The Red Sox got back to their winning ways thanks to a well-rounded performance Friday night. At first it appeared it could potentially be a long night as Brian Johnson did not look good in the opening frame. He recovered in a big way and the Red Sox offense continually chipped away and eventually opened up their four-run lead. There were a lot of contributions to the effort in this one, but Xander Bogaerts clearly deserves the loudest shoutout after his 3-4 with two doubles and a triple. Also deserving of a shoutout is the bullpen, who first entered with a one-run lead and tossed 3 1⁄3 scoreless innings between Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Tyler Thornburg. That’ll do.
The Rays are a pesky team, and they showed that right away in the top half of the first inning. Brian Johnson did not appear to have his best stuff working early on, and Tampa hitters were able to jump all over everything he was offering early and often. That strategy allowed them to jump out to a relatively large early lead. The inning started with a simple single, though Johnson induced a big double play that seemed to stem the tide. Well, for a minute at least. After the quick two outs, Tommy Pham drew a walk, then the Rays started mashing. C.J. Cron put a ball off the Monster for a double to put two in scoring position, and Joey Wendle followed that up with a smoked double into the right field corner. Suddenly with a 2-0 lead, Carlos Gomez followed that up with a hard-hit single of his own, and Tampa would eventually get out of the inning with a 3-0 lead.
Of course, the Red Sox are never out of a game, much less a 3-0 game in which they haven’t even had a single at bat. They were going up against Ryne Stanek to start off the game, as the Rays were employing their Opener strategy for this one. The righty has big stuff, but can also struggle with command and the Red Sox let him come to them. Eventually, Andrew Benintendi started a rally with a one-out single, and he’d move on to second on a wild pitch. After a fly out moved him over to third and J.D. Martinez drew a walk, Xander Bogaerts had two on with two outs. The shortstop came through as he has so often this year, smacking a triple into left-center field — that, in all honestly, probably should have been caught by Kevin Kiermaier — to bring the Red Sox within one. Bogaerts would be stranded at third, but they cut into the deficit.
So, after that first inning it seemed as though this one would go back and forth for a while, but pitching for both sides settled in for a bit. Johnson, for his part, settled in in a big way. Including the final out of that big first inning, the lefty retired 13 of the next 14 batters he’d face, with the one batter he didn’t get drawing a walk. On the other side, Yonny Chirinos came in starting in the second and handed the Red Sox a pair of quiet inning.
That leads us to the bottom half of the third with the score still 3-2 in favor of the Rays. That wouldn’t last too much longer, and it was Bogaerts starting things this time around. He smacked a double off the Monster, and after moving over to third on a fly ball he’d come in to score on an Eduardo Núñez single. Then, in the fifth, with the score now tied at three apiece, Mookie Betts got into the action with a leadoff double. He’d move to third on a ground ball, and Mitch Moreland came through with an RBI single. Suddenly, the Red Sox had a 4-3 lead, and Betts also scored his 100th run of the year. It’s August 17. Good lord.
From here we go to the top of the sixth as Johnson was looking to continue his groove and now preserve his newfound lead. The lefty got off to a good start by retiring the first two batters he faced, but after allowing a two-out double Alex Cora pulled the plug, bringing in Heath Hembree to try and finish the inning. He did just that, getting Jake Bauers to strike out and strand the potential tying run at second base.
After the Red Sox added a bit of insurance thanks to a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI double, Ryan Brasier came on for the seventh to protect a two-run lead. Things didn’t get off to an ideal start as Kiermaier kicked things off with a single. Things got better from there, though, as Willy Adames worked a full count but eventually struck out, and Blake Swihart threw a dart down to second base for a huge strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. Brasier came back for one more strikeout, and the inning was over.
Boston would add two more in the seventh on a Martinez RBI single and a wild pitch, extending their lead to four, before Matt Barnes came on for the top of the eighth. The Red Sox setup man let the first two runners reach, but it came on some bad luck. The first batter, Mallex Smith, reached on a five-foot single due to blazing speed, and the second was just barely nicked with a pitch. Barnes got out of the early trouble, though, getting a strikeout, a pop out and another strikeout toe end the inning and keep the score 7-3.
The ninth belonged to Tyler Thornburg with the four-run lead, and he protected that with an easy 1-2-3 inning to finish off the win.
The Red Sox will look to keep these good times rolling on Saturday as they look to clinch another series victory as well. They’ll have David Price on the mound to take on Tyler Glasnow, with the first pitch coming at 7:10 PM ET.
As for the division, well, Boston came into the day with a 10.5-game lead, and it looks like it may stay that way. The Yankees are up by two runs on the Blue Jays as this is being written, and the two sides are currently delayed in the seventh inning.