Andrew Benintendi Launches First Career Grand Slam as #RedSox Top Rays for First Series Win of 2019

It took nearly four weeks, but for the first time this season, the Red Sox have won a series following a narrow 6-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday night. This is also the first time this season that the team has won two consecutive road games.

Making his fourth start of the season at a place he usually finds success in for this one was Rick Porcello.

Entering the day with a lifetime 2.86 ERA at Tropicana Field, the right-hander took the first steps in turning around what has been an ugly start to his walk year, as he held Tampa Bay to just two runs on six hits, one walk, and one HBP to go along with five strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work.

That lone free pass, as well as two double plays being turned, may serve as a few important indicators that Porcello is on the road to improvement.

Working with a lead from the second inning on, one of the six hits given up by the 30-year-old hurler traveled 413 feet off the bat of Avisail Garcia in the bottom half of the second to plate the Rays’ first run of the evening on a solo home run.

Later in the fourth, a pair of triples from Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe in that order gave Tampa Bay their second run and make it a 5-2 game.

Retiring six of the next nine hitters he faced after that, Porcello’s night would come to a close following a two out single from Lowe in the sixth. With Avisail Garcia, with one home run under his best already, due up next for the Rays, Alex Cora made the switch for Heath Hembree out of the Red Sox bullpen.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (60 strikes), Porcello turned to his two-seam fastball nearly 40% of the time he was on the mound on Saturday while also topping out at 93.6 MPH with his four-seamer.

Still without a winning decision on the season despite better results, Porcello’s next start should come against the Detroit Tigers, his former club, sometime next week.

In relief of Porcello, Hembree entered with one out to get in the sixth and did just that before surrendering a leadoff triple to the speedy Kevin Kiermaier in the seventh.

After recording the first out of the inning, Hembree made way for the recently called up Bobby Poyner, who walked the first man he faced in Rays pinch-hitter Guillermo Heredia and gave up a two-run triple to the next hitter he faced in Austin Meadows.

That cut Boston’s lead down to one run and in came Marcus Walden.

Recently called up himself, Walden had himself another impressive showing, fanning the only two Rays hitters he faced to send this contest to the eighth with his team still in the lead.

In that eighth inning, Matt Barnes, working two days in a row, allowed Tampa Bay to come all the way back from an initial five run deficit by serving up a leadoff, then game-tying homer to Yandy Diaz.

Presumably upset at himself, Barnes retired the next three hitters faced all via the punch out.

Thanks to a mini rally from the Red Sox bats in their half of the ninth, Ryan Brasier had the opportunity to come on for the save with a one run lead to protect and Christian Vazquez now behind the dish after Sandy Leon was pinch hit for.

Like Barnes, Brasier was also in his second straight game, and it showed, as he allowed the go-ahead run to reach base on a leadoff single from Robertson and a two out knock from Tommy Pham.

With Willy Adames at the plate for Tampa Bay with the chance to be a hero, Christian Vazquez made the play of the game, picking off Pham with a rocket of a throw to Steve Pearce covering first. And that’s how this 6-5 win came to a close.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against ex-Astros right-hander Charlie Morton for Tampa Bay, who had only made four career starts against Boston prior to Saturday.

Able to get the scoring started right away in the second, a JD Martinez leadoff single and a pair of walks drawn by Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. filled the bases for the Red Sox with just one out in the inning.

Following a mound visit and a Tzu-Wei Lin strikeout, Sandy Leon, in his second game back with the big league club, was able to drive in the Red Sox’ first run of the night by taking a 86 MPH cutter from Morton off his foot. That made it a 1-0 game and reloaded the bases for the top of the order.

Capitalizing on that miscue from Morton right away, Andrew Benintendi swung at the very first pitch he saw in his second at bat against the Rays hurler and wound up blasting his first career grand slam to unload the bases.

That put the Red Sox up 5-0 early on, but they were kept quiet over the next few hours, unable to score again until the ninth.

Going into that final frame having given away that aforementioned five-run advantage, Jackie Bradley Jr. of all people would begin things by ripping a leadoff single to right field off Rays reliever Jose Alvarado and representing the go-ahead run.

After another Tzu-Wei Lin punch out, the nine spot was due up next for the Red Sox, and instead of Sandy Leon, in came top prospect Michael Chavis to make his major league debut in a decently crucial spot against the left-handed Alvarado.

