On This Day in Red Sox History: Babe Ruth Outduels Walter Johnson in D.C.

On this day in 1917, 22-year-old left-hander Babe Ruth prepared to make his sixth start of the season against fellow future Hall of Famer Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium in the nation’s capital.

Coming into that Monday afternoon, The Babe owned a 5-0 record to go along with a 2.20 ERA and .553 OPS against over 54 innings of work through his first five outings of the year.

Johnson, meanwhile, was 2-3 with a 2.23 ERA and .525 OPS against through six outings (five starts) and 40 1/3 innings pitched at that same point in time.

Ever the match-up between two quality hurlers, Ruth and Johnson, pitching in front of only 962 people at Griffith Stadium, put on a show, exchanging scoreless frame after scoreless frame up until the top half of the eighth.

There, Ruth, batting out of the nine-hole, drove in shortstop Everett Scott on a sacrifice fly off of Johnson, much to the frustration of the Senators right-hander.

That lone tally would turn out to be all Ruth and Boston would need, as The Bambino locked things down in the bottom halves of the eighth and ninth innings to secure the 1-0 victory for his side.

His final pitching line looked like this: 9 IP, 2 H (both singles), 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. In terms of Game Score (85), it was Ruth’s second best start of the 1917 season.

The one-run win improved the Sox’ record to 11-4 on the young season, as they would go on to finish the year 90-62, good for second-place in the American League behind only the eventual World Series champion Chicago White Sox.

Flash forward nearly 19 years later after this particular contest, and Ruth and Johnson were both part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural Class of 1936. The two legends, along with 24 other Hall of Famers, were honored at the Hall’s first induction ceremony in 1939.

 

Red Sox Listed as 5-1 Favorites to Sign Stephen Strasburg This Winter

The Red Sox are 5/1 favorites to sign Washington Nationals right-hander and 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg this winter, according to BetOnline.ag.

Strasburg, 31, has until noon eastern time on Saturday to opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million of the seven-year, $175 million contract extension he inked with Washington in May 2016.

A client of Scott Boras, Strasburg will surely exercise that opt out after just putting together another impressive postseason campaign, posting a 1.98 ERA and .607 OPS against over six October outings (five starts) and 36 1/3 total innings pitched, including 8 1/3 dominating frames of two-run ball in his last time out against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the World Series.

Because of his reputation for showing up in the postseason, the San Diego native is likely to command a hefty pay day despite already being 31 years old.

With the statuses of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale up in the air headed into the offseason, it’s not out of question to believe that the Red Sox will be in need of starting pitching for next year. But it’s hard to imagine that new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. would be serious about pursuing a big money starting pitcher such as Strasburg, especially when it looks like the Red Sox want to shred some of their payroll ahead of the 2020 season.

Still, the oddsmakers have listed Boston as the third-place favorites to land the right-hander’s services, as they trail only the Nationals (5/4) and New York Yankees (3/1).

More information regarding Strasburg’s free agency will more than likely come into light beginning on Saturday afternoon, at about the same time the Nats take to the streets of the nation’s capital to celebrate their first ever World Series title.

 

As Opt-Out Decision Looms, J.D. Martinez Is Officially on the Clock

Even though there is still one game remaining in this year’s installent of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros on Wednesday night, a former Astro in J.D. Martinez is on the clock.

Yes, the 32-year-old now has until 5 PM eastern time next Monday to decide whether or not he will opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract and become a free agent.

Martinez originally inked a five-year, $110 million deal with Boston back in February 2018. A deal that included built in opt-outs after the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons.

In the two seasons he has spent with the Sox to this point, the Florida native ranks second among qualified American League hitters in home runs (79), first in RBI (235), sixth in runs scored (209), and second in slugging percentage (.593).

While introducing new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on Monday, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said that he does not know what Martinez’s decision will be and that, “We’ll find out very soon.”

A client of super agent Scott Boras, Martinez may be enticed to enter free agency once again, as at 32, he may only have one last chance to earn a sizable contract in terms of both length and dollar figures.

In the following days leading into Monday evening, the Red Sox will have exclusive negotiating rights with their two-time All-Star slugger, as well as their other free agents. Martinez could reach a decision as early as 9 AM on Thursday, per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

If Martinez were to opt out of his contract, the Sox would owe him a buyout in the form of $2.5 million. They would also more than likely extend him a qualifying offer in this scenario, which will be worth $17.8 million this offseason. That way, any club that signed Martinez would also owe Boston a compensatory draft pick, one that would fall after the fourth round of the 2020 amateur draft.

Given how Henry and chairman Tom Werner have essentially made it clear that they would like to cut down on payroll this winter, it should be interesting to see how serious the club is about bringing Martinez back if he does indeed opt out.

