For the third straight game the Red Sox got themselves a relatively easy win as they continue to roll to start the month of June. This was a particularly notable win not because of the level of competition, but because it came against a left-handed pitcher. Andrew Benintendi in particular had a big day at the plate, which has been rare against southpaws. Boston also got another great, if also a little frustrating, outing from Eduardo Rodriguez. Four wins in a row, and they haven’t lost a series since May 14-16. Pretty good!
The Red Sox have been good at just about everything this year — you don’t get to a 41-19 record without that — but one of their few flaws has been producing at the plate against left-handed pitching. Granted, some of that comes from facing talented southpaws to start the year that buried the numbers right from the get-go, but it’s been a legitimate problem. Too many of their star hitters just haven’t been the same against left-handed opponents, and they aren’t the same team. This was a nice time to break out of that funk, going up against an unimpressive southpaw in Blaine Hardy who isn’t even really a starter. If they were to struggle in this game against Hardy, it would be reasonable to really start to worry about their lackluster numbers against lefties. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
The Red Sox were able to get to Hardy in this game, thought it did look like it could get frustrating for a couple of innings as only six batters came to the plate for Boston through two. Of course, one of them was J.D. Martinez and he smoked a ball off the Monster that would have went 600 feet (maybe slightly exaggerated) in most parks but was thrown out trying to extend the hit into a double. Still, they got a whole lot of nothing through two innings and were actually trailing 1-0 as they headed into the bottom of the third.
That was when the offense really started to roll and Hardy started to look like a guy who was simply overmatched. That inning started with an infield single for the struggling Rafael Devers, and he was immediately knocked in when Christian Vazquez crushed a ball high off the Monster for an RBI double. After Jackie Bradley Jr. got hit by a pitch, Benintendi got his first big hit of the night with an RBI double of his own. That put two in scoring position for Xander Bogaerts, and he hit yet another double to knock in two more and all of a sudden the Red Sox had four runs on the board. That was all they’d get in the inning, but they it was a ton of damage and not too much of it came cheaply.
Boston didn’t get much in the fourth, but they got right back on the board in the fifth and this time it was Benintendi yet again. He led off the inning and in an 0-1 count the lefty got a changeup that fell right into the heart of the strike zone. He didn’t miss it, instead sending it into the Red Sox bullpen and with one swing of the bat the Red Sox had a 5-1 lead through five innings of work.
As this was going on, Rodriguez was having a very typical start for him, which always seems like a much worse thing as it’s happening than it actually is. The results, as has been the case all year and really for most of his career, were great and the peripherals were strong too. The one negative was his pitch count and efficiency as it’s always frustrating that he can’t make it deeper into the game. That was the case again on Wednesday night, but if he’s going to dominate like he has been the Red Sox will take it even if it only lasts five or so innings at a time.
Really, Rodriguez’ night was sort of the opposite of the Red Sox. The southpaw got into trouble early on before settling in later in the game. The first inning didn’t result in any runs on the board, but it took a lot of pitches to get through and he had to sweat a little bit after he walked the leadoff batter and allowed them to get to second on a wild pitch. Rodriguez turned it around quickly, however, with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout.
The second didn’t turn out to be as fortunate despite starting out with two easy outs. He couldn’t get out of the inning quickly, though, instead allowing JaCoby Jones to hit a grounder down the left field line. It looked like Martinez must have been playing out towards center field because he took forever to get to the ball in the corner, and that allowed the speedy Jones to get a rare triple on a ball to left field at Fenway. Jose Iglesias came up next, and he followed that up with a single to give the Tigers an early 1-0 lead.
After that, Rodriguez settled in. He faced four batters in the third, but that was only because Vazquez allowed a passed ball on a strikeout to prevent an out. In the fourth the Tigers managed only a single, and the fifth was a quick 10-pitch, 1-2-3 inning. The lefty came back out for the sixth despite almost reaching 100 pitches through five, and he allowed a pair of singles while also recording two outs before being removed. All told, he tossed 5 2⁄3 innings allowing just the one run on five hits, a walk and five strikeouts. He was only charged the one run because Heath Hembree came out and left the runners on base after loading them up with a walk.
In the seventh, Alex Cora called upon Matt Barnes, who got himself into some major trouble. That inning started with a couple of quick outs and it looked like it would be a pretty easy night for Barnes, then things got weird. For some reason everyone in the crowd held up their phones’ flashlights, which caused a delay because it was distracting hitters. It was totally bizarre and I’m not sure how it was so well coordinated. Anyway, after the slight delay the Tigers got two singles and a walk. All of a sudden, the bases were loaded for James McCann and Barnes was up over 30 pitches. Detroit’s catcher put forth a tough at bat but Barnes finally got him to ground out to shortstop to end the inning and the scoring threat with Boston still up 5-1.
Boston would get some insurance in the seventh when Vazquez stayed hot at the plate hitting his second homer of the year. It was a rare unclutch dinger for the Red Sox catcher, and he got a middle-in fastball that he sent into the first row of Monster Seats in left field. With the 6-1 lead, Brandon Workman came on for the eighth in his second major-league appearance of the year. The righty had an easy 1-2-3 inning.
After the Red Sox added yet another run on a Sam Travis RBI single in the eighth, Bobby Poyner came on for the ninth. He tossed a scoreless inning to wrap up the team’s fourth straight victory.
The Red Sox will be looking for their fifth in a row and a series sweep on Thursday against the Tigers. Jalen Beeks will be on the mound for his major-league debut taking on Matt Boyd for Detroit.