RECAP: Chris Sale Fans 13 in Seven Shutout Innings as #RedSox Take Series from Mariners.

For the second time in less than 24 hours, a left-handed pitcher tossed a shutout at Fenway Park. Mike Leake did it for the Mariners with eight scoreless innings in a win last night, and Chris Sale did it for the Red Sox with seven scoreless frames this afternoon.

In his 17th start of the season on Sunday, Sale looked as dominant as ever. Coming off a performance against the Twins in which he took a perfect game into the fifth inning last Tuesday, the lefty did not give up his first hit in this one until there were two outs in the third.

Ending his day with a line of 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB Sale never found himself in too much troubles in his ninth career start against the Mariners. After he gave up his first hit of the game to Denard Span in the third inning, the 29-year-old escaped any further stress with a nice pick-off move on Span to retire the side.

An inning later, another two out situation arose when Nelson Cruz ripped a triple off of Sale. Regardless of the fact that Cruz should have been out at third base, the Red Sox hurler rebounded by striking out Ryon Healy on four pitches to escape the jam.

In the sixth, it looked as though the Mariners were about to tack on their first two runs of the day when, after Andrew Romine reached first on a bunt single, Mitch Haniger hit a sharp line drive towards Seattle’s bullpen. Instead of  a home run though, Mookie Betts came up with the clutch inning-ending snag to rob Haniger of what would have been his 17th long ball of the season.

If not this catch, the highlight of the afternoon might just be how Sale ended his day in his final frame of work. It was more than likely the Florida native’s toughest inning, as he allowed two to reach on a single and a walk and needed 19 pitches, but it was all worth it thanks to his last pitch against Mike Zunino.

100.5 MPH(!!!) on that fastball, the fastest pitch recorded by Sale on 93 attempts, 71 of which went for strikes. Going to his four-seamer 44% of the time on Sunday, 20 of the 21 fastest recorded pitches in this game belonged to Sale.

With the Red Sox lineup actually giving the southpaw some run support today, Sale was able to notch his seventh winning decision of the season.

And thanks to two additional scoreless innings from Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes out of the bullpen, the Red Sox recorded their sixth shutout win on the year as well.

On the flip side of things, Mariners starter Marco Gonzales was the one starter the Red Sox did not see in Seattle. With a cumulative .685 OPS against lefties this season, it was going to see how the lineup would stack up the day after getting shutout by another left-handed starter.

After being held to one hit over the first four innings, Xander Bogaerts got a three-run rally started in the fifth with a leadoff double. Following that up with a single off the bat of Eduardo Nunez, Rafael Devers put his team on the board first by ripping an RBI double to the right field corner to score Bogaerts from third. Two sacrifice flies from Sandy Leon and Mookie Betts later, and the Red Sox found themselves up by three going into the sixth inning.

In the bottom half of the sixth, Mitch Moreland stayed hot and wrapped up the scoring on the afternoon by mashing his 11th home run of the season, a 415 foot two-run missile hit to dead center field.

That put the Red Sox up by five runs, which is all they would need to pick up their 52nd win of the season.

Some notes from this W:

The Red Sox improved to 2-4 in games started by Chris Sale when he records 10 or more strikeouts. Maddening stuff.

Per @RedSoxStats: Most swing and misses by a Sox starter in the pitch tracking era:
26 of 93 Chris Sale, today
26 of 114 Clay Buchholz, April, 2010
26 of 116 Chris Sale, May 2018

With that home run, Mitch Moreland extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over that stretch, the Red Sox first baseman is 12/27 with seven RBI.

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 3/3 at the plate batting ninth today, his first multi-hit game since June 5th against Detroit.

After an off day on Monday, the Red Sox will welcome the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim into town for a three-game series set to kick off Tuesday night. In a matchup of elite outfielders in Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, I’m fascinated to see how much national attention this series will receive.

For the opener, it will be another starting pitching matchup featuring two lefties. John Lamb will be making his third start of the season for the Angels, and David Price will be making his 16th start of the season against the Red Sox. First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET on Tuesday.

 

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RECAP: Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon Launch Late Inning Home Runs as #RedSox Take Care of Business Against Blue Jays.

Coming off an impressive 8-3 win on Memorial Day, the Red Sox tacked on another eight runs against the Toronto Blue Jays last night. Having now won their past four series, the 38-17 Red Sox will look to sweep the Jays this afternoon before heading off to Houston.

Going into last night with an ERA of 5.40 in May, Rick Porcello made his 12th start of the season in this one, and he closed his month out in style. The righty nearly made it through seven full innings while surrendering three runs (two earned) on five hits, two walks, and two HBPs while fanning five.