Called up by the Red Sox on Friday, Chavis took advantage of the unfamiliar matchup and laced a 1-2 double over the head of Kevin Kiermaier in center field, advancing Bradley Jr. to third in the process of picking up the first hit of his young career.

According to Statcast, that two-bagger from Chavis had an exit velocity of 109 MPH and traveled a distance of 401 feet. Not bad for your first AB in the bigs.

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With the lineup turning over and the go-ahead run now just 90 feet away, Benintendi came through with another huge plate appearance, this time driving in Bradley Jr. on a sacrifice fly to left to collect his fifth and final RBI of the night. That put the Red Sox up 6-5, which would go on to be the final score in this one.

Some notes from this win:

Mitch Moreland, who started at first, departed from this game in the third inning due to back spasms. According to Moreland himself though, he should be able to play Sunday.

From @SoxNotes, regarding JD Martinez’s 10-game hitting streak:

From the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, regarding Chavis’ ninth inning double:

From the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, quoting Alex Cora talking about Chavis:

Already with their first series win of 2019 in hand, the Red Sox will for the sweep over the Rays on Easter Sunday.

Left-hander David Price will get the start against his former club, while former Pirates hurler Tyler Glasnow is slated to take the mound on the opposite side.

Michael Chavis is also due to make his first career big league start in this series finale, although it is not clear where he will be playing.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 2:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox going for the sweep.

 

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#RedSox Recall Top Prospect Michael Chavis, Place Eduardo Nunez on Injured List in Slew of Roster Moves

In a slew of roster moves made on Friday, the Red Sox have recalled top prospect Michael Chavis as well as utility man Tzu-Wei Lin from Triple-A Pawtucket. To make room on the 25-man roster. infielder Eduardo Nunez was placed on the 10-day injured list with a “mid-back strain” and veteran right-hander Erasmo Ramirez was designated for assignment. The club made the transactions official earlier Friday.

After placing Dustin Pedroia on the 10-day injured list and recalling reliever Marcus Walden from Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, the call to promote Lin and designate Ramirez was essentially a given since the Red Sox did not want to carry 14 pitchers on their active roster.

What surprised me, at least, was the call to promote Chavis, the club’s top prospect according to MLB.com.

Of course, his calling up is due to the fact that Eduardo Nunez was also placed on the injured list, which means that, at the time this is being written, Nunez, Pedroia, and Brock Holt are all currently on the shelf. I can’t imagine that is what this team envisioned heading into the 2019 season.

Chavis, 23, was selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Ga.

In early 2018, he was handed down an 80-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Spending time over at second base this season, Chavis has slashed .250/.354/.600 with four home runs and six RBI over 12 games with the PawSox.

With the current lack of infielders on the Red Sox’  roster, the former Clemson committ should get the opportunity to perhaps provide his team with the spark they so desperately need ahead of his big league debut.

Lin, meanwhile, spent just 10 days with Pawtucket after being optioned down by Boston to make room for Pedroia on April 9th.

In seven minor league contests this season, Lin has posted a .748 OPS to go along with no home runs and three RBI over a span of 28 at-bats. He has also collected a total of five hits in his last two games for the PawSox.

The 25-year-old will likely spend most of his time at second in the absences of Holt, Nunez, and Pedroia.

#RedSox Option Top Prospect Michael Chavis to Triple-A Pawtucket Among Other Roster Moves

In their first round of spring roster cuts, the Red Sox announced the following roster moves Tuesday morning:

Among the notable transactions would be top prospect Michael Chavis being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Chavis, 23, had a hot start to the spring with three home runs in his first four games, but has since cooled off a bit, slashing just .167/.167/.417 with one homer over his last 12 at-bats.

Right-hander Travis Lakins, Right-hander Chandler Shepherd, and left-hander Josh Taylor have also been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, while right-hander Denyi Reyes was optioned to Double-A Portland.

Lakins, ranked as Boston’s 15th-best prospect, posted a 2.57 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in five relief appearances and seven innings pitched this spring.

Taylor, who was the player to be named later in the Deven Marrero trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, allowed four runs in seven innings of work across four appearances. He also recorded seven strikeouts.

The Red Sox also announced that Rusney Castillo, Josh Ockimey, Austin Rei, Tony Renda, Mike Shawaryn, and Carson Smith, all of whom were non-roster invitees, have been reassigned to minor league camp.

