The Red Sox clinched a series victory in the nation’s capital on Tuesday with a strong all-around victory. They showed of their power with big three-run homers from Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Núñez. They showed an ability to sustain a rally with a whole lot of singles before Bogaerts’ homer. They got good pitching from Brian Johnson and the bullpen. It was good. The Red Sox are good. Wins are good.
For a little while, it seemed as if this game was going to go similarly to the one on Monday night. That is to say that the Red Sox were going to get a strong performance from their starting pitcher, albeit one that started to get a little shakier as the game went one. However, they were able to get one big swing to give them an early lead and they looked for that to hold up as the Nationals began chipping away. Things would divert from Monday’s path about halfway through the game, but it was a similar script early on.
We’ll start with that early offense, and for the second straight night said offense came from an unexpected source. Granted, it wasn’t quite as unexpected as Rick Porcello, but it was unexpected nonetheless. This rally, like the one on Monday, came in the second following a 1-2-3 first. It started with back-to-back singles from Mitch Moreland and Xander Bogaerts, and after a groundout Eduardo Núñez would come to the plate with two on and one out. The Red Sox infielder got a fastball belt-high and a bit off the inside corner and he got good wood on it, sending it over the wall in left-center field for a three-run homer. Just like that, Boston had a 3-0 lead for the second day in a row.
That was all of the offense the Red Sox would get for a couple of innings. They went down 1-2-3 in the third before failing to take advantage of a good situation in the fourth. There, Steve Pearce — who came in for Moreland after the latter had to leave due to back spasms — started the inning with a double and would move to third on a wild pitch. After a Bogaerts walk put two on with nobody out, Rafael Devers struck out and Núñez grounded into a double play to end the inning without a run.
While this was going on, Brian Johnson was having himself a solid day on the mound. As always, he wasn’t overpowering and didn’t show off dominant stuff, but his command was mostly good and he was mixing up his pitches fairly well. It actually seemed as if he might be in some trouble immediately when his start began with a bloop single and a bunt single against the shift. It wasn’t impressive contact, but it was two runners on base with nobody out. Johnson held tight and recorded three quick outs to negate the early threat.
After that, the southpaw got through a second inning that included a single and a walk and also included Sandy León throwing out a base-stealer on one of the most perfect throws from home to second you’ll ever see. After a 1-2-3 third, Johnson started to get into trouble in the fourth.
That rally started with a double from Bryce Harper as he hit one off the wall in right field. It was well-hit, to be fair, but also should have been caught and likely would have been caught by anyone not named J.D. Martinez playing right field. Harper would move to third on a groundout and come in to score on a single. After another single and a fly out moved Mark Reynolds to third, he’d score on yet another single, this one from opposing pitcher Tanner Roark. Just like that the lead was down to 3-2, and the Nationals had two on with two outs. Johnson got a big third out against Trea Turner to hold on to the lead.
The fifth is where the script started to deviate from that of Monday’s game as the Red Sox took a big lead in this inning. That rally actually started with Johnson smacking a single into left field, and after two more singles the bases were loaded for Martinez with just one out. He kept that rally going with a fourth consecutive single to score two, and Pearce added a fifth single for another run. With that, it was 6-2, and Bogaerts was at the plate. The shortstop got a changeup middle-in and he did not miss, sending it out to straightaway center field for a big three-run shot. That broke the game out to 9-2.
So, Johnson came back out with a sudden huge lead and was looking for a shutdown inning in what would likely be his last frame of the outing. He continued to look a bit shaky, allowing two runners to reach on a single and a walk. After recording the second out of the inning, Johnson was pulled with his pitch count rising and him still not being fully stretched out.
Heath Hembree came into the jam, and after allowing another single to load the bases, he got a big strikeout to leave the bags full and end the inning unscathed. He’d come back for the sixth as well, and while he allowed a solo homer to Pedro Severino he also racked three strikeouts to give him four over 1 1⁄3 innings, which is pretty good.
Brandon Workman had the seventh and tossed a 1-2-3 inning. The eighth and ninth belonged to William Cuevas, making his 2018 debut, and he tossed a 1-2-3 eighth. In the ninth, after the Red Sox added two more runs to their total thanks to a Martinez homer, Cuevas allowed another run on a solo homer but was able to finish off the game without the Red Sox having to turn to another reliever.
The Red Sox and Nationals have a quick turnaround as Boston looks for sweep on Wednesday. The two teams take the field at 11:05 AM ET for the Fourth of July in D.C., with Eduardo Rodriguez taking on Erick Fedde.