Before pitching into the seventh, the only costly mistake Porcello made came in the top of the fourth, when he served up a one out solo shot to Jays first baseman Justin Smoak. As the game progressed, it looked like that was all Toronto would get off the Red Sox starter, but things got a bit interesting in the seventh.

Already up by four runs, Porcello hit the second batter he faced in the inning, Russell Martin, to put a runner on first with one out. Martin did not take too kindly to that, as that was the second time Porcello got a Blue Jay with a pitch, but the confrontation did not elevate past a few words between the two.

The New Jersey native followed that little adventure up by allowing the next two batters he faced in Kendrys Morales and Devon Travis to reach base via a walk and a single. That loaded the bases up for Luke Maile, but he struck out swinging on five pitches. Now with Curtis Granderson at the plate, who has already done a good deal of damage against the Red Sox this season, Porcello could not get a 2-2 92 MPH fastball past the veteran outfielder, and he drove in two runs on a single to right field.

With his pitch count at 96 (66 strikes), Porcello’s night would come to an end. I’m sure it did not end the way he wanted it to, but after the rough month he had, this outing is certainly encouraging headed into June.

Joe Kelly got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he would be tasked with getting the final out of the inning with runners on second and third. Thankfully, Kelly retired the only batter he faced in the seventh, Kevin Pillar, on a three pitch strikeout. The Red Sox flamethrower would come back out for a second frame of work in the eighth, and despite hitting a batter, got out of the inning unscathed.

Entering the ninth with a five run lead to work with, Hector Velazquez was able to get some work in, but he loaded the bases before recording an out. In a bit of a jam, Alex Cora had to turn to Craig Kimbrel when it didn’t look like he was going to be needed a half inning prior.

Facing the top of the Blue Jays order, Kimbrel struck out the first batter he saw in Kevin Pillar on seven pitches. Down to their last out, Kimbrel got Yangervis Solarte to ground out to third, and Rafael Devers made the throw to Dustin Pedroia for the force out at second. Ballgame over.

On the other side of things, Mitch Moreland got the scoring started for the Red Sox right away in the first inning. He drove in Xander Bogaerts on a hard hit double, then JD Martinez drove in Moreland from second on a double of his own.

Speaking of doubles, Sandy Leon had two of them last night. The first one came with one out in the second inning, and he came across to score two batters later when Andrew Benintendi picked up his 38th RBI of the season on another two-bagger off of Jays starter Marco Estrada.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the bottom of the Red Sox lineup came through again. A single and stolen base from Brock Holt put a runner in scoring position with two outs for Jackie Bradley Jr. On the first pitch he saw from Estrada, Bradley ripped a single to left field, and that allowed Holt to easily score from second.

In the sixth, with new pitcher Joe Biagini on the mound for Toronto, back to back singles from Rafael Devers and Dustin Pedroia, his first hit of the season, put runners on first and third with no outs. After Brock Holt struck out looking, Sandy Leon added on to his big day at the plate by grounding a RBI double past both the pitcher and the second baseman.

An inning later, Xander Bogaerts led things off by mashing his eighth home run of the season. He had 10 all of last year.

Finally, in the eighth, Sandy Leon capped off his incredible night with a two-run missile to the Red Sox bullpen to put this game out of reach.

Having won four of their past five games, Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball this afternoon in the series finale against the Blue Jays. He will be matched up against righty Sam Gaviglio. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET. Mookie Betts should be back in the lineup on Thursday.

RECAP: Chris Sale K’s 12 as #RedSox Pick up Series Win Against Rangers.

Going into the series finale in Texas today, I was very much looking forward to the pitching matchup in this one. On one side, we had Chris Sale going for the Red Sox, and on the other, Doug Fister got the start for the Rangers. Both were teammates in Boston for the majority of last season and both work at a diligent and refreshing pace.

Between the two, it was Sale who had the better day on the mound, as the lefty tossed seven full innings of one run ball. Over that span, Sale scattered one run on four hits to go along with one walk, two HBP’s and a season-high 12 strikeouts. The Florida native set the tone right away with three strikeouts in the first to kick off his eighth start of 2018. After that, the only costly mistake Sale made came in his final frame of work, when he surrendered a leadoff home run to Ryan Rua in the seventh. Other than that, it was a phenomenal day for Sale. He had his full arsenal working, including his slider, which he was having issues with earlier in the season. At 3-1, it’s a shame Sale will miss the upcoming series in New York. Expect his next start to come Friday or Saturday in Toronto.

In relief of Sale, and with a five run lead to work with, the Red Sox bullpen was nearly perfect yet again. Matt Barnes got the call for the eighth inning, he needed just nine pitches to retire the Rangers side in order. Next up was Carson Smith, and he would be responsible for the last three innings of this one. He allowed a single with one out, but struck out the next two batters he faced to wrap things up for the Red Sox in Arlington.

