By: Andrew Tashian
Maybe having Jerry Remy back in the NESN broadcast booth is working as a good luck charm for the Red Sox. On Friday night Boston hitters plated 9 runs against Tampa Bay and Drew Pomeranz picked up his 15th win of the season. On Saturday the Sox sent ace pitcher Chris Sale to the mound to face the Rays. Over Sale’s last 5 games against Tampa he has posted a 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA striking out 56 hitters. With the bats hitting the peak of one their oh-so-common roller coaster rides this season, it may be Sale who needs them than the other way around. Although coming into the game 15-5 & posting a 2.85 ERA, Sale is just 2-3 in his last 7 starts owning an un-Sale-like ERA of 4.57.
The luck of the RemDawg was activated early and often. For the second straight game the Red Sox benefited from a first inning home run. In Friday night’s contest Mookie Betts wrapped a 3-run home run around the Pesky Pole, however, on Saturday it was The Laser Show’s turn.
That was Pedroia’s 7th dinger of the year, first since coming off the DL, and the Sox took a 2-0 lead. Boston added on an additional 1 when Mitch Moreland grounded out chasing home Mookie Betts from third base. It was the second consecutive game the AL East leaders scored 3 runs in the first frame. Pedroia finished 2-for-2 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs. He was taken out of the game, and replaced by Brock Holt, as manager John Farrell continues to manage his second baseman’s innings.
The offensive onslaught had only just begun. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Andriese, who was 2-1 against Boston in his career entering Saturday, gave up a total of 5 runs in the second frame. The first blow came when Andrew Benintendi smoked a 2-run double off the wall and chased home Bogaerts and Future HOFer Rafael Devers. Benintendi, who snapped a 4 game hitless streak on Friday with 2 hits, had three on Saturday driving in 3 runs. Mitch Moreland kept the scoring going with his own 2-run hit when he singled home Pedey and Benny. A throwing error by Rays 3B Evan Longoria led to the 5th Boston run of the inning to cross home plate as the Sox put their foot on the throat of Tampa, taking an 8-0 lead into the 3rd inning.
Boston would add a run in the 3rd inning on a Benintendi single that scored Xander Bogaerts. Bogey began the game on the bench after Farrell elected to have Eduardo “The Identity” Nunez start the game at SS. Nunez, who had Friday’s game off, started off the inning being the catalyst he normally is. Reaching base on a single he scorched to the left-field wall, Nunez rounded the first base bag hard. When the throw was cut off, Nunez scrambled back to the base sliding head first and injuring himself. He stayed in the game and proceeded to steal second, but when doing so, he dinged himself up... again.
Nunez, again, stayed in the game and eventually scored on the Pedroia blast. After beating out an infield hit in his next at-bat Nunez, again, seemed to get hurt. This time Farrell made the decision to take his SS out of the game and replace him with Bogey. Boegy responded really well, going 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored. During the telecast it was reported that Nunez had a right knee contusion & he’s listed as day-to-day. Pedroia was expected to be out of Sunday’s lineup so I’d expect to see Deven Marrero or Brock Holt at second base in the series finale.
Nine runs was more than enough for Chris Sale. Often being squeezed by home plate umpire, Sale still managed to punch out 8 Rays over 6 innings. Only allowing 6 hits and a walk, The Condor lowered his ERA to 2.76 after not allowing a run to score. The defense was really good for him, too, take a look at the video below. Sale left the game in line for his 16th win of the season which would break a 4 way tie among AL pitchers.
Carson Smith was given the 7th inning to work as he made his second appearance of the season. As it’s been well documented, Carson Smith has made the long journey back to the Major Leagues after having Tommy John surgery last season. Smith pitched a scoreless frame, striking out 1 and inducing an inning-ending double play. Heath Hembree was allowed the 8th inning & didn’t disappoint. Getting the Rays to go 1-2-3 on just 7 pitches, Hembree could use this outing as a confidence booster as he attempts to carve out a postseason roster spot.
Red Sox pitchers set a new franchise record in Saturday night’s game. With 10 strikeouts, the Boston pitching has sat down 1,363 hitters in 2017. With their offensive numbers, especially the Big Fly, down Boston has clearly built their success with pitching. Sale, Pomeranz and Kimbrel have all been flame-throwers for the club this season and Boston will need all the firepower they can get come October.
Farrell gave the ball to reliever Blaine Boyer to close the door on the Tampa Bay 9th inning. Boyer hasn’t been all that effective for the Sox this season. Dating back to August 1 Boyer’s line: 2.2 IP – 10 H – 6 R – 3 BB – 6 K – 6.75 ERA in 7 appearances. Saturday night went very smoothly for the veteran right hander. Needing just 10 pitches, Boyer shut down Tampa 1-2-3 in the 9th and securing the shutout & Boston’s 4th consecutive victory. Keeping a 4.5 game lead in the AL East & guaranteeing a series victory, the Sox earned their 81st victory of the year.
Looking ahead to Sunday afternoon's contest, 2016 Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello will be looking to keep the Double U’s coming. In order for that to happen, Pretty Ricky needs to stop being Pretty [awful] Ricky and find a way to stay away from the longball. It’s been a troubling season for him as he leads baseball in losses, hits allowed and home runs allowed. Although Porcello has had his struggles, perhaps he can use a little RemDawg luck and lead the Sox to a victory.
FINAL SCORE: RED SOX 9 -- TAMPA BAY 0
Photo Credit - Boston Red Sox