The Red Sox upped their Very Important™ spring training win streak to five games on Saturday despite trailing for most of the day. One big stretch for Tampa at the plate had them ahead for much of the contest, but a couple of Boston first basemen came through with big swings and the bullpen was able to maintain the lead from there.
Sam Travis’ homer wins the game
Sam Travis seems to always find himself in the spotlight during spring training as he continues his quest towards proving he is capable of being a regular at the highest level. Just last week we talked about his need to show some in-game power, and while doing so in spring training simply isn’t enough at this point for Travis, we certainly won’t knock him for going deep in the Grapefruit League. The righty came up in the sixth inning following an Eduardo Nuñez walk and a Jackie Bradley Jr. ground-rule double with two on and nobody ou twith his team trailing by two. Travis got a hanging breaking ball from Rays reliever Ryne Stanek and deposited it over the wall in left field to give Boston a 4-3 lead with one swing of the bat. It was Travis’ only hit of the game in two at bats off the bench, but he sure made it count.
While that was certainly the biggest swing of the day, it wasn’t the only long ball from a Red Sox first baseman. Mitch Moreland got the start at DH in this game, and with his team trailing 3-0 in the fifth inning the lefty took an offspeed pitch down in the zone and smacked it over the wall in right field to give Boston their first run of the contest. Like Travis, the homer was his only hit of the game. Along with those two dingers, the Red Sox also got the aforementioned ground-rule double from Bradley and another double from Rusney Castillo, who continues to put together an impressive spring. Those were the only extra-base hits of the game, but the Red Sox did get singles from Eduardo Nuñez, Hanley Ramirez and Ivan De Jesus Jr. On a more negative side, Brock Holt got caught leaning at first base and was picked off. That’s not the kind of mistake you want to make when you’re battling for a roster spot.
The bullpen continues to impress
Boston didn’t send their biggest names out to the mound on Saturday afternoon, but we did get to see a couple of relievers who have a chance at making the Opening Day roster. Getting the start, though, was Justin Haley, a righty who has quietly put together a solid little spring. The Pawtucket starter didn’t have his best day, but he was able to limit the damage. In all, he lasted three innings, allowing two runs on six singles, a double and a walk. Haley did rack up six strikeouts in the outing. He got into some trouble when he went back out for the fourth and allowed back-to-back singles to start the frame before being lifted for minor-league righty Trevor Kelley. Kelley hit the first batter he faced to load the bases before inducing a pop out and recording a strikeout. From there, it was up to Bobby Poyner to get out unscathed, but the impressive lefty couldn’t come through, giving up a two-run single to Kean Wong before escaping the fourth with an inning-ending strikeout. Matt Barnes was up next for the fifth, and that inning didn’t go so well. He only allowed two hits and did get a couple of strikeouts in the inning, but both hits were doubles and the Rays were able to tack on another run. Barnes came back out in the sixth and redeemed himself by striking out the side. The seventh saw Brandon Workman come out and he had a great day, setting down the side in order with a couple of K’s. Minor-league depth option Marcus Walden — who has had a really impressive camp — finished things off with a couple of perfect innings to record the save.