On the other side of things, Mitch Moreland got the scoring started for the Red Sox early. A Mookie Betts leadoff single in the first would later lead to a run when Moreland took a 82 MPH changeup from Rangers starter Doug Fister and ripped it into the left field corner. That would score Betts from second, but the Red Sox outfielder would have to leave the game an inning later due to a right shoulder contusion.

Two innings later, after JD Martinez doubled to left field with one out, Xander Bogaerts drove in the second run of the day by sending another ground ball to left field that scored Martinez from second. Fister would settle down a little bit after that, but the bottom half of the Red Sox lineup got to the veteran righty in the sixth.

With two outs in the inning, Eduardo Nunez got the rally started on a simple single to left field. After Jackie Bradley Jr. took a 89 MPH fastball off his elbow to put runners on first and second, Sandy Leon came through with the first home run from a Red Sox catcher this season.

That 398 foot, three-run shot put the Red Sox up 5-0. JD Martinez would homer for the eighth time this season an inning later to put his team up by six runs, and that’s all the scoring they would need to pick up this series-clinching win.

Some notes from this one:

With 12 K’s on the day, Chris Sale is now fourth in baseball with 63 strikeouts on the season, trailing only Max Scherzer, Gerritt Cole, and Justin Verlander.

In 32 games played this season, JD Martinez has recorded multiple hits in 15 of them. He is in the midst of  a nine-game hitting streak after a two hit performance at the plate today.

Going into their first series of the season at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox and Yankees will own the best two records in the American League. With a one-game lead in the division, this series isn’t pivotal for the Red Sox and their season, but it does carry some importance. Drew Pomeranz will be first up on Tuesday, and he’ll be matched up against Yankees ace Luis Severino, who is coming off his first career complete game shutout. First pitch of the first game is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET on Tuesday. Should be a fun week.

RECAP: Sandy Leon Drives in Go-Ahead Run in Eighth Inning as #RedSox Salvage Series Against Rays.

After dropping the first two games of this weekend series against the scorching Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox looked like a competent baseball team this afternoon.

Rick Porcello got the start for the Red Sox in this one, and he was looking for his fifth winning decision before we flip the calendars to May. That didn’t happen unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean Porcello had a bad day, because he looked like he has all season so far, that being one of the best pitchers in the American League. The lone righty in the Red Sox rotation tossed 7.2 quality innings and really only made two mistakes. The first being a two-run home run, the first Porcello has given up this season, off the bat of Denard Span in the third, and the second being an RBI single off the bat of Mallex Smith an inning later. Other than that, nothing much to complain about. In those 7.2 innings pitched, the New Jersey native scattered seven hits, including those two previously mentioned, struck out six, and did not allow a single walk. In six starts Porcello has made this season, he has given up three earned runs or less and pitched 5+ innings in all of them.

Finishing with a season high 116 pitches, 82 of which went for strikes, I was a bit surprised to see Alex Cora stick with Porcello for as long as he did, but it worked out. He could have pitched eight full innings if he didn’t give up a two-out single to CJ Cron. With the game tied at the time, that hit put the go-ahead run on base and Cora made the switch to his closer.

In a rare eighth inning appearance, Craig Kimbrel gave up a double that should have been an out to the first batter he saw. With runners on first and third, the Red Sox closer came back and struck Brad Miller out on three pitches to end the inning. After the Red Sox tacked on the go-ahead run in their half of the eighth, Kimbrel would come back out for the save in the ninth. He led the inning off by allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base and the third to move those runners to second and third on a sacrifice bunt, but bounced back nicely. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Kimbrel struck out Jesus Sucre and Carlos Gomez back to back on seven pitches to end the game and pick up his first win of the season.

Offensively, the Red Sox lineup was held in check for the first five innings of this game. It wasn’t until Andrew Kittredge took the mound for the Rays and Eduardo Nunez led the sixth inning off with an infield single when the scoring finally commenced. After that infield single, Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez both reached base to load things up for JD Martinez. On a 2-1 87 MPH slider from Kittredge, Martinez sneaked a ground ball just past Adeiny Hechavarria and put the Red Sox on the board for two.

That was followed up by a four pitch walk to Mitch Moreland which loaded the bases once again for Rafael Devers. Devers struck out, but Jackie Bradley Jr. drove Hanley Ramirez in from third on a sacrifice fly one batter later. Sandy Leon would reload the bases for the third time in the inning after taking a pitch from Sergio Romo off his foot, but Tzu-Wei Lin would fly out to end the inning. Game tied at three.

