What an interesting turn of events over the last week and a half for these Boston Red Sox.
They were 40-42 on the last day of June. After a sweep over the Blue Jays, winning a three-game series over the Rangers, and yet another sweep—this one over the Athletics—the team is now 48-43. They are only one game back of the Yankees in the standings. Hanging on in the Wild Card race. I’ve written multiple times over the course of June that the weeks leading to the All-Star break were going to show us who this team was and whether it was worth any investment. After ripping off an 8-1 record—including five wins in a row—they’re showing the life I need to have even a little belief.
This game wasn’t pretty in the least bit.
Going through six pitchers, the squad must feel lucky to have this break coming up, not just to rest the arms used today but to get that much closer to having some starters return.
Taylor Scott, Chris Murphy, and Josh Winckowski didn’t exactly bring their best. They ate innings and gave up three runs while Red Sox bats stayed cold. Heck, the Sox got their first run of the game without recording a hit, as a walk to Rob Refsnyder, a wild pitch, a fielding error by Jace Pederson and a sac fly bringing Refsnyder home tied the game, 1-1, after the first inning.
It took until the fifth inning for the Red Sox to get a hit, a Justin Turner double that was maybe inches from leaving the ballpark. Despite not making it count, it seemed to wake everyone up. Adam Duvall launched a 400+-ft homer into the Monster seats to make it a one-run game. Yoshida got on with a single that frankly Tyler Wade should have caught, then stole second and wisely took third base after a throwing error by Manny Pina. That let Christian Arroyo bring Yoshi home with an RBI double.
Joely Rodriguez steps in with two on and no outs in the 7th and gets a fielder’s choice and two clutch strikeouts to keep the game tied. That’s massive for a guy who’s going to be counted on to stay healthy after the break.
Chris Martin works around a jam in the 8th to keep it tied once again. Then, up steps Macho Man, Masataka Yoshida. A home run Dustin Pedroia would be proud of, a fastball above the letters—almost neck high— that clears the ledge of the Monster, giving the Red Sox the lead for good.
This didn’t result in anything, but Jarren Duran must be allergic to first base. This is just diabolical base-running to take second on an infield error by Tyler Wade.
This is maniacal behavior from Jarren Duran pic.twitter.com/3FBgTAZZ3C— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 9, 2023
Kenley gives up a walk to Brent Rooker to lead off the 9th, but Connor Wong’s cannon throws out pinch-runner Nick Allen trying to swipe second. That’s Wong’s 16th caught stealing, second-most in the Majors. No issues the rest of the way. The first five innings should get tossed out of the way. The last three and a half were exactly the Red Sox we’ve seen gut out wins over the course of the last week and a half. Even with all of this, I’m not sure how much of a buyer the Red Sox should even be. If it benefits the team in the long term, I’m for it. If it’s in the efforts of the short-term, for one desperate run? I’m not sure I’m for it. But that’s a marked shift in my mind from June 30th.
Last season, the Red Sox lost six of seven going into that All-Star Break. They lost Chris Sale for the season the game right before the break. They had lost a lot more bodies in the weeks before. They proved they weren’t salvageable.
This season, the wins speak for themselves. John Schreiber is close to re-joining the bullpen. A rehab stint is in the works for Trevor Story. Tanner Houck isn’t a lost cause for the season. Sale throwing catch recently in an effort to come back. Garrett Whitlock and Corey Kluber aren’t complete season losses either. Heck, there wasn’t much of anything redeeming about this team at the end of June. Ten days may have changed my mind a little bit. There’s still work to be done.
Masataka Yoshida (.263 WPA, 2-for-4, 2 runs, go-ahead HR, 2 RBI, 1 K)
Masataka Yoshida is going to finish his first half of MLB action at .316/.382/.492 with 10 HR, an 8% walk rate, 10% strikeout rate, and 139 wRC+— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) July 9, 2023
All of the preseason doubters, the ones who “had no words,” who thought this was a massive overpay, who thought his power wouldn’t transfer and that he’d be injury prone. They have to be eating more than just their words right now. It hasn’t been as a lead-off hitter, but in the 3-4-5 slot, Yoshida has been a terror against pretty much every opponent, getting on base every which way. Putting those numbers in some more context, that strikeout rate is in the 99th percentile, according to Baseball Savant. Even his defense has been serviceable, more than what even the optimists were expecting. Yoshida is the real deal.
Joely Rodriguez (.235 WPA, 1.0 IP, 2 Ks)
A 5-3 deficit feels a lot different than a 3-3 tie. Rodriguez hasn’t pitched since May 30th, but this was a clutch outing. Hopefully, this is the second-half Rodriguez.
Kenley Jansen (.171 WPA, 1.0 IP, 1 K, save)
No one will mind a clean save to end the game. Big props to Connor Wong’s rocket to catch Nick Allen at second base.
Josh Winckowski (-.171 WPA, 2.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 2 K)
Winckowski has had a lot of ups and downs this season, and his mammoth homer given up to Brent Rooker might have been a dagger if this was June’s Red Sox team.
Kiké Hernandez (-083 WPA, 0-for-2)
Thank god he was pinch hit for. I’d like to see a lot more Jarren Duran and a lot less Kiké going forward. Duran’s earning it with his performance. Hernandez is not.
Yu Chang (-.071 WPA, 0-for-3, 1 BB)
I’ll give Chang the break I give most players coming back off a long-term stint on the IL. He still isn't a defensive liability, which is what the Red Sox are asking of him.
Play of the Game
C’mon. With a WPA of .252, it couldn't be anything else other than Masataka Yoshida’s go-ahead, solo homer in the bottom of the 8th.
Who was the Red Sox’s Player of the Game in their 4-3 win over the Athletics on July 9th?
This poll is closed