Castillo, 31, has two years and $24.5 million remaining on the seven-year, $72.5 million deal he signed as an international free agent back in 2014.

If I were to guess, I would say that all three of Lakins, Taylor, and even Shawaryn will contribute out of the Red Sox bullpen in 2019.

Speaking of the Red Sox bullpen, top pitching prospect Darwinzon Hernandez survived the first round of roster cuts, which may indeed speak to the amount of faith the club has in him at the moment.

The 22-year-old left-hander has yet to surrender a run while fanning 10 in seven innings pitched over three outings so far this spring.

 

Top Prospect Michael Chavis Blasts Fourth Spring Home Run as #RedSox Top Twins

The Red Sox improved to 4-5 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a 9-7 win over the split-squad Minnesota Twins. They are now up two games to one in the race for the 2019 Chairman’s Cup.

Top pitching prospect Darwinzon Hernandez made the start for Boston in this one, marking his first of the spring.

The left-hander impressed on Sunday, holding Minnesota scoreless on one hit and a pair of walks to go along with three strikeouts over two innings of work.

Despite loading the bases and getting out of the jam in the second, only one ball off of Hernandez was hit out of the infield in this one. The 22-year-old hurler was consistently reaching the high 90’s with his fastball, as well as mixing in some nasty breaking stuff as well.

So far this spring, Hernandez has yet to yield a run in three total appearances and six innings of work.

In relief of Hernandez, Tyler Thornburg, Erasmo Ramirez, Marcus Walden, Jordan Weems, and Dan Runzler combined to surrender seven runs on 11 hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts over the final seven frames on Sunday.

Thornburg, who is vying for a late-inning role in the Red Sox bullpen, allowed hits to two of the first three hitters he faced, which resulted in the Twins scoring their first run of the afternoon.

Still, the right-hander rallied and retired the last two hitters he faced, including a strikeout of Tyler Austin to escape the inning.

Walden, who surprisingly made Boston’s Opening Day roster last season, put together the best performance of any Red Sox reliever on Sunday, as the right-hander scattered two hits and three punch outs over two scoreless innings of work. He earned his second winning decision of the spring as a result of the solid performance.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup featured eight presumable 2019 regulars, including Mitch Moreland, who started as the DH, for the first time this spring.

It was actually Moreland who got the scoring started for Boston with a third inning RBI single off of Twins starter Stephen Gonsalves that plated Mookie Betts from second.

Fast forward to the fifth, and top prospect Michael Chavis picked up where he left off by mashing his fourth long ball of the spring.

That homer pulled the Red Sox to within one run of the Twins at the time it was hit.

Just an inning later though, Boston’s bats erupted for a SEVEN run bottom half of the sixth, as a Chad De Le Guerra RBI single, a Tony Renda solo home run, and a CJ Chatham bases-clearing RBI double saw the Red Sox jump out to a 9-3 advantage.

In total, the Red Sox sent 12 hitters to the plate in their half of the sixth, with Chatham igniting the rally on a leadoff single and capping things off with a game-sealing three RBI double.

The Twins would attempt to fight their way back by scoring four unanswered runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but would ultimately fall short as 9-7 is your final score in this one.

Some notes from this win:

Through his first 17 at bats of 2019, Michael Chavis is slashing .353/.421/1.059 with four home runs and 10 RBI.

Mookie Betts went 2/2 on Sunday with a pair of hard-hit opposite field doubles in the first and third innings.

Next up for the Red Sox, they travel to Port St. Lucie on Monday to take on a split-squad New York Mets club.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will make the start for Boston while New York has yet to announce a starter.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET. MLB Network will have the game.

 

Jackie Bradley Jr. Homers Again and Other Notes from Wednesday’s #RedSox Split-Squad Action

The Red Sox partook in some split-squad action Wednesday, hosting the Baltimore Orioles at JetBlue Park and making the trek to Port Charlotte to face the Tampa Bay Rays.

In Fort Myers, reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts made his 2019 spring debut, starting in right field and batting in the two-hole behind Jackie Bradley Jr.

Speaking of Bradley Jr., the outfielder stayed hot on Wednesday as he led things off against Orioles starter Gabriel Ynoa with his second home run of the spring, a line drive to dead center.

