For the first time in over two weeks, the Red Sox were able to defeat a team in embarrassing fashion. Watching this game was giving me flashbacks to the month of May when the Red Sox were hitting over .300 and putting up 10 runs per game. Every time they picked up a bat it just felt like they were going to hit the ball on the screws. I was skeptical coming into a game without David Ortiz or Andrew Benintendi in the lineup, but this offense proved everyone up and down the lineup is capable of producing.
The opening salvo was fired in the top of the 2nd inning when Sandy Leon got his first of 4 RBI’s with a sacrifice fly to left to make a 1-0 lead. Over the next 6 innings this was followed up by home runs from Mookie Betts, Sandy Leon (what else is new), and Travis Shaw. This made it 5-0 in the top of the 8th and after RBI singles by Sandy Leon, Mookie Betts, and a fielder's choice by Brock Holt the lead grew to 9-0. This 9 run outburst was backed by a complete game shutout from All Star knuckleballer Steven Wright, who was able to return to form after a rough month of July. Here’s what Red Sox fans can take away from this 9 run outburst:
Steven Wright is back to being the Steven Wright that we’ve come to know and love. After a dreadful month of July in which his ERA jumped from 2.42 to 3.20, he went out and pitched his first career complete game shutout in his first start in August. Following the 11 inning game Thursday night, the Red Sox bullpen received the night off as Wright went the distance pitching a shutout and tying him for the MLB lead for complete games with 4. Knuckleballers can be very inconsistent due to the unpredictability of the pitch and the lack secondary stuff from those who throw it. When Steven Wright’s knuckleball is moving and he is able to throw it for strikes, he has been one of the best pitchers in the MLB. On the other hand when Wright is not able to get a feel for the pitch, it make for a long night. In the eyes of a major league hitter his 86 mph fastball is, as Dennis Eckersley would say, “soft salad”. Therefore, when he lacks the ability to throw the knuckleball in rainy or humid conditions, all Wright features is this “soft salad” which resulted in his horrid July. This was not a problem last night as the Dodgers hitters were only able to muster up 3 hits while striking out 9 times. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for our beloved knuckleballer. Let’s just thank God July is over.
Sandy Leon’s eternal hot streak lives on as he tacked on 4 RBI’s to make it 20 over the 35 games that he’s played since being called up. He is now batting .374 with a 1.007 OPS while bouncing between the 8 and 9 sports on the order. Just take a minute to think about it. YOUR 9 HITTER is putting up numbers that other teams dream about their clean up hitters producing. All I’ve heard this entire streak is, “When will Sandy Leon come back down to earth?”. Who says he has to? Sandy clearly has no intentions of returning to the status of the career .187 hitter that he was before being called up. So who’s to say that has hasn’t just figured something out, and can remain a .374 hitter for the rest of the season? Maybe that’s unrealistic. However, even if he can hit .290 the rest of the way and continue to drive in runs from the bottom order, that could put our already potent offense over the top.
The Sox have two more games in LA before heading home to Boston. This is a sweet feeling for the players and an even sweeter feeling for the fans. Staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning every night to watch every game is most definitely not something I’ll miss. This team is on a mission to get 2 more wins and go back to Boston. With Eduardo Rodriguez on the hill for Saturday’s game, the Sox have a good chance to get halfway there. Even if E-Rod does struggle, the Sox now have a refreshed bullpen courtesy of Steven Wright. This is the time for the Red Sox to get hot and make their climb back to the top.