Red Sox Mike Napoli Smashes Victory Over Rays, 7-5


It was a wild one in Fenway Park, last night, as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox battled after the MLB trade deadline. In front of over 36 700 people with a 15-mph wind coming from left to right in Boston, the game would be tied in the later frames. It took a swing from Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli over the Green Monster to break it up.

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The Red Sox started young pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, the lefty who’s posted a 6-3 record and a 4.26 ERA, on the mound to face the Rays’ lineup. Tampa countered with Erasmo Ramirez, the righty with an 8-4 record an a 3.74 ERA.

Neither pitcher kept a clean sheet or would record a victory or even a loss. The omen came in the first inning, where both pitchers allowed the opposing team to score with ease.

Rodriguez gave up a lead-off walk on five pitches, showing that he couldn’t find the strike zone. A single and another walk later, with one out, a coach’s visit to the mound was required. It only delayed an RBI. Tampa’s Joey Butler grounded into a force out that scored the first base runner Brandon Guyer.

In the bottom of the first, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts benefited from a fielding error by Tampa’s first baseman Logan Forsythe to reach base. Possibly rattled by the defense, Ramirez proceeded to uncork a wild pitch that allowed Bogaerts to reach second base, positioning him to move to third on another fielding error by Tim Beckham that also allowed David Ortiz to first. Ramirez, clearly not happy with the way things were going, walked the next batter Napoli and served up a 79-mph curve ball over the plate for Red Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza to drive to right field, scoring Bogaerts. With two outs, Boston’s young catcher Blake Swihart got into the run party by tapping a single to left field, cashing in Napoli and De Aza. The Red Sox had eight batters go to the plate and earn the lead 3-1, and it was only the first inning.

Rodriguez’s struggles continued in the top of the second inning. After a full-count ground out, Mikie Mahtook smacked a double into right field. The next batter Curt Casali lined out sharply, making Red Sox Nation wonder if Rodriguez was going to get drilled around the park that evening. Everyone was either getting on base or hitting him hard. Finally, Guyer struck out. Or did he? He swung and missed for the third strike but the pitch turned wild and ate up Swihart, allowing Guyer to get to first base. Instead of being out of the inning, Steven Souza Jr. singled past Red Sox third baseman Josh Rutledge, filling in for the injured Pablo Sandoval, and scored Mahtook.

Mahtook returned the favor by hitting a single to right field and scored Asdrubal Cabrera in the top of the fourth inning. The game was now tied.

Alec Shirkey of was there during the post-game interview with Red Sox manager John Farrell, discussing Rodriguez’s performance:

"“When he’s not had his best command, such as tonight, he’s still got premium stuff to get guys out, even in fastball counts […] He was behind in the count a lot tonight. When he got back in the strike zone, he wasn’t down the middle of the plate. Like I said, he found a way to get through it. He battled — 110 pitches through five innings is an extreme amount. He held his velocity through the entire outing for the five innings, but again, was able to get some key outs.”– John Farrell"

Those referred key outs were in each of the five innings, as many times Rodriguez would record the final out with men on base. Tampa would leave eight runners on while Rodriguez would find a way to get the Rays to pop out three times and ground out eight times. His night ended after the fifth, allowing three runs on six hits, four walks, and four strikeouts.

Before Rodriguez’s exit, in the top of the inning, De Aza drilled a single to right field to score Brock Holt and put the Red Sox starting pitcher in line for the win.

Jason Jaso said no to that in the top of the seventh, doubling into center field to score Butler and Mahtook off of Red Sox relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa. The only reason why Tazawa was in that position in the first place was because Robbie Ross, with two men out, hit Mahtook with a pitch and allowed the inning to continue. Ramirez was now in line for the win, 5-4.

In the bottom of the seventh, the pinch hit that Jaso took and the pinch running by Kevin Kiermaier meant Tampa’s defense needed four substitutions as well as some pitching relief, having Jake McGee replace Ramirez. With two men out, McGee walked Ortiz and set the stage for Napoli. The ball that Napoli crushed likely would have went foul, but, possibly because of the wind, the ball stayed fair to the delight of Ortiz, with his arm in the air and a huge smile on his face. The Red Sox took back the lead, 6-5.

The crazy affair was capped off with Brandon Gomes replacing McGee in the bottom of the eighth and throwing a wild pitch that allowed Swihart to score from third base.

Koji Uehara came in the top of the ninth to mop up and record his 23rd save of the season. Tazawa took the win and McGee took the loss. A sloppy but exciting game.

Game Notes:

  • Napoli, De Aza, and Swihart each had two RBIs.
  • Rutledge earned his first hit as a Red Sox player, going 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
  • Bogaerts, Rusney Castillo, and Jackie Bradley Jr. all went 0-for-4. Bradley also had two strikeouts.
  • The Red Sox went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The Rays left 13 men on base.


C+. . Game Ball. <strong>Eduardo Rodriguez</strong>. STARTING PITCHING

It could have been much worse. Rodriguez was getting hit hard most of the time. His pitching style doesn’t rely on batters to put the ball in play to get outs, but it did last night. That screams relief with a touch of dread for the future. Between his warm-up bullpen session and the mound, Rodriguez has to find the strike zone much earlier if he doesn’t want to give everyone cheering for the Red Sox heart attacks in his next start.

C+. . Game Ball. <strong>Koji Uehara</strong>. RELIEF PITCHING

Tazawa got hit three times, including the run that was charged to Ross, the man who hit a Rays batter when he’s supposed to be holding them at bay. It was Tazawa’s second blown save, making the victory his only through a technicality.

Alexi Ogando

gave up a hit; however, at least it wasn’t a home run, which has plagued him, recently. Koji was nearly perfect in his save attempt, giving up a walk and struck out two batters to end the game in 24 pitches, 16 of them strikes.

. Game Ball. <strong>Mike Napoli</strong>. OFFENSE . B

When you narrowly escape the trade deadline (who are we kidding?) and then pound the ball to win the game for the team you love, you get the game ball. Napoli did that (at least the second part) last night. He was a third of the offense, and did it at the right moment.

The problem is still the lack of support. The Red Sox score runs, but it is usually from only a handful of players, and not always the same ones. Ironically, other than Ortiz, whom went 0-for-4, hitting consistently for the past seven games, nobody on the Red Sox roster is riding a wave of hits from game to game. Seven runs is great. It’s even better when they are more spread out, instead of waiting for the last minute to pull the game out of the proverbial fire.

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