Tzu-Wei Lin Homers, Collects Three RBI in Seven-Run Fourth as #RedSox Cruise past Nationals

The Red Sox improved to 6-5 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday following an 8-4 win over the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach for their third consecutive victory.

Hector Velazquez got the start in this one five days after his last outing, which also came against the Nationals.

This time out, the right-hander had a bit of an easier time of things, limiting Washington to one run on four hits, no walks, and one HBP while striking out three over two-and-two-thirds innings of work.

After allowing two of the first four hitters he faced in the third to reach base and plate the Nationals’ first run of the afternoon, Velazquez’s day came to an end and in came right-hander Trevor Kelley.

Kelley retired the only hitter he faced, Victor Robles, to end Washington’s rally in the third, which ended up being good enough to notch his first winning decision of the spring.

From there, Bobby Poyner, Travis Lakins, Jenrry Mejia, Domingo Tapia, and Josh Taylor combined to surrender three runs on six hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts.

Mejia, who last pitched five days ago like Velazquez, allowed the first three hitters he faced to reach base in the seventh, which resulted in the Nationals scoring their second and third runs of the day on an Austin Vloth two RBI single.

The ex-Met finished the inning without surrendering another run with the help of a double play, but it was far from the three-strikeout performance he put together in his Red Sox debut.

Taylor, who was responsible for the ninth and final inning, wrapped things up on Tuesday by allowing another Nats run to score on an additional two hits before securing the victory for Boston by getting Chuck Taylor to line out to Cole Sturgeon.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was once again matched up against ace right-hander Max Scherzer for the Nationals.

After shutting the Boston bats out over three frames of work last Thursday, the three-time Cy Young Award winner did not have that dominating of an outing today.

Instead, Scherzer finally cracked in the fourth inning this time around, as leadoff man Tzu-Wei Lin got the scoring started for the Red Sox by launching a solo home run, his first of the spring.

That homer would turn out to be the catalyst of a seven-run inning from Boston, as Bobby Dalbec, Chad De La Guerra, and Tate Matheny went back-to-back-to-back with RBI base knocks, all while chasing Scherzer from this contest.

And the cherry on top of this offensive onslaught came from Lin as well, who drove in De La Guerra and Matheny on a two RBI single off of journeyman hurler Vidal Nuno.

Fast forward all the way to the top half of the seventh, and a Blake Swihart leadoff single would later result in Boston’s final run of the afternoon coming around to score on an RBI double off the bat of Oscar Hernandez to essentially put this contest away at 8-3.

As the final score indicates, the Nationals would score another run in their half of the ninth. So, in case you are confused, the final score of this one was 8-4.

Some notes from this win:

Through 16 at bats this spring, Tzu-Wei Lin is slashing .438/.500/.813 with one home run and five RBI.

In his first game back since leaving Red Sox camp for a few days to remember his brother, Blake Swihart went 2/4 with a pair of singles and two runs scored batting second and playing first.

Next up for the Red Sox, they head back to JetBlue Park to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

RHP Nick Kingham will make the start for Pittsburgh, while fellow right-hander will do the same for Boston.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET. Again, ESPN is the way to go.

 

Jackie Bradley Jr. Stays Hot as #RedSox Run Away with 13-5 Win over Nationals

The Red Sox improved to 3-3 in Grapefruit League play on Thursday with a 13-5 victory over the Washington Nationals at JetBlue Park.

Matched up against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer for the Nats, Hector Velazquez made his first official appearance of the spring and got the starting nod for this one.

Tossing two full innings, the right-hander surrendered three earned runs, all of which came in the top half of the second, on four hits and one strikeout. If there’s a positive to be taken out of Velazquez’s outing, it’s that he did not walk a batter.

30th-ranked prospect Denyi Reyes followed Velazquez, and he did not fare much better in the two frames he appeared in. The former international signee out of the Dominican Republic gave up a pair of runs himself on three hits and three walks heading into the middle of the fourth inning.

From there, Red Sox pitching settled down a bit, as Ryan Weber, Josh Smith, and Jenrry Mejia combined to toss four innings of scoreless baseball to close this contest out.

Most impressive out of these performances would have to go to Mejia. The former Mets reliever who was once banned from the game struck out all three hitters he faced in the ninth.

On the other side of things, as I mentioned earlier, the Red Sox lineup, headed by Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts, was matched up against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

“Mad Max,” as they fondly call him in the nation’s capital, was essentially lights out to start this one out, facing one over the minimum in three scoreless innings of work to go along with four punch outs.

It was not until the fourth inning when the Red Sox started to get going, with right-hander Erick Fedde taking over for Washington.

Four consecutive one out hits from Bradley Jr., Bogaerts, Brock Holt, and Blake Swihart initially cut Boston’s deficit from five runs to three.

