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Red Sox 7, Marlins 3: Brian Johnson keeps pace with the rest of the rotation

The Red Sox took an easier path to this victory

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After four nail-biters to start the year for the Red Sox, three of which they won, the team decided to take an easier route to victory on Monday. It wasn’t always stress-free and the first few innings saw them playing from behind and failing to score on a pitcher making his major-league debut, but that eventually changed. Brian Johnson got the start and continued the team’s great run of starting pitching, and the offense finally got going a bit with some good fortune and some good Hanley Ramirez. It was just what the doctor ordered and the Red Sox have now won four in a row.

Johnson certainly had a lot to live up to with his 2018 debut on Monday considering the performances of the starting pitchers before him. With the offense sputtering through their first series of the year, Johnson likely felt even more pressure to come through with a strong outing against the Marlins. Fortunately, any pressure he did feel didn’t seem to affect him as he was just as effective as any other pitcher who has started a game for this team one turn through the rotation. As is generally the case for Johnson, the fastball wasn’t incredibly impressive but the southpaw showed off strong control and was able to fool plenty of Marlins with his curveball.

Things couldn’t have gotten much easier for the Red Sox starter right off the bat. Lewis Brinson attempted a bunt on the first pitch of the game but ran into it out of the batters box for an out. From there, Johnson struck out the next two batters in the inning and that was that.

The second wasn’t quite as smooth, as it represented the roughest patch of the outing in his home state. Johnson quickly got into trouble, allowing a home run to Brian Anderson to start off the inning. It wasn’t a terrible pitch as he left a fastball belt-high on the outside corner and Anderson was just able to drive it over the wall the other way for the third baseman’s first career homer. After quickly getting out of the second after the homer, Johnson got into more trouble in the third. Here, he got two quick outs before allowing a bloop single, a walk and an infield single to load the bases. That brought Anderson back to the plate, but this time Johnson won the battle, inducing a big ground out to end the rally with Miami still having just one run on the board.

Johnson settled in for a bit after that, facing just four batters in the fourth before a 1-2-3 fifth. That led him into the sixth with just 70 pitches under his belt to that point. There was more trouble to navigate in this inning. Former Yankee Starlin Castro started things off with a single into center field and then Anderson drew a walk to put two on with nobody out. Once again, though, the Red Sox lefty worked his way out of trouble, inducing weak fly outs from Justin Bour, Cameron Maybin and Miguel Rojas to get out of the inning unscathed.

The Red Sox pitcher would be pinch hit for in the next inning, meaning that escape effort would be the end of his outing. It was everything the Red Sox could have hoped, with a solo home run being the only real damage. Johnson did get into some trouble that other teams may have taken advantage of, but he deserves credit for escaping every time. Overall, he allowed just the one run over six innings with five strikeouts and two walks, and Red Sox starters have now allowed just three runs over 30 innings of work. That’ll certainly do.

On the other side of things, the early going suggested this was going to be another one of Those Games for the Red Sox offense. They were going up against Trevor Richards, a former undrafted pitcher who was in the Indy Leagues in 2016 and had never pitched above Double-A. It was a perfect spot in which the lineup could have broken out of its slump, but they struggled to get anything going for the first few innings. In fact, the first seven batters were retired by the Marlins rookie before Boston finally got a little something going in the third. Here, Christian Vazquez got a one-out single and was moved over to second with a two-out single from Mookie Betts, but Andrew Benintendi failed to come through and stranded both runners.

To be fair to Richards, he was really impressive in those first few innings, mixing all of his pitches and hitting the edges of the strike zone more often than not. Things fell apart a bit starting in the fourth, though. This rally was lucky, but it worked. After two quick outs, Xander Bogaerts hits a swinging bunt down the third base line that stayed fair and got him on base. Then, Eduardo Nuñez hit a ball down the third base line that bounced off the bag and into the left field corner to score a run and tie the game up at one. Those were two weird plays, and there was a marked difference in Richard’s command after that. He’d walk Jackie Bradley Jr. in the next at bat before Vazquez got another hit, this time ripping a double into left field to put the Red Sox up by two.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The scoring continued in the fifth after Benintendi finally got his first hit of the year on a weak ground ball to no-man’s land on the right side of the infield. Ramirez followed that up by taking a hanging curveball and smoking it into the bullpen in left field for his first homer of the year and a four-run lead for the Red Sox. With the way Johnson was going, it was a lead that felt insurmountable at the time. The Red Sox added to that lead with another home run in the sixth, this time from Betts. The star outfielder took a low curveball and launched it over the wall in left field for his first homer of the year. They’d add yet another in the ninth when Hanley singled and stole second — he’s 29 homers and 28 steals from a 30/30 season — and Rafael Devers knocked him in.

From here, it was up to the Red Sox bullpen to hold a five-run lead against a subpar lineup. Heath Hembree got the call to start the seventh, and he got through a scoreless frame. After he had to be pinch hit for in the top of the eighth, it was Marcus Walden’s turn. The righty made things a little too interesting, giving up a double and a single and also hitting a batter. That sequence did result in one run, but that was all the Marlins would get there. Walden again made things scary in the ninth and allowed another run to score, but eventually he ended things thanks to some good defense from Hanley (yes, really) and the Red Sox went home victorious.

The Red Sox, with their fourth straight win under their belt, go for number five back in Miami on Tuesday with Chris Sale on the hill. The Marlins counter with Jose Ureña, and first pitch will be at 6:10 PM ET.