The Red Sox have finished their west coast games for the year, and they did so with a win. This weekend in Seattle wasn’t always the most fun, but traveling across the country to face one of the best and arguably the hottest team in baseball was going to be a challenge. Coming away with a split isn’t horrible, even if it feels like it could have been more. This game specifically was really encouraging as the offense turned it back on and Eduardo Rodriguez put forth one of his best outings of the year, even if it was still frustrating at times.
We all know the stark difference in performance for this Red Sox lineup against righties and lefties, and this series has been highly indicative of that disparity. They were absolutely dominated by Wade LeBlanc on Saturday, and even though they did plate six runs on Friday it didn’t really feel like a huge performance from the Red Sox offense against James Paxton. They certainly had some big swings, of course, but Seattle’s defense played a big role. Either way, they were back against the right-handed Mike Leake on Sunday, and they looked much more consistent even if they didn’t have a bunch of big innings. There was hard contact and threats throughout the game, which is much more than we could say on Saturday at least.
The first inning was actually one of the worst of the game for Red Sox hitters, though. Andrew Benintendi did get himself a single with one out, but the inning quickly ended after that when Xander Bogaerts hit into a double play. The second was more encouraging, though it still didn’t end with runs. Still, they got a couple of baserunners on a rare J.D. Martinez infield single and a less rare Rafael Devers line drive single. Unfortunately, that was all they’d get. Still, even the outs in that inning were hard hit, including a flyout from the struggling Mitch Moreland that went all the way to the wall in straightaway center. It was an encouraging out, if such a thing exists.
In the third, things turned on a dime with the score still knotted up at zero. It actually appeared that it was going to be a quick frame with the first two batters going down rather quickly, but the Sox put forth a huge two-out rally. Benintendi started it with his second single of the day, and after a Bogaerts single and Martinez walk Boston suddenly had the bases loaded. Moreland couldn’t hit a slam, but he got himself a nice little two-run single to put Boston up 2-0. That brought Devers to the plate, and he did quite a bit of damage. Leake left a hanging slider out over the plate and the Red Sox young third baseman was able to get his arms extended a bit and he crushed it out to right field for a three-run shot. In the blink of an eye, the third went from looking like a quick inning to a five-run outburst.
Leake started to put on his best LeBlanc impression after that big inning, however. Brock Holt singled immediately after the home run, but that was the last successful at bat for the Red Sox for a while. Leake came back to retire the next ten in a row to avoid this game from completely getting away from his team.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were getting a Very Typical Eduardo Rodriguez start, and by now we all know what that means, The Red Sox lefty had some incredibly impressive flashes and legitimate strikeout stuff while putting up big results. He was also frustratingly inefficient at times, seemingly using three or four extra pitches to put everyone away. Regardless, overall Rodriguez was often and the good certainly outweighed the bad.
It looked like the southpaw could be in immediate trouble in the bottom of the first when he allowed a slow chopper from Dee Gordon to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. That play ended with the speedy Gordon at second due to a throwing error, and Rodriguez was already in a jam. He escaped it with relative ease, however, inducing a pop out and a couple of groundouts to keep the Mariners off the board.
Things were much easier in the second when he set the side down in order, and then he came back in the third — after his team had handed him a 5-0 lead — and struck out the first two batters he faced. However, he then allowed the next two runners to reach to put two on with two outs for the red-hot Mitch Haniger in what felt like a huge at bat. Rodriguez would win it, getting the Mariners potential All-Star outfielder with a sick backdoor cutter to end the inning and the threat.
In the fourth, Rodriguez finally allowed his first run of the game, and it happened in very loud fashion. The southpaw left a cutter right over the heart of the plate to Nelson Cruz and, well, don’t do that. Cruz demolished it way out to left field for a no-doubt solo shot, cutting the lead to four.
Seattle then came right back in the fifth and threatened for a huge rally. Ben Gamel started that inning with a ground-rule double, and a couple of singles loaded the bases before an out was recorded. Rodriguez had his hands full trying to escape this one. He didn’t get out of it completely unscathed as Devers bobbled a grounder on the next play, and while he was able to get one out at second Gamel scored a run to cut Boston’s lead to three. However, after that Rodriguez got a fly ball that was too shallow to score the run and an inning-ending pop up against Cruz in a really impressive escape job.
Despite approaching the 100-pitch mark through five, Rodriguez came back for the sixth and he looked as strong as he did all day. Seattle went down in order in that inning with the last two batters going down by strikeout, and that was it for Rodriguez. It was an impressive day against a good lineup, even if it certainly wasn’t perfect.
In the top of the seventh, the Red Sox were done with Leake despite his having retired ten in a row, and they immediately got to the Mariners bullpen. On the first pitch of the inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. took a Chasen Bradford sinker and smashed it over the center-field wall for a solo home run. 6-2. Then, three batters later, Bogaerts hit his third homer of this series on a slider, making it 8-2 Red Sox.
With the game officially broken open, it was up to Boston’s relief corps to simply not implode. Matt Barnes got the seventh, on his birthday no less, and he tossed a 1-2-3 inning. After the Red Sox added another insurance run in the eighth, Brandon Workman came on for the bottom half but did not do too well. He recorded two outs but also allowed a run and left a pair of runners in scoring position for Hector Velazquez. Fortunately, Velazquez needed only one pitch to end the inning with a 9-3 score. He would come back on for a scoreless ninth to end this one.
The Red Sox get a well-deserved day off before ending this road trip with three games in Minnesota. The first game of that series will be on Tuesday with Chris Sale taking on Jose Berrios. First pitch is at 8:10 PM ET.