Bradley Jr. also collected a single in the fourth inning, a hit he said, “that’s a ball I would roll over. And I was able to hit the path correctly and I was able to get it over the infielder’s head.” It looks like that modified swing is already paying off for the 2018 Gold Glove winner.

Betts, meanwhile, failed to collect a hit a hit in three at bats, striking out once. Remember, in 2018, the Tennessee native started his spring by going 0-for-his-first-16. Nothing to worry about there.

Top prospect Michael Chavis was also in Wednesday’s lineup against Baltimore, and he picked up right where he left off from this past weekend by mashing another three-run home run in the bottom half of the fourth off of Bo Schultz, his third in the last five days.

Chavis, 23, is slashing .444/.500/1.944 with three homers and nine RBI so far this spring.

Tzu-Wei Lin and Oscar Hernandez also collected RBI in the ninth inning of this one in a 7-6 loss for Boston.

Pitching wise, Eduardo Rodriguez made his 2019 spring debut against the team he originally signed with as an international free agent in 2010.

The left-hander started things off by working the first two innings on Wednesday, surrendering a pair of earned runs on three hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts.

Tyler Thornburg also made his first relief appearance of 2019 in the fourth, surrendering two runs on two hits, one of which a two-run homer off the bat of Orioles catcher Chance Sisco.

Darwinzon Hernandez and Marcus Walden each impressed to close this thing out, putting together a combined four shutout innings and holding Baltimore to four baserunners.

Meanwhile, in Port Charlotte, Rafael Devers had himself a fine day at the plate against the Rays, finishing 3/3 with a home run and two RBI batting third in the Red Sox lineup.

Pinch-running specialist Tony Renda also went deep in this contest, taking Tampa Bay right-hander Jacob Faria yard with a solo home run of his own in the seventh inning.

Boston’s eighth-ranked prospect CJ Chatham also drove in a run on a fourth inning RBI single.

RHP Mike Shawaryn made his first official start of the spring on Wednesday. The University of Maryland product surrendered two runs on two hits, one strikeout, and one walk in the lone frame he appeared in.

Opening Day roster hopeful Travis Lakins had the best day of any Red Sox hurler in this second game of a split-squad doubleheader, as the right-hander worked two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out one as well.

The Red Sox fell to the Rays by a final score of 5-4.

Next up for Boston, they’ll welcome the Washington Nationals into JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon.

Scheduled to start for the Nationals is three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, while Hector Velazquez is set to get the ball for the Red Sox.

Should be an exciting one.

First pitch on Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET and the game will air on Boston 25 if you’re in the Boston market, and NESN if you are not.

Rest in Peace, Romell Jordan.

 

Three Home Runs Power #RedSox to 8-5 Comeback Win over Twins

The Red Sox battled their way back and improved to 2-0 in Grapefruit League play with another 8-5 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon at JetBlue Park.

Making a brief one inning start in this one was ex-Rays right-hander Ryan Weber, who signed a minor league contract with Boston in December.

Greeted right away with a leadoff home run off the bat of Twins slugger Max Kepler, the 28-year-old Weber certainly did not make a positive first impression with his new club, as he went on to surrender an additional run on two doubles and a hit by pitch.

What transpired an inning later was far from promising as well, with left-hander Dedgar Jimenez serving up a pair of home runs to Randy Cesar and Kepler again in his lone frame of work.

From there, Red Sox pitching improved immensely. Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Denyi Reyes, Mark Montgomery, and Matthew Gorst all impressed in their spring debuts, combining for six innings of one run ball.

It should be noted that Workman and Brewer both struck out the side in their respective innings of relief.

Brewer, 26, was acquired from the San Diego Padres in November and looks primed to win a spot in Boston’s bullpen to begin the season.

Reyes, meanwhile, is the 30th-ranked prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a miniscule 1.97 ERA in 27 appearances (24 starts) and 155.2 innings pitched with Greenville and Salem this past season and was a surprise add to Boston’s 40-man roster in November.

Back to Sunday’s game, 18th-ranked prospect Kutter Crawford came on to close things out in the ninth following a four-run Red Sox rally in their half of the eighth.

Listed at 6’1″ and 192 pounds, the Florida Gulf Coast product worked his way around a bases loaded jam to eventually shut the door on the Twins, thus preserving the save as well as the win.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup featured a fair amount of regulars for the first time this spring.

