The Red Sox offense was on fire on Tuesday, and it felt like a really big performance from this group. For one thing, they were coming off one of their patented frustrating days in their last game. More importantly, they have been mostly awful against southpaws this year, but they broke out against the left-handed Sean Manaea. The outbreak was led by Mookie Betts, too, someone we’ve all been waiting to break out for essentially the entire year. Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez and Dustin Pedroia also had big days at the plate. Not to be outdone, Eduardo Rodriguez had a huge outing that further boosts his case for making the playoff rotation. All of that combined led to a blowout victory on Tuesday night.
While this game was certainly an encouraging one for the offense overall, it actually got off to a start that suggested this just might be a frustrating effort once again. With the team already down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the first, the Red Sox had their first two batters reach base on a pair of singles. Then, Betts came up and promptly grounded into a double play. That proved to be costly as Hanley Ramirez would follow it up with a routine flyout to end the inning without a run. Obviously it was only one inning, but given how frustrating this offense has been all year long it was easy to get down after this frame.
Fortunately, they didn’t take long to put it out of our minds. They came out in the second and just kept the line moving against Manaea. The inning started with a single by Sam Travis that ended with him at second base thanks to some shaky defense in the outfield. He’d immediately be knocked in on an RBI single from Bogaerts. After yet another single from Rafael Devers moved Bogaerts to second, a fourth consecutive single from Christian Vazquez knocked in Boston’s second run to give them a 2-1 lead. Boston would make their first out of the inning before yet another single gave them three runs, and then Betts ripped a triple out to right field to give the Red Sox two more runs. They’d end that inning mercifully after nine men came to the plate and five crossed it.
After the Red Sox failed to score in the third — though they did get a double from Bogaerts — they’d start the beatdown after that. In the fourth, Betts took a changeup down and in and launched it 434 feet to left field for a two-run home run. It was the longest home run of his career and it made him the first Red Sox player with back-to-back 20/20 seasons. In the fifth, yet another hit from Bogaerts started a mini rally and he’d score on a Vazquez double. A Jackie Bradley double would then score Vazquez. Finally, in the sixth, Betts got a fastball right down the heart of the plate and launched his second homer of the day out to left field. It was the most 2016 Betts we’ve seen in some time and gave Boston an 11-1 lead.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez’ performance on the mound was nothing to sneeze at even if it will (rightfully) be overshadowed by the powerful performance with the bats. Much like the offense, Rodriguez’ first-inning performance would not tell the story of the rest of his outing. The southpaw got into a little bit of trouble in the game’s initial frame, walking the second batter he faced before giving up a long double off the wall in straightaway center field to old friend Jed Lowrie. It gave the A’s an early 1-0 lead.
From there, Rodriguez really buckled down and showed off some of his best stuff all year. He was getting swinging strikes all night long, and while the A’s are one of the most whiff-happy teams in baseball, it’s still encouraging when Rodriguez is missing bats. Really, he didn’t get into any trouble after that first inning. In fact, the double from Lowrie was the only hit he allowed all night. Granted, he did issue four walks and hit another batter (he only had a single 1-2-3 inning on the night), but the A’s simply couldn’t get good wood on his pitches. In all, Rodriguez ended up going six strong innings allowing just the one run on one hit, four walks and nine strikeouts. As the Red Sox start to peek towards October and a possible playoff rotation, Rodriguez’ last two outings are putting him in the driver’s seat for one of those last two slots.
Brandon Workman was up first in the Red Sox bullpen and promptly struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh. In the eighth, Carson Smith came on and had a tough outing, walking two batters and allowing a single. It could have been worse, too, if not for a great snag at third base on a hard-hit line drive. Either way, he left the bases loaded with two outs for Austin Maddox, who came in and immediately struck out the first batter he saw to end the inning. Maddox would come back in and finish off the game in the ninth.
In addition to the Red Sox coming through with a win, the Yankees dropped their game against the Rays on Tuesday. That pushes Boston’s lead in the division to four. They’ll try to extend that lead even further on Wednesday with Doug Fister on the mound against Oakland.