Swihart, who tragically lost his brother on Wednesday, surprisingly played the day after and was rewarded with a hard-hit opposite field RBI single.

Sam Travis would come in to pinch run for Swihart following that at bat, and the backstop was greeted with a hug from Red Sox manager Alex Cora upon returning to the home dugout.

An inning later, Boston’s bats exploded for EIGHT runs in the fifth on a Bradley Jr. RBI single, a Bogaerts RBI double, a three-run home run off the bat of Brock Holt…

…a Tate Matheny RBI base knock, and finally, a Cole Sturgeon RBI three-bagger to make it a 10-5 game at that point. In total, the Red Sox sent 12 hitters to the plate in their half of the fifth.

The fun did not stop there though, as Austin Rei and Jeremy Rivera tacked on an additional three runs to give their club a 13-5 advantage. That would go on to be the final score in this one.

One note from this win:

Jackie Bradley Jr. finished the afternoon 3/3 with one double and one RBI. So far this spring, he’s slashing .750/.750/1.625 with two home runs and three RBI over eight at bats.

Next up for the Red Sox is a short trip to the CenturyLink Sports Complex to face off against the Minnesota Twins in the second game of the annual Mayor’s Cup. Boston defeated the Twins the last time these two sides played last sunday by a final score of 8-5.

Set to pitch for the Red Sox in this one is left-hander Josh Taylor. He’ll be opposed by former Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda, who has not pitched in a big league game since 2017 following Tommy John surgery that year.

First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET. This game will be aired on MLB Network, not NESN.

 

RECAP: Eduardo Rodriguez Bounces Back with Six Shutout Innings as #RedSox Complete Sweep of Nationals on Independence Day.

After dropping two out of three to the Yankees in New York to start a nine-game road trip, the Red Sox had the opportunity to improve to 4-2 on the trip yesterday thanks to two straight wins over the Washington Nationals in DC.

Making his 17th start of the season and coming off back-to-back poor outings against the Mariners and Yankees, Eduardo Rodriguez toed the rubber for his first time ever at Nationals Park.

In six quality innings pitched, the lefty failed to surrender a single run as he held the Nationals to just three hits and one walk while fanning six on the day. If it weren’t for his spot in the order due up in the top half of the seventh, I’d like to think Rodriguez could have gone even deeper, but considering that the Red Sox were threatening with runners in scoring position, I understand the decision to pinch-hit Andrew Benintendi in that spot.

Regardless, the Venezuela native only needed 84 pitches (54 strikes) to get through those six scoreless innings, and he really dazzled to pick up his 10th winning decision of the season.

Out of those 84 pitches Rodriguez went to his deadly changeup a total of 26 times, which resulted in five swinging strikes, one called strike, and seven balls in play. He also topped out at 95.7 MPH with his four-seam fastball in the fourth inning.

Building off a successful start to the new month, the 25-year-old hurler will look to carry over this new-found momentum in his next start, which should come back at Fenway Park against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

In relief of Rodriguez, the Red Sox bullpen carried on and completed the shutout with three scoreless frames of their own. Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel locked down their teams 59th win of the season, and in doing so, Kimbrel, despite allowing the tying run to come to the plate, notched his 26th save of 2018.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was limited in what they could do yesterday and that was mostly because of a solid performance out of the Nationals bullpen.

In fact, Washington’s starter for this series finale, Erick Fedde, had to leave in the second inning with what was later diagnosed as right shoulder inflammation. That really did not matter though, because the Red Sox failed to plate a run until the top half of the seventh.

Going into the frame with this thing still tied, Rafael Devers got the rally started with a leadoff double off of Nats reliever Ryan Madson. Two batters later, after Devers had moved up to third on a Eduardo Nunez single, Jackie Bradley Jr. came through with the clutch sacrifice fly to finally put the Red Sox on the board.

Two batters later, with Andrew Benintendi pinch-hitting for Eduardo Rodriguez, a wild pitch on ball four from Madson allowed Eduardo Nunez, who had advanced to third on that Bradley sac fly, to easily score and put his team up by two runs.

Fast forward to the ninth, and another Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI, this one coming on a double to score Eduardo Nunez all the way from first, pretty much put this game away from the Red Sox by putting them up 3-0.

One note from this W:

It is July 5th and the Red Sox are 30 games over .500. That is all.

With a trip to Kansas City up next on the schedule, the Red Sox will find themselves enjoying a day off on Thursday before kicking off a three-game weekend series against the lowly Royals on Friday. Chris Sale, who owns a career 3.16 ERA in 16 games at Kauffman Stadium, gets the ball for the opener. He’ll be matched up against veteran righty Jason Hammel for the Royals. First pitch of the first game on Friday is scheduled for 8:15 PM ET.

