez reached first on a walk, the bases were loaded for Mitch Moreland. Despite not getting a hit, Moreland had himself  a great at bat against Biagini, as he drew an RBI walk on the tenth pitch of the AB. On the broadcast, they said that Moreland was at the plate for approximately six minutes, so it was a hard-earned RBI to say the least. Unfortunately, that’s all the scoring the Red Sox would do in the third since Xander Bogaerts grounded into a double play in the next at bat.

Fast forward to the fifth, and JD Martinez added on to his great day at the plate with an RBI single to right field. His second hit of the game scored Mookie Betts from third and put the Red Sox up by four runs at the time.

Three innings later, Xander Bogaerts drove in his only run of the game on an RBI groundout. That scored Andrew Benintendi from third after he led the inning off with a walk. For the Red Sox, that run marked their fifth and final run of the day, which was nice, since it provided the bullpen with some insurance late in the game.

Some notes from this one:

After going hitless last night, JD Martinez got back on the board with two hits today. With another three RBI performance, Martinez now has 33 of them on the season, good for fifth in the American League.

Entering today 2 for his last 27 in May, Jackie Bradley Jr. got a hit in his fourth and final at bat today. Maybe now he will have the confidence to heat up for a bit, we’ll see.

With the 5-3 win on Sunday, the Red Sox are now 12-1 in series finales this season. As they head back to Boston, the Oakland Athletics will be first up on a seven game home stand. The two sides kick off a three game set tomorrow night, and it will be Sean Manaea on the mound for the A’s, who, in case you forgot, tossed a no-hitter the last time he saw the Red Sox in Oakland. Looking to keep his perfect season going, Rick Porcello will be taking the mound for the Red Sox. The Athletics are definitely one of the more interesting teams in the American League, so this week should be…interesting. First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET on Monday.

 

 

 

RECAP: Hanley Ramirez Homers for Third Time in Four Days as #RedSox Even Things up with Blue Jays.

Less than 24 hours after getting walked off by Luke Maile in extra innings, the Red Sox took the field for the middle game of this three-game weekend set in Toronto. Fortunately, this one was less of a nail biter than Friday’s night contest, and did not have to be decided in extras.

David Price made his first start for the Red Sox since the first game of the road trip they are currently on. Due to a bout with mild carpal tunnel syndrome in his left hand, Price was held out of his originally scheduled start this past Wednesday in New York. Three days later, he was back on the mound in Toronto for his eighth start of the season.

Contrary to how he looked before the carpal tunnel announcement, the Red Sox lefty put together a solid effort in his return to the mound on Saturday. In 5.1 innings pitched, Price held the Blue Jays to just two runs on five hits while walking three and tying a season high in strikeouts with six of them on the afternoon. The only real costly mistake the Tennessee native made came in the bottom of the sixth. With Justin Smoak at the plate to lead things off for the Jays, Price could not sneak a 93 MPH fastball by the Blue Jays first baseman, as he sent it 380 feet to left field for his teams second and final run of the day.

After that solo shot, Price would face one more batter in Kevin Pillar, who he got to pop out for the first out of the bottom half of the sixth inning. I don’t know if the fan running on the field had anything to do with it, but it looked like Price was prepared to at least finish the sixth. That did not happen though, as Alex Cora pulled him in favor of Carson Smith. The only inning in which the 32-year-old did not deal with baserunners was the second inning, when he struck out the side on 14 pitches. He ended his day with 93 pitches thrown, 55 of which went for strikes and his next start will more than likely come against the Baltimore Orioles sometime next week back at Fenway Park.

With Price’s day over and 11 outs still to get, Carson Smith would be the first man out of the Red Sox bullpen. Making his second appearance in the series. The righty did not need to do much, as he retired the only two batters he faced on 12 pitches, one of those including a strikeout. Slowly but surely, Smith has been looking better and better for the Red Sox. Since the calendar turned from April to May, the native of Texas has tossed six scoreless innings with no walks and eight strikeouts. His ERA has steadily decreased over the past few weeks, and it now stands at 3.38, the lowest its been since Opening Day.

After the conclusion of the sixth inning, the next three pitchers that came out of the Red Sox bullpen were nearly perfect. In three combined innings of work, Hector Velazquez, Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel held the Blue Jays to zero runs on just two hits while striking out five. For Velazquez, today marked his first appearance in a game since the third for May. And for Kimbrel, today’s 1-2-3 ninth marked his 11th save of the season, that’s good for second in the American League.

