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Red Sox 8, Nationals 4: Tzu-Wei Lin leads Sox in huge fourth inning

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Boston gets to Scherzer in a seven-run fourth.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Washington Nationals Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox faced off against Max Scherzer and the Nationals for the second time in less than a week, and for the first few innings it looked like the first matchup. Washington’s ace, the best pitcher in baseball in this writer’s opinion, got through three scoreless innings after tossing three scoreless innings in the first matchup. In the fourth, though, Boston’s lineup got going and ended up scoring seven runs off Scherzer and Vidal Nuño. That was enough to lead the Sox to a 8-4 win on Tuesday.

Tzu-Wei Lin goes deep

As the Red Sox have used their regulars somewhat sparingly early in camp — which makes sense given the long 2018 season — some of the depth options have gotten a chance to shine. Not many of those depth pieces have made more of their opportunity than Tzu-Wei Lin. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, the upcoming year is a big one for the utility man as it is his final season with a minor-league option. He’s come into 2019 with a full head of steam, and kept the hot streak going. In that big fourth inning Lin came to the plate to lead off with his team trailing 1-0. He got a breaking ball down in the zone, went down and got it, sending it over the wall in right-center field for a solo shot to tie the game. It was Lin’s second homer of the spring, and he added in a single in the game as well. Through the first couple weeks of Grapefruit League action, he is hitting .438 with a 1.313 OPS. Unless someone on the major-league roster gets hurt between now and Opening Day, Lin will start the year in Pawtucket. He’ll get a chance in the majors at some point this year, though, and if Eduardo Núñez has another rough season like he did in 2018 Lin should probably be up permanently.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Poyner and Travis Lakins highlight the day for the pitching

It was a mixed bag for the Red Sox pitchers on Tuesday, but a couple of the Triple-A depth options had fine showings on the mound. Bobby Poyner had the best outing of the day, tossing a scoreless inning that included a strikeout of Nationals catcher Pedro Severino. Poyner is one of the guys in the mix for that last spot among the pitching staff, though he’s likely on the outside looking in. Although he doesn’t possess a huge ceiling and probably won’t be a viable long-term solution in the late innings, a southpaw who can pitch well against hitters of either handedness is always a valuable commodity. The lefty has now pitched four innings this spring, allowing a run with three strikeouts and no walks.

Following Poyner in the game was Travis Lakins, who wasn’t perfect but got himself out of some trouble in his single inning of work. The 2018 breakout did allow a solid single to Matt Adams to lead off the inning, but promptly followed that with a double play from the speedy Trea Turner. He then walked Juan Soto, but that’s nothing to be too ashamed of as the young Nationals outfielder is one of the most impressively disciplined hitters in the game, despite his age. Lakins followed that up with a strikeout to finish the inning. The righty is going to start the year back in Pawtucket, but if he starts off strong the calls for him to get promoted to the majors will start to grow in volume, and it will be valid.

Other Notes

  • Blake Swihart returned to the Red Sox lineup for his first game back after leaving the team following the death of his brother. He played first base in the game, and he had a strong showing going 2-4 with a pair of singles and scoring a couple of runs. The catcher also stole a base.
  • J.D. Martinez and Christian Vázquez both went hitless, though Martinez did draw a walk. Both of these guys are struggling very early on this spring, and while neither should be a huge cause for concern simply because spring stats on March 5 aren’t super telling, the latter’s struggles are harder to ignore.
  • Hector Velázquez got the start for the Red Sox, and he was a little shaky. The righty only allowed one run in 2 23 innings, but he also allowed four hits including a pair of doubles and hit a batter. After spending all of 2018 on the major-league roster, Velázquez likely has the inside track for an Opening Day roster spot but with minor-league options remaining he isn’t a lock.
  • Josh Taylor finished the game for Boston. The lefty did strike out two in his two innings of work, but he also allowed a run on three hits and a wild pitch. All three hits were singles, to be fair. Taylor is someone to keep an eye on as the Red Sox look for depth when the season goes on.
  • Bobby Dalbec started the game at third base and went 1-3 with a single, a run and an RBI, but he also struck out twice. Michael Chavis, meanwhile, came in later in the game and interestingly played second base. This comes just a couple days after Alex Cora said he’d focus on getting both of these guys time primarily at the corner infield spots.
  • Domingo Tapia needs to pitch well early in the year in Pawtucket if he is going to be anything more than an emergency option, but he’s making a solid impression early in spring. The righty tossed a 1-2-3 inning in this game and has allowed one run in 4 23 innings, though he also has more walks (3) than strikeouts (2).