Also, happy belated Independence Day.

 

RECAP: Powered by Three Home Runs, #RedSox Cruise to 11-4 Win over Nationals.

On the night following a tight 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Monday, the Red Sox were back out there on Tuesday looking to clinch an interleague series on another hot night in the nation’s capital.

Making his second start since Steven Wright was placed on the disables list on June 26th, Brian Johnson, although effective, found himself making another short start last night. In his last time out against the Angels on Thursday, the lefty managed to toss four innings of one run ball in a game his team won. And on Tuesday, Johnson went two outs deeper than he did in his previous start.

Pitching into the fifth inning of this one, Johnson surrendered two runs, both earned, on eight hits and two walks while fanning two as well. Those two runs came in the Florida native’s last full frame in the fourth, an inning in which the Nationals reached base four times.

In a bottom half of the fifth that saw Washington reach base two times in three attempts to lead things off, Johnson’s night came to an end after he got Daniel Murphy to line out to JD Martinez for the second out of the inning.

Unable to pick up the winning decision, the 27-year-old finished with 77 pitches (52 strikes) on the night, 16 more than he threw in his last start. Out of those 77, Johnson went to his four-seam fastball 54% of the time and topped out at 91 MPH with it.

As for his next start, all signs are pointing towards Steven Wright making a return to the Red Sox rotation before the All-Star Break. Now, I don’t know if that means Wright will be ready to start a game within the next five days, but it’s something to watch for. And regardless of who’s pitching, Johnson or Wright would more than likely start against the Texas Rangers next Monday.

Anyway, in relief of Johnson, Heath Hembree was inserted into this one with one more out to get in the fifth. With runners already at first and second, Hembree proceeded to make things more difficult for himself by giving up a single to Mark Reynolds to load the bases.

Remember, at this point in the game, the Red Sox had just gone up by seven runs thanks to a six run effort in the top half of the fifth. If Hembree, were to have given up anywhere from to two to four runs here, the momentum of the game could have shifted just like that. Instead, he got Michael A. Taylor to strike out on six pitches to get out of the jam.

After striking out in his first career at bat in the top half of the sixth, the righty reliever would come back out for a second inning of work in the bottom half. With that, Nationals catcher Pedro Severino greeted Hembree by blasting a 425 foot home run to lead off the inning. Luckily, Hembree rebounded by striking out the side and ending his night on a more positive note.

From that point on, Brandon Workman picked up his first win of the season by tossing a 1-2-3 seventh. William Cuevas made his first appearance for the Red Sox since 2016 as well last night, and despite giving up a run on two hits, wrapped this win up by going the last two innings.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was powered by two three-run homers and one two-run homer, so that’s eight of the 11 runs scored right there.

Facing off against a starter who had only made one career appearance against Boston in Nationals righty Tanner Roark, Eduardo Nunez got the scoring started with his 6th home run of the season, a three-run jack in the second inning.

Three innings later, it was Brian Johnson, yes Brian Johnson, who got a six run rally started with a one out single.

Capped off by a JD Martinez 2 RBI single, a Steve Pearce RBI single, and a Xander Bogaerts three run home run, the Red Sox went into the halfway point of this one with a 9-2 lead.

Fast forward all the way to the top of the ninth, with this game already out of reach, JD Martinez decided he was not satisfied with his 2 RBI night, so he added on another two with his league-leading 26th big fly of the season.

That put the Red Sox up 11-4 and all but ensured the team their 58th win of the season heading into the final game of this interleague series.

Some notes from this W:

Not related to the Red Sox, but the Nationals managed to let Tanner Roark pitch seven innings in this game. He gave up NINE runs, so credit to him for eating some innings in a game that was lost in the fifth inning.

Back to Red Sox related stuff, Mitch Moreland had to depart from this game in the third inning due to back spasms. He should be ready to go in time for the series opener in Kansas City on Friday.

Since joining the Red Sox five days ago, Steve Pearce is 4/9 in three games with at least one at bat. He’ll be starting at first base tomorrow morning.

Going into Wednesday, JD Martinez leads all of baseball in home runs (26) and RBI (71).

Before tomorrow morning’s series finale, the Red Sox will activate Tyler Thornburg from the 10-day disabled list, meaning he will make his first appearance for Boston since he was traded from the Brewers two offseasons ago.

Looking for the series sweep, the Red Sox will be going with lefty Eduardo Rodriguez for the finale. Winless in his last two starts, Rodriguez will be matched up against Nationals rookie Erick Fedde, who owns a 6.00 ERA in five games started this season. With it being the Fourth of July and all, first pitch is scheduled for a rare morning start at 11:05 AM ET. Happy Independence Day, time to break out the brooms.