The Red Sox have won two in a row as they look to recover from a pretty rough week against the A’s, Blue Jays and Rays. The key seems to be a break from playing teams that end with an “ays” sound, and it worked against the Royals. Things actually looked pretty bleak very early on as Eduardo Rodriguez did not give the Red Sox a good start in this one, but the offense was able to make up for it and then some. There were contributions throughout the lineup, but the main contributors were Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts, the latter of whom had a grand slam that turned the game. The win gives them 19 wins in the month of April, a new franchise record. Seems good!
The start of this game was not encouraging for Rodriguez, and it was exactly what the team didn’t need to start off this series. The lefty got into trouble in familiar fashion, relying too much on his fastball very early on and resorting to nibbling around the zone rather than attacking hitters. As a result, Kansas City hitters were fouling off a ton of two-strike offerings and making the young lefty throw a whole lot of pitches. That ended up paying off, as he’d eventually lose the zone.
The inning started with the two very long at bats, and both ended with runners on base. Rodriguez then hit Mike Moustakas with the first pitch of his at bat — and it would cause Moustakas to leave the game — before walking Salvador Perez on four pitches. It’s extremely hard to walk Perez, never mind on four pitches, as he’s one of the most aggressive hitters in the league. After getting a big strikeout, he issued another walk to allow the Royals’ second run of the inning, and then the defense struck. Jon Jay hit a ground ball to second base that Eduardo Nuñez stopped awkwardly and probably should have gotten an out on, but he dropped it transferring it from the glove. It was called a base hit, but it looked like an error to me. Either way, the Royals had a 3-0 lead after one inning and looked to have Rodriguez on the ropes very early.
Fortunately, the Red Sox starter would settle in a little bit after that. He’d start to mix in his slider and cutter a bit more, which we’ve talked about as a key for him a million times. He just can’t succeed if he’s only throwing two pitches, even if that changeup still looks like his best offering. Rodriguez allowed just one hit between the second and third innings, and that was an infield single that was just placed well between the pitcher, first baseman and second baseman.
As it turned out, that stretch of settling in for Rodriguez was big as it was just enough time for the Red Sox lineup to get going against Jason Hammel. After going down 1-2-3 in the first inning, they had Mitch Moreland to lead off the second and he did so in a big way. Hammel tossed a fastball right in the dead-center of the zone, and Moreland obliterated it through the rain and over the wall in right field for a solo home run to cut the deficit to two.
The next three batters would go down in order in that second, but the third was where the real damage was done. It looked to be another quick inning when the first two outs were recorded in short order, but then Boston put forth a big two-out rally. Andrew Benintendi reached on an infield single. Hanley Ramirez doubled to right field on a ball that got stuck under the wall in an awful break for the Red Sox as Benintendi would have easily scored on the play. It didn’t matter, though, as he’d score soon enough when J.D. Martinez and Moreland drew back-to-back walks to cut Kansas City’s lead to 3-2. That brought up Bogaerts, and boy did he come through. Hammel threw the shortstop a fastball up and in and Bogaerts murdered the baseball over the Monster Seats for Boston’s 184th grand slam of the season, giving them a 6-3 lead in the blink of an eye.
That brought Rodriguez back out with a lead for the first time in this game as he looked to keep rolling and get one of those “shutdown innings.” He...didn’t do that. Instead, he’d hit Alex Gordon before allowing an RBI double to Alcides Escobar (perhaps the worst hitting regular in baseball), and then Whit Merrifield followed that up with an RBI double of his own. All of a sudden, right after Boston took the lead it was already down to one with a runner in scoring position. Fortunately, Rodriguez got his changeup working from there and got two strikeouts to end the inning and keep the lead in hand. That would mark the end of the lefty’s night, and it was one he’ll try to forget despite avoiding the loss.
The Red Sox would come back out and get an insurance run in the bottom half of the fourth when Jackie Bradley Jr. drew a walk before moving to third on a Christian Vazquez single and eventually scoring on a Benintendi sacrifice fly. They’d tack on another in the fifth when Martinez led off with a double (that I thought was an error as it was an easy drop by Soler, but apparently they ruled it a hit? Baseball is weird.), moved to third on a Bogaerts single and scored on a two-out RBI single from Eduardo Nuñez.
Meanwhile, while the offense was getting some quality insurance, Hector Velazquez took over for Rodriguez and did exactly what he’s been doing all year. That is, he came out of the bullpen to clean up a bad start and did that by inducing consistently weak contact. This time around, he was out for two innings and he allowed just a single. He also showed off more swing-and-miss than we’re generally accustomed to, striking out three Royals in the two innings of work.
That brought on Carson Smith for the seventh, and he’d get through pretty quickly. The righty allowed just a single in the inning and he struck out a pair of Royals, though he admittedly got some serious assistance from home plate umpire CB Bucknor on one of them.
The Red Sox offense then added on two more insurance runs thanks to more big hits from Moreland and Bogaerts along with some questionable defense from the Royals, and with a five-run lead in hand they turned to Brian Johnson to try and finish off the last two innings. He did just that, though he allowed a run in the ninth but still gave the Sox a little two-game win streak.
The Red Sox will look to take their third in a row and clinch a series win Tuesday night back at Fenway against the Royals. They’ll have Chris Sale on the mound with Kansas City sending out Jake Junis. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.