Entering last night 12-1 in series finales this season, the Red Sox made sure to keep that trend going against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, the team responsible for that one loss.
Chris Sale made his tenth start of the season in this one, and he picked up his fourth win. Although I would not say the lefty was at his best last night, he did hold the A’s to just two runs in five innings pitched. In that stretch, Sale scattered two hits and four walks while striking out nine. That first hit he gave up to came against the very first batter he faced in Marcus Semien, and the second hit just so happened to be a two-run home run off the bat of Semien well, which came in Sale’s fifth and final inning of work.
Other than that blunder, the Florida native held the Athletics in check. The four walks, a season high, were a bit of a surprise, and that caused Sale’s pitch count to be higher than normal. In defense of the 29-year-old, conditions at Fenway Park were not ideal for a starting pitcher on Wednesday. Temperatures in the low 50’s, some light rain throughout the game, maybe that had an effect on the lefty, I don’t know.
Anyway, with his pitch count already at 102 (60 strikes) through five innings of work, Sale’s night would come to an end. To start out the sixth, Matt Barnes got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. He tossed a scorless frame while giving up one hit and recording two strikeouts.
Next up for the seventh inning was Heath Hembree. Unfortunately, the righty’s scoreless appearance streak came to an end at two games, as he surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced in Matt Joyce. It looked like Mookie Betts may have injured his right ankle while trying to rob the solo shot from going over the right field wall, but he was able to stay in the game until the end.
Once Hembree ended things in the seventh, Joe Kelly got the call for the eighth inning for his 19th appearance of the season. The flame throwing Kelly walked Jed Lowrie on six pitches to kick off the inning, but ended up facing the minimum as he got Matt Chapman to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to retire the side and make way for Craig Kimbrel.
With a three run lead to work with entering the top half of the ninth, the pressure was off Kimbrel, and I think he showed it in the beginning. After giving up a solo home run to Matt Olson to lead off the inning, the Red Sox closer settled down and retired the next three batters he faced on 13 pitches. Although his ERA rose a little bit, Kimbrel was good enough to notch his 12th save of the season last night, still good for second in the American League behind only Edwin Diaz of the Seattle Mariners.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup got things started against A’s starter Trevor Cahill in the first inning last night. Two straight singles from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi created an ideal RBI situation for Hanley Ramirez. With runners on first and third, Ramirez scored Betts on a ground out to first base. The very next batter, JD Martinez, put his team up by a couple more runs with his 12th long ball of the season.
That 422 foot shot was good for two, and it was the last run the Red Sox would score until the sixth.
Fast forward to that point in the game, with no outs and runners on first and second for Xander Bogaerts. Facing off against A’s righty reliever Ryan Dull, Bogaerts concluded the Red Sox scoring on the night by punishing a 82 MPH slider and sending it 411 feet over the Green Monster, putting the his team up by four at that time.
Gotta love the way he pimps his home runs when he knows they are no doubters. With that three-run bomb, the Red Sox short stop now has five on the season.
Those three runs off the bat of Bogaerts pretty much put this game away for the Red Sox, as they went on to pick up their AL East leading 29th win of the season. Despite that fact, they still trail the Yankees, who have not played in a full game since Sunday, in the standings.
Some notes from this one:
In the first game since it was reported that Blake Swihart’s agent wanted his client to be traded, Swihart did not play at all.
With a two-hit performance last night, Andrew Benintendi has extended his hitting streak to nine games now.
According to Alex Cora, Mookie Betts’ right foot got stuck under the padding on the wall in right field, but, “he’s good.” That’s certainly good news.
Next up for the Red Sox is a make-up game rescheduled from Patriots Day against the Baltimore Orioles tonight. That will be followed up by a three-game weekend series against…the Baltimore Orioles. So, I don’t think it technically counts as a four-game set, but David Price will be getting the ball in the “opener” later tonight. He will be matched up against O’s righty Kevin Gausman. Two SEC Baseball alumnus going at it, first pitch of the make-up game is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.