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Red Sox 7, Braves 6: Garrett Richards gets into the sixth

And the bullpen battle got center stage late, and didn’t do super well with it.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox got their second straight win on Tuesday, squeaking by with a 7-6 victory over the Braves. More importantly, they now have less than a full week of fake games before the spring slate is over. Rejoice, indeed. Here are the notes from the day:

A good day for Garrett Richards and his ‘stache

The Red Sox have had a string of underwhelming performances from their starting pitchers over the last few games. It’s not a huge deal, as most of them have shown enough to this point that we can be at least a little confident they won’t completely tank before the season starts, and this is a part of the spring where starters typically hit a bit of a wall. Still, just for the sake of sanity and wanting to watch good baseball, it would be nice to see some good pitching on Tuesday. Garrett Richards obliged, not only going deeper than any starting pitcher to date, but also looking good in the process.

Now, the line doesn’t really look all that impressive, but it doesn’t seem like a great representation for how Richards looked out there, particularly compared to some of his earlier appearances this spring. In all, he ended up going 5 23 innings, allowed four runs (three runs) on four hits (a homer, a double and two singles), two walks and four strikeouts. There was one big mistake in which he threw one middle-middle to Ronald Acuña on a 3-0 count and the Braves superstar sent it to the moon, but that’ll happen against Acuña.

Aside from that, though, I thought the Red Sox righty looked relatively crisp, as he has in his last couple of outings after that aforementioned tough start to his spring. The real questions for him will start to come up after he gets some mileage on his arm this year, but for now he looks to be carrying some moderately good momentum into the regular season. He should make one more start before the real games start.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are heating up

In all honesty, the spring training performances from Bogaerts and Martinez aren’t really all that important or telling in the grand scheme of things. Bogaerts has done nothing but hit throughout his career, and especially over the last three seasons, so there’s no reason to expect otherwise in 2021. Martinez is obviously coming off a tougher 2020, but A) that season needs to be taken with a tremendous grain of salt and B) he’s never been a great spring performer even in his best seasons. In fact, his best spring with the Red Sox was last year before the shutdown.

That being said, it’s still cool to see good players do well, and with the Red Sox likely needing to lean on the offense a bit this year seeing their best players get hot as the real games start is better than the alternative, even if it’s not a huge deal either way. Bogaerts got off to a slow start this spring after some early-spring shoulder issues kept him out. But he’s back in the field now — he started at shortstop today — and he’s getting his timing down at the plate. In today’s game he left the yard for the first time in 2021, smashing a three-run shot way out to left field on a pitch down in the zone. He now has a hit in four of his last five games, and in three of the last four he has an extra-base knock.

Martinez, meanwhile, stayed in the yard but he was on base multiple times. He got the start in left field today and at the plate he went 2-4 with a double, a single, a run, two RBI and a strikeout. This comes one day after he reached base in all three plate appearances against the Pirates. Again, spring is a time where he tinkers with things and his performance is never really telling, but it’s still nice to see him do what he does.

The reliever battle takes center stage.

The Red Sox, as I see it, seemingly have one bullpen spot open with Phillips Valdez, Colten Brewer and Kevin McCarthy vying for it. We got to see all three of them in action on Tuesday.

Brewer came in first, and he was immediately welcomed into the game by Jake Lamb launching a solo homer. He’d also give up a single, but a pair of ground balls including a double play ball got him out of the inning. On the spring, he’s now allowed four runs over 4 13 innings on six hits (two homers) and one walk with three strikeouts.

After his inning, Valdez came in next and was also welcomed in by a homer. This one was from the second batter he faced, Ehire Adrianza. In all, he allowed the two runs on a homer, a walk and a single with a strikeout as well. For the spring, he’s now allowed nine runs (eight earned) over 6 23 innings on four hits, seven walks, two hit batters and eight strikeouts.

Taking the ninth inning was McCarthy, who also allowed some hard contact. This one wasn’t a home run, but rather a wall-ball double to Pablo Sandoval. That came following a two-out error from Jonathan Araúz, for what it’s worth. He managed to keep runs off the board, though, and close out the win. He’s allowed two runs (both unearned) this spring over six innings on four hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

This battle is really interesting for a few reasons, and the roster implications make it really complicated. I’m planning a fuller write-up on the situation tomorrow morning, so I’ll leave the analysis for then.

Other Notes

  • The leadoff spot is going to go to Kiké Hernández, it would seem. That’s been pretty clear all spring, and the super utility man has done nothing to dissuade his manager from giving him the opportunity. He started at second base for Tuesday’s game and ended up going 3-4, all singles, with a run, an RBI and a strikeout. On the spring, he’s now hitting .353/.488/.559.
  • Also getting hits in this game who have not been mentioned were: Alex Verdugo, who started this game in center field and went 1-3 with a single, a walk, two runs, an RBI, a walk and a strikeout; Marwin Gonzalez, who started at first base today and went 1-3 with a single; Kevin Plawecki, who came in off the bench and had a single in his only plate appearance; and Jonathan Araúz, who came in as a sub for Hernández and singled in his lone plate appearance.
  • Also pitching in this game who has not been mentioned was Marcus Walden, who struck out the only batter he faced as he finished off the sixth inning after Garrett Richards was pulled.