The Boston Red Sox pushed their winning streak to 11 games with a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. They are peaking at just the right time.
It was a sad day for Major League Baseball. The death of Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez is an absolute tragedy. One that will undoubtedly cast a dark cloud on the remainder of the season. It should provide perspective to fans. In the grand scheme of things wins and losses are unimportant. Enjoy baseball because it’s fun and because of the sense of community it fosters. Jose Fernandez will be missed for his play and because he was a truly special person.
Somehow, baseball was played on Sunday. The Boston Red Sox went into Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays riding a 10-game winning streak. Could they bring that winning streak to 11?
Boston got the scoring started early. A first inning single by Mookie Betts scored Xander Bogaerts to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. The Rays would even things up in the second inning on a Richie Shaffer sacrifice fly.
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The score would remain tied until the top of the third when a Dustin Pedroia solo homer would put the Sox back ahead 2-1. The seesaw nature of the game continued in the bottom of eighth when a Brad Miller RBI single tied the game at 2-2. Nine frames was not enough for this contest. It would head to extra innings.
A 10th inning David Ortiz double scored Dustin Pedroia on a wacky play at the plate that should have seen Pedroia thrown out. The throw from Richie Shaffer beat him to the plate, but on the tag the ball became dislodged from the catcher’s mitt. After the chaos Boston held a 3-2 lead.
That would be enough. Joe Kelly closed the door on any impending Rays comeback and the Red Sox won their 11th straight game. Offense has been the story for Boston this season, but Sunday their pitching was the difference.
Eduardo Rodriguez was fantastic on Sunday. The 23-year-old lefty pitched five and one-third innings, allowing only one run while striking out 13 Rays. At one point Red Sox pitchers struck out 11 batters in a row and 15 of 16. They struck out 23 Rays over the course of the entire game.
During this winning streak the Red Sox bullpen has been particularly impressive. After struggling most of the season, the pen is starting to look downright dominant. Entering Sunday the bullpen was 4-1 in September with a 0.89 ERA, 75 strikeouts, and a .188 opponent batting average. The 0.89 ERA is the lowest bullpen ERA in the majors over that period.
Of course, the real MVP of this winning streak is the dancing. After every victory the Red Sox outfield breaks out in a choreographed dance party in shallow center field.
The dance group has featured a revolving door of participants. The usual mainstays are Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., while the rotating third wheel has consisted of Brock Holt, Chris Young, and Andrew Benintendi just to name a few. My favorite iteration features Betts, Bradley Jr., and Benintendi. The killer B’s rake, play excellent defense, and they sure can dance.
Dancing aside, the Red Sox look like World Series contenders. The bullpen that was once a concern is rounding into form, the bats have stayed hot all season, and the starting rotation I had questions about earlier in the week has been excellent during this winning streak.
Boston wraps up their regular season schedule with three games at Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees, followed by three games at Fenway against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays currently find themselves in second place in the American League East. Any ground Boston can gain leading up to their season-ending series is beneficial.