During the Boston Red Sox’ recent 10-game losing streak, no lineup combination could produce a win. With the team how headed in a decidedly different direction, any and every lineup seems to find success.
Saturday evening it was the youth movement that propelled the Red Sox to victory. Rookies Rubby De La Rosa, Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr. played leading roles in the team’s 7-1 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Jonathan Herrera and Alex Wilson contributed too, helping the club notch its sixth consecutive triumph.
Coming off a tense game Friday night in which three Red Sox batters were hit by Rays pitchers, four in Boston uniforms were ejected by the umpires, and David Ortiz and David Price exchanged barbs through the media, anticipation was high as De La Rosa (1-0, 0.00) took the mound at the top of the first inning.
The 25-year-old flame thrower dispatched any lingering tension, as well as 21 of 24 Tampa Bay batters he faced. In seven innings De La Rosa gave up just four hits, including a double to Ben Zobrist, while striking out eight. He walked no one.
De La Rosa’s fastball was in the high 90s throughout his stint, coupled with a terrific change-up and a slider that he introduced the second time through the Rays’ batting order.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski told reporters after the game:
He was great. Obviously, you guys saw the results, but you’re talking about a guy who can throw 98, 99, and throw the change-up he was throwing along with the slider, it’s going to be fun. And he was throwing it over the plate. He threw three pitches for strikes at any time. And the way his ball moves and the way he’s able to do that, heck, he could be real successful if he can throw it over the plate like that every time.
I know I’ve heard whispers about how good this kid can be and I saw little glimpses of it in spring training. But to actually see him do it on this stage, in this situation, especially after last night and all that went down, was impressive, and hopefully he learns from it, gains confidence and builds on it.
The Red Sox got on the board first when Herrera singled to start the third inning. Holt followed with a blast to right center field that found the Red Sox bullpen for his first Major League home run.
Xander Bogaerts then walked and moved to second on a single by Pierzynski. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch by Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (2-5, 5.13). Mike Carp hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Bogaerts for the third Red Sox run.
In the fourth inning, Grady Sizemore led off with a single and stole second base. Bradley advanced Sizemore to third on a ground out to second base and Herrera brought him home with a bunt single.
After an earlier slip on the mound by Odorizzi, the Rays changed pitchers, but newcomer Cesar Ramos threw a wild pitch that moved Herrera to second. He scored on a Pierzynski single to center bringing the lead to 5-0.
Sizemore singled again in the fifth and scored on a home run by Bradley – his first round tripper of the 2014 season – into the Boston bullpen to cap the Red Sox scoring.
Alex Wilson relieved De La Rosa to open the eighth inning and promptly gave up a blast to left center by Kevin Kiermaier. Bradley made a leaping attempt to catch the ball slamming into the Green Monster. The ball caromed off the wall and struck Bradley in the face. The center fielder slumped to the ground as Kiermaier soared around the bases for an inside the park home run.
In another odd incident Rays catcher Ali Solis was hit in the face by a ball that ricocheted off Pierzynski’s shin guard. The play came in the third inning on a De La Rosa pitch in the dirt. Solis was dazed and left the game in the middle of the at bat.
Among the game’s sterling defensive plays, Holt robbed Sean Rodriguez of a hit in the second inning when the third baseman snared a sharp one-hopper just inside the foul line and made a strong, accurate throw to beat the speedy Rodriguez to first base. Bogaerts made a great grab on a line drive by Jose Molina in the eighth.