If offense was the story of last night, pitching was the story of tonight’s bout.
Brayan Bello and Spencer Strider basically just took turns dominating each others’ opposing lineups for the first five innings. Even with two defensive miscues from Rafael Devers at third, Bello stayed calm, cool, and collected, evading every jam. After a shaky first at-bat, Strider settled in and just mowed down batter after batter. It really became a contest of chicken, who was going to blink first?
It was Bello, giving up a three-run shot to Ozzie Albies in the sixth inning. For tossing a four-hitter and that being your only big mistake, against an ace like Strider? That could spell demise on any given night. Then, the bottom of the inning happened.
Strider left a slider right in Devers’ wheelhouse down low, as he golfed a shot down the line and around the Pesky Pole to put the Sox on the board. Sean Murphy—Atlanta’s catcher—viscerally reacted, knowing it was a bad pitch to give up. Despite not scoring more in that frame, it was a lifeline. Strider was beatable.
Joe Jacques tosses a perfect 1-2-3 top of the seventh, and upstep the Sox once again. Triston Casas does what he’s been doing all month and smashes a solo homer off the back wall in center field. Two homers in two frames for the men in Yellow. Connor Wong followed that right up with a single, and Strider’s night was done. Now, they go to work. Ozzie Albies makes a supremely costly fielding error at second base trying to turn two himself, resulting in turning none himself. Duran grounds out, but the OBP machine Justin Turner throws his barrel onto the ball and drills a two-run double high off the monster. Confidence—and the lead—gained. An Adam Duvall solo HR in the eighth gave some insurance and despite a small scare in the ninth, Kenley Jansen locked the save and win down.
The Red Sox just beat baseball’s best team in a two-game series in two very different ways. They’re 15-5 since June 30th, the best record in baseball. The best batting average, OPS, and second-best runs per game in the entire month of July. There’s less than a week left in the entire month of July. As I wrote this morning, the Red Sox are proving themselves to be a team worth buying into in so many ways. Tonight continues to prove it.
Justin Turner (.373 WPA, 2-for-4, 2 RBI)
What an absolutely clutch time for Justin Turner to record his first career hit against Pierce Johnson in the seventh, giving the Red Sox the lead for good.
Triston Casas (.210 WPA, 2-for-2, 1 HR, 2 BB)
One of the only good points the ESPN booth brought up was that Alex Cora should think about moving Casas up in the lineup. He has the Majors’ best batting average and OPS since the All-Star break, producing at a torrid pace. Hitting a tank of a homer off of a possible NL Cy Young contender does him good.
Connor Wong (2-for-3, 1 run scored)
Wong comes home to score on Turner’s go-ahead double, but what about his pop time? Absolutely clutch in the top of the ninth, cutting down Forrest Wall trying to swipe second. As of the time of writing—according to Baseball Savant—Wong has a 1.89 pop time to second on average, fifth of all catchers in the bigs.
Jarren Duran (-.164 WPA, 0-for-4, 1 K)
Just not Duran’s night, we couldn’t see the lizard fly around the basepaths. Frankly, I don’t blame him for going up against a guy like Strider.
Masataka Yoshida (-.103 WPA, 0-for-4, 1 K)
Every guy is due to hit a slump, and Yoshi has been a little quiet the last two or three games. He’ll get there.
The ESPN booth (three guys not making baseball sound fun)
I said the same thing Sunday and I’ll say it again tonight. The ESPN booth makes baseball awful to listen to. They’re not exciting, they talk all over each other, it’s insufferable to listen to.
Play of the Game
With a WPA of .376, it had to be Justin Turner’s go-ahead, two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Who was the Red Sox’s Player of the Game in their 5-3 win over the Braves on 7/26/2023?
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