The Red Sox had a very strange Friday in which they designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment. Both their manager and the head of their front office had long meetings with the media, and that entire affair overshadowed that they were about to start a big series against one of the best teams in the National League. Well, Hanley or no Hanley the game was played, and the Red Sox did their job. They got a good start from Eduardo Rodriguez that did include some of his typical frustrations, and four home runs from the offense was more than enough to give them a win to start this series and continue a recent hot stretch for this club.
It had to be a bit of a weird day for Red Sox players, particularly hitters who were now in a new-look lineup without the guy who had been their number three hitter for the entire season to that point, to say nothing of his clubhouse impact. Of course, these are professionals we are talking about and they are supposed to be able to move past these kind of situations quickly. It’s part of life as a baseball player, unfortunately. The goal for Friday was to get going early against a struggling Julio Teheran and end the Hanley conversation before it started.
They weren’t able to do it right off the bat as Teheran was fine but honestly a little more hittable than the results would indicate. Despite the righty missing some spots, the Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in the first and third innings. They did get a couple of baserunners in the second on a single and a walk, but there wasn’t really any solid contact and neither runner came in to score a run.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez got off to a nice start against a challenging lineup to face, though the lefty would get into trouble a little bit sooner than his counterpart. Still, he looked good in the first despite allowing a leadoff single to Ozzie Albies. That’ll happen. After that, he set down both Ronald Acuña and Freddie Freeman with strikeouts, and after a two-out walk he escaped the jam with a ground out. He’d have a similar frame in the second with two reaching on a pair of one-out singles, but once again he’d leave without a run being scored. There was some typical frustrating for Rodriguez with him nibbling a bit too much and throwing too many pitches, but the very early results were good.
That wouldn’t continue into the third, as the top of Atlanta’s lineup got going this time around. After both struck out in the first, Acuña and Freeman led off the third with back-to-back singles, putting a pair on for Nick Markakis with nobody out. The longtime Oriole didn’t miss this chance, smacking a double into the left-center field gap. That put the Braves up 2-0, and they had a runner on second still with no outs. It was a chance for a huge inning, but Rodriguez settled down in the big spot. A strikeout and a couple grounders later and he escaped the jam with just the two runs on the board. That sequence would prove important.
In fact, the importance would emerge fairly quickly. After Rodriguez had a quick fourth with just a walk allowed, the Red Sox came up with the same 2-0 deficit in the bottom half with the middle of their lineup coming up. J.D. Martinez led things off, and he got a bad slider from Teheran that stayed on the inner-half and the slugger ripped it out to the Monster Seats. It wasn’t a moonshot, but he absolutely smoked it to cut the lead in half. Two batters later, Xander Bogaerts came up and got another hanging slider. His home run was more majestic than Martinez’, but both counted for one run and they combined to tie the game at two apiece.
That was all the Red Sox would get in the fourth, but they’d have a chance to take their first lead after Rodriguez mowed through a 1-2-3 fifth that included two strikeouts against the middle of Atlanta’s order. With momentum now on their side, the Red Sox got a huge boost from Jackie Bradley Jr., who has been hitting the ball much better of late. The outfielder got a fastball and was able to rip it off the wall in the triangle for a one-out triple. After Mookie Betts drew a walk, Andrew Benintendi came up and hit a fly ball deep enough into center field to easily score the run and give Boston their first lead of the night. Betts would quickly steal second to threaten another scoring chance, but they’d just get the one in the inning and enter the sixth with a 3-2 lead.
Rodriguez came back out to protect his newfound lead with about 90 pitches to his name on the night. He started things off with a strikeout and a ground out, but after walking the number eight hitter and getting his pitch count into triple digits, Rodriguez was removed from the game. He had the one rough inning in the third, but other than that the Red Sox lefty had a strong effort against a tough lineup. In all, he’d last 5 2⁄3 allowing the two runs on six hits and three walks with an impressive seven strikeouts. Heath Hembree came on for the last out and got it quickly to get out of the inning with the lead intact.
After the Red Sox went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Joe Kelly was called upon to handle the top of Atlanta’s lineup and protect the one-run lead. He wasn’t perfect as he walked Freeman with two outs, but that was all the Braves got.
In the bottom half of the seventh, the Red Sox got a little extra insurance on a bunt and a blast. The bunt came from Brock Holt, and the blast came from — who else? — Betts. The Sox star got a hanging slider that caught too much of the plate and he sent it into the Monster Seats just a few innings after Martinez had tied him for the MLB lead in homers. Mookie was never going to allow that to last too long.
So, with the Red Sox now leading 5-2, Matt Barnes came on for the eighth. He came through with an easy 1-2-3 inning.
After Mitch Moreland hit a home run of his own in the eighth — a mammoth shot to straightaway center field — it was a four-run lead to protect heading into the ninth, and Crag Kimbrel came in to try and lock it down. The former Braves star did give up a double, but didn’t allow a run and finished off Boston’s seventh with in nine games.
The Red Sox will look to keep this run going and clinch a series victory on Saturday, which will also mark the return of Dustin Pedroia. Drew Pomeranz takes the mound for Boston with Mass. native Sean Newcomb going for the Braves. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.