This was looked at as an early-season statement series between the two best teams in the American League to start the season, and the Red Sox started it off just like they kicked off that other statement series against the Yankees. Boston took it to Shohei Ohtani early, making him work hard through just two innings of work. Once the Angels bullpen came on, the Red Sox lineup just murdered them, like, in front of everyone. It was wild. Mookie Betts was far and away the top performer of this game, recording zero (0) outs in five plate appearances and knocking three dingers. Brock Holt also had a nice day that included one home run and that was particularly nice to see after everyone (myself included) got kinda mad online seeing him in the starting lineup. The offense will overshadow this, but David Price had a strong day on the mound though it came with some weird control issues.
It was pretty clear from the very start that Ohtani didn’t quite have it. His fastball was locating fairly well — at least at first — but it was down a few ticks from where it’s been in his first two starts. On top of that, the secondaries just weren’t anywhere close to where he wanted them. The splitter and the slider were both way off the plate on a consistent basis. So, the Red Sox didn’t get the best version of the hyped-up Ohtani, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a ton of credit for how they performed. They were well-prepared for this game and didn’t go chasing after the Angels’ ace’s offspeed stuff. They made Ohtani come to then, and since he rarely did they made him throw a ton of pitches in just two innings of work.
The slugfest got started right away, too, with Betts starting his big day with a bang. He worked a full count against Ohtani and took a fastball that may have been ball four below the zone and just lifted it over the wall in left field. It was his 12th career leadoff home run, a franchise record he already holds at just 25 years old. The Red Sox would get one more baserunner in that inning on a Hanley Ramirez single, but no more runs. Still, they got him up to 28 pitches in that inning alone.
The second didn’t get much better for Ohtani, as the command was still very clearly not there. After a quick first out the Red Sox got a couple of baserunners on a single and a walk, and then Holt got an RBI single on a little bloop. From there Betts drew a walk to load the bases and Andrew Benintendi hit a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to three. Once again, they could have done more but they continued to work the pitch count with Ohtani leaving the second after 66 pitches. That would be the day for the Japanese superstar, who left the game with blisters after that inning per a press release from the Angels.
After Ohtani left, the Red Sox offense really started to take off against Los Angeles’ bullpen. Luke Bard, brother of former Boston reliever (and starter, unfortunately) Daniel Bard, came on first and his brother’s old team was not very nice. Boston got a couple of outs after a leadoff single, then they just went bananas in that third. Jackie Bradley Jr. got a high fastball and murdered it way out to right field. Two batters later, Brock Holt took a fastball up and in and took it out of the yard himself. Next up was Betts, and he did it again hitting his second homer of the day. In the blink of an eye, and essentially all with two outs (besides the leadoff single), the Red Sox had eight runs on the board. They’d add another in the fifth on yet another home run, this time from Rafael Devers. And then, in the eighth, Mookie was Mookie and hit his third homer of the game. It was his third three-homer game of his career, and the billionth time he’s made me smile.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox got a strong pitching performance from Price, who was fairly or unfairly a bit of a question after his last start was disastrous and cut short under weird circumstances. He put those doubts to rest, though he wasn’t exactly as sharp as he could have been. The southpaw walked four batters in five innings which was a bit strange to see from him, but he was locating his pitches when he needed to and didn’t really give up much hard contact all day. It was particularly impressive given how great the Angels lineup has been all year, ranking as the number one unit in the league heading into the game.
Really, there weren’t a ton of stressful situations into which Price got himself in this game. The first inning saw just one baserunner on a walk, and the same happened in the second. Los Angeles did get to him a bit in the third, though he wasn’t exactly hit around. Instead, the Angels got a walk and a pair of singles to cut their deficit to 8-1. Price would come back in the fourth and once again just walk a batter in the inning before allowing just a single in the fifth. As mentioned before, it wasn’t the sharpest we’ve seen him but overall it’s hard to be anything but thrilled with what the lefty gave the team on Tuesday, particularly considering his last outing. It’s also fair to wonder how much, if any, of his lack of control was a result of him waiting so long between just about every inning.
Price was taken out after just those five innings and only 78 pitches as Cora continues to try and get as much rest of his team as possible. He also pulled J.D. Martinez and Benintendi after the score was broken open. Brian Johnson came on for the sixth, looking for a long outing out of the bullpen and potentially a multi-inning blowout save. He didn’t quite do that, but he did toss three scoreless innings. Johnson has quietly been very good this year, and that extended to Tuesday out west. Marcus Walden finished it off with a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Red Sox will look to continue their hot play, carrying their major-league-best five-game win streak back to Los Angeles for game two. This time, they’ll be going up against Tyler Skaggs with Rick Porcello taking the mound for the good guys. First pitch will be at 10:07 PM ET.