Red Sox: Yairo Munoz was the highlight of a bizarre doubleheader
Yairo Munoz was a highlight for the Red Sox in Friday’s doubleheader.
The Boston Red Sox won a road game at Fenway Park that lasted only seven innings. Let that sink in. Sadly, the most surprising part of that statement is that the Red Sox won a game. That’s the 2020 season – expect the unexpected.
Boston hosted the Toronto Blue Jays for a doubleheader on Friday. The nightcap was a makeup game from August 27 that was originally scheduled to be played in Buffalo where the Blue Jays have been playing their home games this season (again, 2020 is weird). That game was postponed in protest of social injustice and since the Red Sox aren’t planning another trip to Buffalo this season, rescheduling the game to be played as part of a doubleheader at Fenway was the logical solution. That meant the Blue Jays were deprived of a real home game, although home hasn’t really been “home” for them this year.
It also meant that the Red Sox were considered the road team for a game at Fenway Park for the first time in franchise history. They are now undefeated in road games at Fenway, a winning streak we hope they’ll never have the opportunity to snap. Then again, they might be better off letting their opponents call themselves the home team when they visit Boston. The last-place Red Sox have been a bit better on the road (6-11) than they have at home (7-16).
MLB implemented a new rule for this coronavirus-shortened season that cuts doubleheader games to seven innings. Doubleheaders are an essential way to make up postponed games while trying to squeeze the 60-game schedule in before October but MLB also wants to limit the amount of time players spend at the ballpark to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Seven inning games probably aren’t here to stay in the long run but the quirkiness of the temporary rule change added to an unusual day at the ballpark.
There were some pleasant surprises during this doubleheader, not the least of which was the emergence of Yairo Munoz.
The 25-year-old had himself a day, collecting six hits between the two games. Munoz went 3-for-3 in the first game, putting Boston on the board with a two-run home run in the second inning and driving in another run with a double during a sixth-inning rally that came up just short.
In Game 2, Munoz went 3-for-4, tallied another double and scored a run in a 3-2 victory.
The versatile Munoz played each of the corner outfield spots during the doubleheader. He’s played shortstop more than any other position in his career but he told reporters after the game that he’s more comfortable at second or third base.
His ability to play multiple positions gives manager Ron Roenicke some flexibility in filling out his lineup, which is sure to include Munoz as long as he keeps hitting.
"“Well, if he swings the bat like he is, you’ll see him a lot. He plays left and right, he plays all the infield positions. If he swings the bat like this, it’s going to be fun to watch him pretty much every day,” Roenicke told reporters, per NESN. “So, we’ll see what happens. But like I said, to have somebody just on fire is pretty cool to see.”"
The Red Sox scooped up Munoz after the St. Louis Cardinals released him last spring. He showed some potential in parts of two seasons with the Cardinals, hitting .273 with a .723 OPS in 196 games. Munoz was clearly frustrated with his role in St. Louis and when he left camp to fly home to the Dominican Republic in March, the Cardinals felt they had to choice but to cut ties.
The Cardinals organization seemed baffled by how their relationship with Munoz deteriorated so quickly but their loss could be Boston’s gain. The Red Sox have Munoz under team control through the 2024 season and he’ll remain very affordable when he hits arbitration for the first time next year.
Munoz still has one minor league option remaining so the Red Sox could stash him in Pawtucket to begin next season if they can’t find room on the roster. Boston could be looking at some serious roster changes in the wake of this dismal season so there’s some uncertainty regarding where Munoz fits. If he finishes this season strong then he might force the Red Sox to include him in their 2021 plans.
Munoz is now hitting a scorching .533 with a 1.467 OPS in four games with the Red Sox. It’s a minuscule sample size that’s heavily inflated by one great day. It’s a bit concerning that he hasn’t drawn a walk yet and his track record suggests his strikeout rate is bound to jump significantly higher. There’s a lot to like about what we’ve seen from Munoz so far though. As far as first impressions go, he’s made a great one.