As children, we all grow up dreaming of hoisting the Chairman’s Cup over their head with their teammates with whom they put in all this hard work to achieve their goal. With Boston’s 8-3 win over the Twins on Sunday, they clinched the spring series against their cross-town rivals and got to live out their childhood dreams of winning the Cup. Here are the notes from this most momentous of victories:
The fastest start possible
The Red Sox were facing off today against a very talented pitcher in José Berríos, and for a lot of the game he showed off very good stuff and the Red Sox offense had trouble getting things going. Those struggles came after a super hot start, however. It was Kiké Hernández getting back into the leadoff spot, a role in which he has excelled. In the first at bat of the game for the Red Sox, he got a breaking ball that hung right over the center of the plate. He demolished the pitch, sending it over everything in left field for a solo shot. Franchy Cordero came up next, and on the very first pitch he saw he launched a solo shot of his own into right field, giving the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead on back-to-back pitches.
For Hernández, as I said he has been alluding in the leadoff spot. I have been skeptical of the merits of him in hitting at the top of this lineup, and spring training isn’t going to move me totally off that thought, but he’s hit well enough that I am at least more open than I was to this being a solid move. Hernández also added a single to his homer today, while playing center field. On the spring he’s now up to a 1.010 OPS.
Cordero, meanwhile, continues to trend in the right direction for Opening Day. Alex Cora said before the game there is a “good chance” he will be on the roster for Thursday. This is bad news for Michael Chavis, of course, but for the roster overall they have some more upside with Cordero. We saw why with his mammoth home run here. We also saw the downside in his game as well, as he struck out in his next two plate appearances. Overall though, he’s looked good this spring, particularly considering he’s spent the last couple weeks playing catch up.
- The Red Sox pitching staff is in flux right now with Matt Barnes’s positive COVID test and the resulting contact tracing. We still don’t know exactly who is being affected and how many pitchers they could be without for the start of the year. That’s led to some scrambling to finish out this spring, and prospect Josh Winckowski got the start here. The righty came over in the Andrew Benintendi trade and looked mostly solid here in this one. Overall he tossed three innings in which he allowed one run on two hits (a double and a single) and a walk with one strikeout. He should start the minor-league season in Portland’s rotation.
- After Winckowski, we got a look at some pitchers who will be in the major-league bullpen this year. Adam Ottavino got the fourth, and he’ll be the closer to start the year with Barnes out. He gave up an unearned run in his inning of work, in part due to a Rafael Devers error which was followed by a single and a sacrifice fly. Ottavino also struck one batter out.
Following Ottavino, we saw Josh Taylor and Austin Brice, both of whom were slated for middle relief roles before the Barnes situation. They may be thrust into a high leverage spot or two before the roster gets back to stasis. In this game, they each tossed a scoreless inning with Taylor’s being perfect and Brice allowing a walk but also picking up a strikeout.
And then there was Marcus Walden, who was on the outside looking in for this roster after his rough 2020. He’s been good in limited opportunities this spring, though, and depending on how the pitching situation shakes out he could sneak onto this Opening Day roster after all. He continued his good spring on Sunday, tossing a scoreless inning on a walk and two strikeouts. On the spring he’s up to 3 1⁄3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.
Perhaps the most important outing of the day belonged to Phillips Valdez, who looked likely to make the roster anyway and the pitching uncertainty all but guarantees that. He was a rare bright spot on last year’s staff, but there are questions about the sustainability of that, and those have only grown louder with his shakiness this spring. Valdez was very strong in this one though, tossing a perfect inning with one strikeout.
- Marwin Gonzalez got the start at second base for this game, and while it was a pretty forgettable day at the plate — he went 0-3 — he made two really nice plays in the field. Both of them were when they were shifted, and on each he ranged to his right over to the shortstop side of the bag and made good throws with his momentum going the other way. He’ll be all over the place this year, but when Hernández is in the outfield like he was for this one Gonzalez’s best spot will be second.
- It’s been a little bit of a tough spring for J.D. Martinez, but as we’ve mentioned a few times over the course of March that’s typical for him. He generally uses this time of year to sort out the mechanics of his swing, which is an everlasting process for him. That said, as we’re closing out the spring and real games are about to start, this is the time when we want to see that swing working how it’s supposed. So it was nice to see him have a good day here, grabbing a couple of hits including a ground-rule double hit out the other way to right field. Overall he was 2-4 with the double, a single, a strikeout and a pair of RBI.
- The Red Sox got a late-game homer from one of their depth players as well, with César Puello hitting a moonshot in the eighth. The former Mets prospect will serve as outfield depth for Boston for a second straight year — he got some time in the bigs late last season — but he’s been fun this spring with some power and killer home run poses as well.
- Also getting hits in this one who have not been mentioned yet were: Rafael Devers, who started at third and did have that error but at the plate had a nice day, going 2-4 with a double, a single and two strikeouts; Jarren Duran, who came in later in the game off the bench and smacked a double off the Monster in his first plate appearance then reached on a strikeout that got to the backstop in his next trip to the dish; Xander Bogaerts, who also had a multi-hit game, smacking a couple of base hits and knocking in a pair over four plate appearances; Chris Hermann, who started behind the plate for this game and went 1-2 with a base hit and a run; Michael Gettys, who came in to play right field later in the game and had an RBI single in his lone plate appearance; and Jett Bandy, who subbed in for Hermann later in the game and went 1-2 with a single and a run scored.
- Also pitching in this game who has not been mentioned was Stephen Gonsalves, a waiver claim from last summer who has since been taken off the 40-man and will serve as swingman depth this spring. He allowed one run over his inning of work, allowing a solo homer and a single while striking out two.