This will be remembered as the Chris Young game, as the outfielder did it all for the Red Sox on Sunday and virtually single-handedly gave the Red Sox the win all while taking Mookie Betts’ spot in the lineup. Young knocked in five of Boston’s six runs on two dingers and a double and came through with the big swing whenever it was needed. Eduardo Nuñez knocked in the other run with a home run of his own, because of course he did.
While Young was the story of the game, Doug Fister put together yet another solid start and is making the rotation sans David Price look a lot more formidable. Two good starts isn’t enough to completely hang your hat on Fister being a legitimate asset down the stretch, but things look undeniably better right now than they did a couple weeks ago.
This one was a little back-and-forth over the first few innings, but the offense eventually came around and did the damn thing. They actually got started early against Mike Pelfrey, and who else but Nuñez would be the guy to get things going. Batting second in today’s game, the lineup’s newest spark plug came up with one down and took the second pitch way out to center field for his fourth home run since coming to the Red Sox, tying the total he put up in his much longer time in San Francisco. Clearly, the difference in parks plays a big role in this, but it’s undeniable that he’s on an absurd hot streak right now. Two batters later, now with two outs, Young started off his monster day with a home run of his own. This one was launched out to left field and went over everything. It’s been a somewhat disappointing year for Boston’s fourth outfielder, but he came through in a big way this season.
So, with the 2-0 lead, Fister came out to the mound looking for one of those shutdown innings. He didn’t get it, though it’s hard to blame him too much for what unfolded in this frame. The inning started with a bunt single against the shift, and after a double put two runners in scoring position Yolmer Sanchez came through with a ground ball single to cut Boston’s lead to one. Tim Anderson followed that up with a ground ball single of his own and just like that things were tied. After Fister finally got his first out of the inning, Alen Hanson hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly. That was all the scoring of the inning, and while a three-run frame is never a good thing it came on a whole lot of weak contact. Sometimes, the baseball gods just aren’t smiling down on you. That seemed to be the case for Fister in that inning.
Fortunately, it was pretty much all Red Sox from here. After Boston stranded a runner on third and failed to tie the game in the bottom half of the second, they came through in the third. This time, it was a nice little two-out rally started by an Andrew Benintendi single and ended on an RBI double from Young, making him responsible for two of the first three runs of the game. Young would get thrown out at third on another questionable baserunning decision by the Red Sox, but the damage had been done.
From here, we fast-forward to the bottom half of the fifth with the score still tied at three. Sandy Leon started that inning with a double, but Boston followed that up with two quick outs and it appeared they might squander another chance. Then, Chicago gifted them a baserunner by intentionally walking Benintendi to get to Young, the man who had already been killing them on the day. He didn’t miss the chance for another big swing and made the White Sox immediately regret their decision by smashing a hanging breaking ball right off the foul pole in left field. Just like that, it was a 6-3 lead for the Red Sox.
Meanwhile, Fister was putting through his second consecutive very solid start in David Price’s absence. I, like many of you, was very wary of having Fister in the rotation in this important stretch of the season, but he has done everything in his power to prove us wrong. This outing wasn’t quite as impressive as his last time out, but he really only had the one bad inning and, again, it was mostly the result of some weak contact just finding the right spots on the field. Fister did allow eight hits in his 6 1⁄3 innings of work, but he didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven batters. John Farrell mentioned some mechanical tweaks before his previous outing, and it’s looking more and more like that has led to a legitimate, tangible change in his performance.
After Fister, it was up to the bullpen to hold on to the lead and they were up to the task. Addison Reed was called upon first with a runner on first and one down. He had no trouble escaping that mini jam, inducing a groundout and a strikeout to end the frame. The eighth inning belonged to Matt Barnes, and he had no trouble at all setting Chicago down 1-2-3 with a couple of Ks. Farrell called upon Craig Kimbrel in the ninth despite the closer having thrown each of the last two days. I probably would’ve preferred giving him the night off, but either way it worked. He allowed a leadoff baserunner but got three outs after that to finish off the game.
So, the Red Sox came away with an impressive four-game sweep against the White Sox over the weekend as they head into an important five-game stretch against a couple of division rivals. Obviously, Chicago doesn’t represent the stiffest of competition but a four-game sweep against anyone is easier said than done. Playoff teams have to be able to beat the teams they’re supposed to, and Boston did so this weekend. They have a nice cushion for themselves as they head into this crucial next week. After a well-deserved day off on Monday they’ll head to Tampa with Chris Sale taking the mound on Tuesday.