On the other side of things, it took a little bit for the Red Sox lineup to get going against Jays starter Marco Estrada. For Estrada, he has not had a fun time facing the Red Sox as of late, and that sort of proved true on Saturday. After Christian Vazquez led the top of the third off with a fly out to left, three straight hits from the top of the lineup put three runs on the board.

A Mookie Betts double, followed by another double from Andrew Benintendi, plated the first run of the day for the Red Sox. Then Hanley Ramirez followed that up with a hit of his own, except his hit went out of the park.

That 89 MPH fastball from Estrada was sent 376 feet to left by the Red Sox first baseman for his sixth big fly of the season. Over the past four games, Ramirez has accounted for half of his season total with three homers in just 18 at bats.

Fast forward to the sixth, a one out double off the bat of Xander Bogaerts set up an ideal situation for Rafael Devers. After striking out in his first two at bats, Devers saw something he liked on the first pitch from Estrada and ripped a single to center field, allowing Bogaerts to score easily from second base. For Devers, it was his 24th RBI of the season.

Later on in the ninth, the Betts-Benintendi connection hooked up once again, as Benintendi pretty much put this one away with an RBI single that scored Betts from second after he had doubled in the prior at bat.

Some notes from this game:

In 11 games played this month, Mookie Betts has recorded more than one hit in five of them after his three hit performance on Friday.

Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez may both be heating up at the same time, as Benintendi currently has a five game hitting streak going on, while Ramirez has recorded a hit in six of the last seven games he has appeared in.

Speaking of hitting streaks, JD Martinez’s 12 game streak unfortunately came to end this afternoon, as he was held hitless for the first time since April 28th.

A three-day mental break clearly did Jackie Bradley Jr. no favors, as he was held hitless in four at bats today in his first start in center since May 8th. He is now 2 for his last 27.

On a more positive note, the Red Sox have the chance to end their long road trip with a series win tomorrow afternoon. Drew Pomeranz is on the mound for the visiting side, while it will be righty Joe Biagini getting the start for Toronto. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 PM ET, should be a good way to spend Mothers Day.

RECAP: Chris Sale Has Career Night, but #RedSox Still Find a Way to Lose to Blue Jays in Extras.

Flashback to April 24th, and you’ll find that the Red Sox were walked off in Toronto in extras in the first game of that series. Why do I bring that up? Well, the same thing essentially happened last night. That’s right, the Red Sox opened up a three game series north of the border on Friday night, and once again, they were walked off by the Blue Jays in extra innings. This one took an inning longer than the first one though, and it did not involve Craig Kimbrel and Curtis Granderson.

How we got there: Chris Sale made his eighth start of the season last night, and as he usually does at the Rogers Centre, pitched a gem. The lefty tossed nine full innings, scattered three runs on six hits, walked none, and tied his career high in strikeouts with 15 on the night. It did not appear as if things were going to go Sale’s way in the beginning of this game, as he gave up the first of those three runs before recording a single out in the first inning. The Red Sox ace was getting hit fairly hard, and after the Blue Jays tacked on another run in the second, pitching coach Dana Levangie went out and had a lengthy conversation with both Sale and Sandy Leon. They must have come to the conclusion that the Blue Jays were stealing signs, because they went with multiple signs for the rest of the night, and Sale looked like a different pitcher.

At one point, the Florida native retired 15 straight Blue Jays before surrendering the game-tying home run to catcher Luke Maile in the seventh inning. Following that blip, Sale pitched two more scoreless innings. In the ninth, it looked like the Blue Jays were about to get the go-ahead run to third on a hard hit ball by Kevin Pillar, but a great throw from Andrew Benintendi to Brock Holt and an almost perfect relay from Holt to Eduardo Nunez got Pillar out at third for the second out of the inning.

After getting the next batter, Kendrys Morales, to ground out to end the frame and send this one to extra innings, Sale’s night would come to an end. Although he tossed nine innings, the 29-year-old did not factor in the decision. He finished the night with a season high 116 pitches, 85 of which went for strikes.

In extras, the Red Sox bullpen was not at their best. Matt Barnes kicked the bottom half of the 10th off by walking the first two batters he faced to put runners on first and second with no outs. How he got out of it I don’t know but he got Josh Donaldson to strike out in a huge spot with two outs in the inning to send things to the eleventh.

