The Red Sox picked up their first series win of the year Thursday night, taking advantage of a sloppy Phillies team in a 6-2 victory in Citizens Bank Park.
Justin Masterson's reintroduction to Red Sox fans was strange. Not in a particularly good or bad way, just strange. From the first pitch to the last he enjoyed excellent movement. Whether it was a frisbee slider making Carlos Ruiz flinch away from an offering that ended up nowhere near him, or a sinker diving well under Cody Asche's bat, the Phillies were hard-pressed to follow Masterson' offerings.
The same could be said for Ryan Hanigan, however. Because if Masterson's pitches were moving all over the place, they weren't necessarily winding up where he wanted them to. It was a game Masterson could have pitched just as well blind, particularly through the early innings. For the most part, though, it was a successful recipe against a Phillies team that could neither hold off on the pitches that dipped out of the zone, nor pull the trigger on the ones that zipped back across the plate.
Phillies starter David Buchanan also had a strange night, though his was less successful. Eight outs into the night, he had more survived than thrived. The Red Sox had managed two baserunners in both the first and second innings, and only an incorrectly called trap in left field had kept Mookie Betts off base to start the third. Still, one way or another he found himself one David Ortiz out away from a 1-2-3 third with no runs on the board.
And David Ortiz nearly obliged. After getting ahead 1-0, Ortiz nearly fell victim to his old nemesis in the shift, hitting a ground ball to Chase Utley, parked in short right field. Utley, however, could not come up with the ball cleanly, and Ortiz beat the throw to first to keep the inning alive. Hanley Ramirez followed up with a comebacker to Buchanan, who knocked the pitch high in the air behind the mound. Trying to recover, Buchanan attempted a wild, spinning throw to first, and ended up throwing the ball away.
Either hit could have been an out easily, and whether it was because of his rough luck or the spinning throw had shaken something loose, Buchanan unraveled. Pablo Sandoval drew a walk to load the bases, and a sharp ground ball to third from Shane Victorino proved enough to bring the first run home when Cody Asche could only knock it down, throwing late to first. Ryan Hanigan drew a run-scoring walk on four pitches to make it 2-0, bringing Xander Bogaerts to the plate. And while the young shortstop didn't exactly destroy the ball, his fly ball down the line in right found the ground before Jeff Francouer could get there. With the ball bouncing away from Philadelphia's right fielder, Bogaerts headed into third with a bases-clearing triple. Bogaerts would finish the night with three hits and a walk.
Adding to Justin Masterson's strange night was his success at the plate. While Xander's triple effectively cleared the pitcher's spot in the lineup, Masterson decided to just go ahead and bring him in from third, picking up his first of two hits on the night to make it 6-0 Red Sox.
The bottom of that third inning would be the one time Masterson stumbled on the night. Like the Red Sox, Philadelphia's rally didn't exactly get off to an explosive start, with a ground ball sending Xander Bogaerts too far into the hole to get Freddy Galvis, and Obudel Herrera drawing a walk to put two on with one out. Ben Revere proved too speedy for a double play on his ground out, leaving Masterson a chance to hurt himself with a very wild pitch to bring bring Galvis in from third. It was a run that would have scored either way, though, with Carlos Ruiz walking to set up Chase Utley for an RBI single to center field.
Masterson would battle back, striking out Ryan Howard on three pitches, and after that the game fell into a steady march towards the end, with neither team doing much to threaten. The biggest trouble for the Red Sox came in the seventh, with Masterson having left after six strong in favor of Craig Breslow. A leadoff walk to Cody Asche and one-out single from Freddy Galvis gave the Phillies some life, and when Ben Revere crushed a 1-2 curveball it seemed for a moment like the Red Sox were going to have to sweat a close finish. But Shane Victorino proved up to the task, racing back and making an over-the-shoulder catch to end the danger.
The Red Sox will head into New York tomorrow with a series win in their pocket, finally able to put David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the lineup together. Goodbye, National League baseball. You won't be missed.