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, and Christian Vazquez represented the top seven of Boston’s batting order and combined for just two hits.

Bradley Jr., who has been working on a modified swing this spring, made his presence felt immediately with a rocket of a solo home run off of Twins starter Martin Perez in the first inning.

In the second, a one out double off the bat of Eduardo Nunez eventually led to Boston’s second run of the afternoon coming around to score on a Sam Travis two out RBI single.

Fast forward to the sixth with the Twins leading 5-2, and Red Sox prospect Tate Matheny, son of former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, pulled his team to within one run by mashing a monster two-run home run off of Massachusetts native Tim Collins.

Finally, in the eighth, fresh off a solid 2019 debut on Saturday, Michael Chavis impressed yet again by delivering in the clutch with a two-out go-ahead three run home run to left field off Twins reliever Pat Dean. His second three-run homer in as many days.

Following a Minnesota pitching change, Bobby Dalbec, who homered on Friday, tacked on some insurance with an RBI single that plated Jagger Rusconi from third.

That put Boston up 8-5, which would go on to be the final score in this one.

Next up for the Red Sox is the first road action of 2019, with a trip to Bradenton to face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates on deck for Monday.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Bobby Poyner, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Tzu-Wei Lin, Sam Travis, Bryce Brentz, Rusney Castillo and Gorkys Hernandez are all set to appear tomorrow while Brian Johnson will handle the starting pitching duties.

RHP Jordan Lyles will make the start for Pittsburgh.

First pitch on Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET at LECOM Park. It does not look like this game will be on NESN.

Top Prospect Michael Chavis Homers as #RedSox Open up Grapefruit League Play with 8-5 Win over Yankees

The Red Sox opened up Grapefruit League play with an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees on Saturday afternoon.

Non-roster invitee Josh Smith got the starting nod for Boston in this contest. The 31-year-old right-hander surrendered three earned runs on six hits, including a solo home run off the bat of Gleyber Torres, in less than two innings of work.

Trevor Kelley came in relief for Smith and retired the lone batter he faced to escape the top half of the second.

From there, Marcus Walden, 15th-ranked prospect Travis Lakins, and former Mariners hurler Erasmo Ramirez combined for five frames of scoreless work heading into the middle of seventh.

New York tacked on an additional pair of runs off of Kyle Hart in the eighth, but former 2015 37th round selection Adam Lau was able to record the needed out to end the inning and preserve Boston’s slim one-run lead at the time.

Brian Ellington, who the Red Sox signed to a minor league deal at the beginning of the month, worked his way around two walks in the ninth to preserve the save and the win.

On the other side of things, Tzu-Wei Lin got the scoring started for the Red Sox with a one out RBI single in the second that plated Bryce Brentz from first and cut the Yankees deficit to two.

An inning later, three straight one out hits, capped off by a Rafael Devers RBI single in his first start of the spring, saw Boston pull to within one run.

Following a Rusney Castillo strikeout and a pitching change that saw veteran right-hander Drew Hutchinson take over for starter Nestor Cortes, the Red Sox bats picked up right where they left off.

Another RBI single, this one coming off the bat of Bryce Brentz, allowed Sandy Leon to score from second and knot this contest at three runs a piece.

That stalemate did not last long though, as top Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis unloaded on a 3-2 pitch from Hutchinson and blasted an opposite field three-run shot to put the Red Sox ahead 6-3.

Chavis, 23, slashed .298/.381/.538 with nine home runs and 27 RBI in 46 games between Low A Lowell, Double A Portland, and Triple A Pawtucket. He was handed an 80-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program last April.

Fast forward to the bottom half of the eighth, and non-roster invitee Juan Centeno provided some much-needed insurance with a one out two-run single off of Yankees reliever Joe Harvey.

That saw Boston’s advantage inflate from 6-5 to 8-5, which would go on to be the final score in this Grapefruit League opener.

Next up for the Red Sox is a Sunday afternoon contest against the Minnesota Twins. It will be the club’s first chance to see new first-year Twins manager Rocco Baldelli in person.

Baldelli, 37, is a native of Woonsocket, RI. and spent the 2009 season with Boston. He had been on Kevin Cash’s staff with the Tampa Bay Rays for the last four years.

First pitch on Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.

RHP Ryan Weber is expected to start for the Red Sox.