An inning later, Carson Smith had the best performance of any Red Sox reliever, as he recorded the first two outs of the inning before giving up a single to Kevin Pillar. That hit would not come back to bite the Texas native though, since he struck out the very next batter he faced on six pitches.

Another inning later, and this game came to an end quickly with Brian Johnson on the mound for the Red Sox. The lefty walked the first batter he saw on four straight balls. Not ideal. The very next pitch he threw was taken 418 feet to right center field by Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile.

As they say in Toronto, the Maile man always delivers, and he sent the Blue Jays home with a series opening win last night. To put it simply, Chris Sale deserved better. Not just from the bullpen, but from the lineup too.

For Brian Johnson, I can’t imagine Friday night’s performance helps his chances of staying up with the Red Sox. In ten games as a reliever, Johnson owns an ERA of 9.00 in 13 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .321 off of the lefty, so it’s difficult to justify keeping someone with those kind of numbers on the active roster.

Anyway, on the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup got the scoring started in the top of the first. Facing off against Blue Jays righty Aaron Sanchez, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi got on base right away in this one to put runners on first and third with no outs. After Benintendi stole second with JD Martinez at the plate, the third member of the Red Sox outfield scored Betts from third and advanced Benintendi from third on an RBI ground out.

Fast forward to the fourth, with the Red Sox trailing by one run, and Xander Bogaerts led the inning off by tying things up once again.

That 426 foot shot to center marked Bogaerts’ fourth of the season. Four batters later, with Brock Holt at first, Sandy Leon drove in a run in one of the most bizarre fashions you’ll see.

Technically ruled a strikeout, Leon was unfortunately not credited with an RBI on that play. What’s even funnier about it is that it was the last run the Red Sox scored all night. At one point, they went more than seven innings without a single hit. I’ll give credit where credit is due when I say the Blue Jays bullpen was stellar in the seven combined innings they tossed last night. They held the Red Sox lineup to essentially nothing once Aaron Sanchez departed in the sixth.

Next up for the Red Sox is a David Price v. Marco Estrada matchup later this afternoon. After all the carpal tunnel drama this past week, it will be interesting to see how Price responds today. Alex Cora had said that if his hand starts bothering him again, they have a plan to get Price out of the game right away and go to the bullpen. First pitch of the middle game of this series is scheduled for 4:07 PM ET. Like I said, should be…interesting.

 

RECAP: JD Martinez’s Clutch Home Run Leads #RedSox to Win over Yankees in Series Finale.

Going into the series finale on Thursday night, a win for the Red Sox was almost vital. The difference between leaving New York tied for first place in the AL East and trailing by two games is huge. The good thing is, they locked down the get away day win, but it was a rocky road getting there.

Eduardo Rodriguez got the start in this one, and he was coming off a performance in Texas where he gave up three home runs. Fortunately, he put together a much better outing in the Bronx last night. In five rain-interrupted innings, the lefty surrendered zero runs on just one hit and three walks while fanning eight. Other than the fourth inning, there was really no point in the game where it looked like Rodriguez was struggling. From the first to the third, he faced 10 batters and struck out half of them. After that, things got a little shaky for the native of Venezuela in the bottom half of the fourth. A leadoff walk to Aaron Judge, a single to Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees first hit of the night, and another walk to Gary Sanchez loaded the bases with only one out in the inning. With a three run lead to protect, it was looking like the Yankees were about to stage another comeback. That still happened, but not with Rodriguez on the mound, as the 25-year-old retired the next two batters he faced to get out of the fourth unscathed.

In between the conclusion of the fourth inning and the middle of the fifth, there was a 55 minute rain delay, which ultimately ended Yankees starter CC Sabathia’s day, but not Rodriguez’s. He came back out for the fifth inning and wrapped his stellar night up by collecting two more K’s and getting Brett Gardner to ground out to short to conclude things in the fifth. It’s a shame he couldn’t go any further, but with a pitch count of 95 (53 strikes) and that previously mentioned weather delay, I can understand why Alex Cora went with a fresh arm for the sixth.

That fresh arm just so happened to be Matt Barnes, coming off one of his worst outings of the season on Wednesday night. Those struggles would not continue though, as the righty tossed a scoreless frame despite walking the first batter he saw. Next up out of the ‘pen was Heath Hembree for the seventh inning, and that’s where things started to momentarily fall apart for the Red Sox once again.

