It was quite the return to the lineup Wednesday night for Travis Shaw. When last we saw him (excepting a lone pinch-hitting appearance), Shaw was crushing the ball against the Athletics to finish off Boston’s pair of double-digit scoring games. Yoan Moncada briefly took over at third, but has looked unready, leaving Shaw to make his return to the starting nine in triumphant fashion. Stepping up to the plate for the first time after David Price gave up a run on a pair of two-out hits in the first, Shaw got him his run back and more, ambushing a first-pitch fastball and smashing it well over the wall and into some of the slightly cheaper right field seats. With Jackie Bradley Jr. on base via a walk, it was enough to give the Sox the 2-1 lead.
They would briefly look back, as Price blinked again in the bottom of the third on some relatively weak contact and a couple of sacrifices—bunt and fly—to even the score at 2-2. But from there it was all Boston. The Sox jumped back in the lead in a big way in the fourth, but not against Jarred Cosart. In trying to corral an errant throw from Wil Myers on a Jackie Bradley Jr. ground ball, Cosart strained both his hamstring and groin, leavin the game to San Diego’s bullpen. That quickly went south. With two on, Shaw singled through the right side of the infield to bring home Jackie Bradley Jr. from second. Behind him, Dustin Pedroia would continue his torrid pace with a double to the wall in left, bringing both Shaw and Young in to score. A 2-for-4 night actually dragged his batting average over his last 12 games down remarkably enough.
Given a slightly larger lead to work with, David Price set about keeping it completely intact. After a leadoff single in the bottom of the third, Price retired ten straight Padres, with the middle eight failing to so much as get the ball past the infield. Ryan Schimpf broke things up with a double to the wall in right-center which, combined with a loud out from Derek Norris, likely was a least part of the reason John Farrell chose not to bring him back for the eighth. But it was another strong outing for Price, who gave up just the two runs on six hits, zero walks, and eight strikeouts.
There were still two sagas left to wrap up. First, the fun one. Hanley Ramirez has been getting plenty of attention for his recent success, with a .900 OPS dating back over his last 150 plate appearances (well, 149). Tonight, he seemed hell-bent on adding to his resume. Twice he took big swings early on in the game and twice he came up just barely shy of the long ball, sending the Padres outfield back to the wall to record the outs. Finally, in the eighth, he got that extra bit of oomph on one, cleaning out an inside fastball and just barely clearing Alex Dickerson’s glove and the wall in left to get his homer. Brock Holt tacked another bomb on for good measure in the ninth to make it a lucky seven runs.
The second saga was the bullpen, because often enough even five runs is too few for that particular unit. Tonight, though, it was reasonably clear sailing for the Sox. John Farrell used the opportunity to get some idle pitchers the work they needed. Koji Uehara made his return to the mound with two strikoeuts in a 1-2-3 eighth, though to be honest, Koji beating batters with high fastballs doesn’t seem hugely tenable. Brad Ziegler made his first appearance in a long while in the ninth, then was lifted with two down for Craig Kimbrel to finish things off. That last move rose quite a few eyebrows, but the idea was to get Kimbrel into a game—he’s barely pitched over the past week—without risking a prolonged outing that a full inning might lead to. A bit confusing on the surface, but ultimately a good way to handle getting these three guys work without piling on too much in a five-run game.
With the win, the Red Sox will now get to head into Toronto alone on top of the East. Obivously that (pretty huge) series could go a long way towards deciding who ends up in first place when all is said and done. But it’s gotta feel good to head in knowing that they’re not the ones chasing the leaders.