A 1-2-3 seventh inning from the top of the lineup made way for JD Martinez to lead off things for the Red Sox in the eighth against Rays closer Alex Colome. To cap off his great day at the plate, Martinez ripped a single to right field for his fourth hit of the game. After Mitch Moreland and Rafael Devers recorded outs, Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a five pitch walk to move Martinez into scoring position. That led to Sandy Leon stepping up to the plate in what would be the biggest at bat of the day. In a surprising move, Leon was not pinch hit for. Instead, he drove Martinez in from third on a line drive single to left field.

Leon’s first RBI since April 12th put the Red Sox up by one and essentially gave them their 20th win of the season. It certainly wasn’t easy, but taking the series finale is certainly better than getting swept. The 4-3 win also ends the winning streak the Rays had going on at eight games.

Some notes from this one:

Mookie Betts was held out of the lineup today after straining his right hamstring on Saturday.

With his four-hit and two RBI performance today, JD Martinez now ranks ninth in the AL in hits (32), fifth in RBIs (22), and 10th in OPS (.941). Not too shabby for someone who just wrapped his first full month with a new team.

The Red Sox have won their last 25 games with Rick Porcello on the mound when they give him at least three runs of support. (@SoxNotes)

Next up for the Red Sox is a three-game set against the lowly Kansas City Royals. At 7-20 on the year, the Royals are the worst team in the American League in terms of team ERA and runs scored. With that in mind, a sweep before heading back on the road would be nice. That’s all I”m going to say.

Eduardo Rodriguez gets the nod for the series opener tomorrow. He’ll be facing off against Jason Hammel, who owns a career 4.25 ERA in 55 innings pitched against the Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM.

Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart Combined to Hit Three Home Runs for the #RedSox Today.

On a day the Red Sox were not on television, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart put on a bit of a show at the plate. The first three catchers on the depth chart were all in the same starting lineup today, with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, Swihart at first, and Leon at DH. Combined, they went 5 for 10 at the plate, but I just want to focus on Swihart and Leon. Last week, I wrote about who should backup Christian Vazquez this season, because it is presumed that he will be the starter. Both Swihart and Leon are out of minor league options, so one of them is most likely gone if they both do not make the Opening Day roster. Today’s game against the Blue Jays was a prime example of the competition that may be going on between them. There doesn’t seem to be any video available, but Leon hit his two home runs in the second and fourth innings while Swihart hit his in the fifth.

Throughout this spring, Swihart has gotten a significant amount of at bats compared to what Leon has gotten. 35 for Swihart and only 12 for Leon. I’m not looking into that though, because I have a hunch Leon will make the roster no matter what. I mean, he is essentially the personal catcher for the best pitcher on the staff, that’s all the reason you need to keep him. The only thing that counters this thought is how much the Red Sox seem to value Swihart. His trade value is probably at its highest right now, but I have not heard anything about a potential trade. Keeping both Swihart and Leon on the 25-man roster seems like a stretch, but I’m not in that clubhouse or front office, so I don’t know what to make of it.

Should Blake Swihart Make This #RedSox Team over Sandy Leon?

Opening Day may be 23 days away, but it’s never too early to look at rosters and see how they may shape out as the regular season draws near. Right now, it appears the Red Sox may have more position players than spots available on the 25-man roster. If you look at what the Opening Day roster would look like now, then you would have Hanley Ramirez, Eduardo Nunez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and JD Martinez playing everyday. At catcher, Christian Vazquez has earned the starter role after the season he put up in 2017. It’s after him where things get interesting. Both Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon are coming off of seasons I’m sure they would like to forget. Leon, who put up career high numbers in 2016, saw a significant drop in those numbers last year. And Swihart, who at one time was one of the most recognized catching prospects in baseball, only appeared in six games for the big league club in 2017, while hitting a measly .190 in 53 games with the Pawtucket Red Sox.

I can’t say I know this for certain, but I would assume that the Red Sox front office thinks more highly of Blake Swihart then they do of Sandy Leon. Swihart has been with the team since 2011 when he was drafted in the first round of the amateur draft. Like I said, he was a highly touted prospect at one time and has proved that when healthy, he can hit major league pitching. Leon, on the other hand, has been with the Red Sox since 2015 and has really never been put under immense pressure to excel at his position. He was a surprise for sure in 2016, but I honestly can’t see him putting up those kind of numbers again anytime soon. The bottom line is, both Swihart and Leon are out of minor league options, so it would make sense to retain one over the other. In my opinion, that would be Swihart. Without using the great spring training he is having because that means almost nothing, Swihart is still three years younger, plays another position, and is under team control for two years more than Leon is.

This may come off as a hot take, but I think it’s safe to say Swihart brings more to the table than Leon does. There’s a reason he was once a highly regarded prospect, I think he deserves the chance to back up Christian Vazquez while also taking on a utility role if the Red Sox FO wants to get more at bats out of him.