Today’s 5-3 win over the Rays was exactly what makes baseball great. Everything about this game appeared to scream “easy win” for the Rays; a first-place team throwing Chris Archer (9-4, 2.01 ERA), arguably the best pitcher in the American League at this point in the season, against Justin Masterson (2-2, 6.37 ERA) and the last-place Red Sox. But against all odds, the Red Sox managed to beat Archer and the Rays while Masterson looked excellent in his first start in over a month.
After a miserable outing in Oakland on May 12th, the Red Sox placed Masterson on the disabled list with “shoulder tendonitis.” Most pundits theorized that the Red Sox were simply buying time before cutting ties with Masterson, while giving some of their alternate pitchers an audition for their soon-to-be vacant rotation spot. However, there may have been legitimate reasoning for Masterson’s DL stint as the lanky right-hander looked phenomenal today.
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Though he only threw 84 pitches over 5 innings of work, Masterson looked the best he’s looked all season long. His velocity still is not at its former heights, with the 30-year old sitting in the mid-to-high 80’s with his fastball, but there were no signs of the command troubles which have plagued him all season. In fact, he didn’t walk a single batter while punching out 6 Rays hitters, allowing just an unearned run in his day of work.
Masterson’s dominance today was surprising enough, not to mention that the Red Sox bats looked more than competent today against Archer. Entering today’s game, Archer had allowed a stingy three home runs on the season, and the Red Sox went out and doubled that total today.
The Boston bats first touched Archer in the second inning, when Pablo Sandoval lined a home run off the foul pole in left field to put the Red Sox on top. Then, after a controversial strikeout which led to Mike Napoli‘s ejection from the game, Alejandro De Aza followed him up with his second homer in two days, lining a shot into the right field bleachers.
The Red Sox would once again use the longball in the fourth, when David Ortiz took advantage of a hanging slider and crushed a homer to right field for a two-run shot. The Rays did grab one run in the fifth inning off a tiring Masterson, with Asdrubal Cabrera driving in Brandon Guyer, but the Red Sox struck back in the sixth. Xander Bogaerts led off the inning by driving a liner into the right field corner for a double and he would come around to score later on a sac fly by Sandoval to give the Red Sox a 5-1 lead.
For the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox turned the game over to the bullpen, placing Alexi Ogando in the game. Ogando allowed two baserunners to start the inning, but punched out two of the next three hitters and escaped without any damage. However, the Red Sox ran into some trouble in the bottom of the seventh, when manager John Farrell pegged rookie Jonathan Aro to start the inning. Aro allowed a double to Guyer to start the inning and Guyer would come around to score two batters later on a double by Cabrera. Sensing that Aro didn’t have his best stuff, Farrell replaced him with Junichi Tazawa, who allowed an RBI single by Grady Sizemore on his first pitch.
Tazawa was able to settle down from there, though, retiring the next two hitters to escape the inning with a two-run lead. The crafty Tazawa went on to throw a scoreless eighth inning before turning the ball over to reliable closer Koji Uehara for the ninth. Aside from a two-out double by Sizemore, Uehara was spotless as he tossed a scoreless ninth en route to his 16th save of the season.
The Red Sox come away with a series win in Tampa Bay and will look to keep the good times rolling in a crucial four-game series against the Blue Jays, sending Clay Buchholz (5-6, 3.68 ERA) to the mound to face knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (3-7, 4.88 ERA).
- All three of Boston’s home runs came against Archer, marking the only time in the youngster’s career that he has allowed three bombs.
- Replacing Napoli after his ejection, Deven Marrero made his major league debut today. Though he didn’t do much at the plate, going 0-3 with 2 strikeouts, he made a phenomenal diving stop at second base to save a run in the eighth inning.
- Alejandro De Aza hit another home run today, continuing what has been a fantastic run since he joined the Red Sox, as he has slashed .288/.311/.576 in 19 games.
Masterson was only able to toss five innings today against the Rays, but they were five great innings as he struck out six and allowed only one unearned run. It appears that Masterson, whose long-term role with the Red Sox has been up in the air, has earned at least one more shot at sticking in the rotation.
Tazawa turned in a strong performance out of the bullpen, eating some innings very effectively as he struck out three and allowed just a hit in 1.2 scoreless frames.
A number of Red Sox hitters swung the bat well today, but none as well as Sandoval, who went 2-3 with a home run and a sac fly, driving in a pair of runs. He continues a solid stretch as he has turned his season around after a tough month of May.