After getting Tyler Austin to fly out to right to begin the inning, Hembree surrendered two hits and a walk to the next three batters he faced. That loaded the bases up with just one out, and that was all the action Hembree saw. In the month of May, the righty out of South Carolina owns an ERA north of 11 in four innings of work. Not great.

Having already dealt with a bases loaded jam in this series, Joe Kelly was next out of the bullpen. Things did not get off the best of starts for the Red Sox flamethrower, as he walked in a run on four pitches and gave up a one-run single in two consecutive at bats. After that, the Yankees tacked on another two runs before Kelly retired the side, thus tying the game at four runs a piece.

With the Red Sox taking the lead back on a JD Martinez home run in the top of the eighth, Alex Cora decided to stick with Kelly for another inning of work. Again, he was not at his sharpest, as he allowed the tying run to reach second base at one point, but came through in the end. Facing off against Neil Walker with runners on first and second and two outs, Kelly needed six pitches to record his second and final strikeout of the night, while stranding the tying and go-ahead runs in the process. The California native was credited with a blown save and his second win of the season thanks to his efforts.

Since Kelly protected the one run lead in the eighth inning, that paved the way for Craig Kimbrel coming in for a clean ninth. There has been plenty of tak about when it is most ideal to use the Red Sox closer, but I think it’s safe to say that he prefers working in the ninth. Compared to Wednesday night, Kimbrel looked like a different guy on the mound. He tossed a perfect frame while also recording his 24th strikeout this season. With save number 10 on the year, Kimbrel locked down the get away day win for the Red Sox, ensuring that they leave New York with a share of the division lead in the AL East.

Offensively, the Red Sox lineup was not at a disadvantage with 18-year veteran CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees. In fact, they reached base nine times off of him in only four innings. Mookie Betts set the tone right away with a leadoff double to right field to start the game. Two batters later, Hanley Ramirez got his impressive day at the plate started with an RBI ground out to short. That allowed Betts, who had moved up to third, to score easily and give the Red Sox their first run of the game.

Fast forward to the third, and Hanley Ramirez is in the thick of things once again. After two straight hits from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi to lead off the inning put runners on second and third, Ramirez notched his second of three RBIs on the night on a single to shallow right field that Gleyber Torres could do nothing with. That allowed Betts to score from third and allowed Benintendi to advance to third himself. JD Martinez wrapped up the scoring in the top of the third, as he drove in Benintendi from third on a hard hit RBI force out that could easily have been a double play if Gleyber Torres held on to the ball.

Later on in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez led things off by putting the fourth run of the game for the Red Sox on the board with his fifth big fly of the season.

That 412 foot shot to left field came just in the nick of time for the Red Sox, as the game was delayed due to rain one pitch into the next at bat.

After a 55 minute delay and a Yankees rally in the bottom of the seventh, it seemed as if the Red Sox were destined to blow another late lead. Fortunately for them, JD Martinez did not allow that to happen. With Dellin Betances on the mound for his second frame of work, the Red Sox outfielder took a 97 MPH fastball on the inside edge of the plate and launched it 350 feet into the opposite field.

A vintage JD Martinez home run, his ninth of the season, put the Red Sox on top 5-4 and they would not have to look back. His only hit of the game turned out to be the most important one. What a guy.

Some notes from this one:

After a three-hit performance last night, Mookie Betts leads all of baseball in several offensive categories. Those being Batting Average (.361), Slugging Percentage (.803), OPS (1.244), Total Bases (98), Home Runs (13), and Extra Base Hits (27). All of this and he’s batting leadoff. Incredible.

With his ninth home run of the season last night, JD Martinez has now recorded a hit in 11 straight games. Over that stretch, the Miami native is slashing an outlandish .444/.490/.778 in 49 Plate Appearances.

For the first time this season, Hanley Ramirez has homered in back-to-back games. That happening after going 19 games in between his second and third long balls of the season. So maybe he’s about to heat up.

Next up for the Red Sox is the last leg of this road trip in Toronto. Last time they were up north, the Red Sox came away with the series win. Chris Sale gets the ball in the series opener, he’ll be matched up against righty Aaron Sanchez for Toronto. David Price is also scheduled to pitch on Saturday in this three-game set. First pitch tonight is set for 7:07 PM ET. Happy Sale Day.