The Boston Red Sox lineup is starting to get hot
Maybe the beard was bad luck after all. Manager Alex Cora arrived in Atlanta with a clean shave to see the Boston Red Sox secure their biggest win of the season against the defending champion Braves.
The Red Sox matched a season high with nine runs scored in a game they controlled from start to finish. Boston’s bats had scored five runs or fewer in each of their previous 10 games and two runs or fewer in six of those games.
Most of the damage came in the second inning when the Red Sox piled up six runs against Braves starter Kyle Wright, who entered with a 1.74 ERA in five starts this season. Five consecutive batters reached base, including a bases loaded walk drawn by Jackie Bradley Jr.
The offensive explosion was capped by a grand slam from Rafael Devers that left his bat at 111.3 mph. Devers hammered a 96.1 mph four-seam fastball down the middle of the plate that traveled 432 feet to center field.
A game that seemed comfortably in hand slowly unraveled as the Braves chipped away at the lead, pulling to within two runs by the seventh inning. Here we go again, thought a frustrated Red Sox Nation as doubt began to trickle in. The offense sputtered after a hot start and the bullpen was inevitably going to blow this lead, right?
Wrong. Atlanta never got closer than two runs down the stretch and the Red Sox tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth inning against Tyler Thornburg to slam the door shut. Victory tasted even sweeter when they sealed it against a reliever who burned them during his brief tenure with the team.
The key moment in the ninth inning was a bases loaded single by Trevor Story to drive in a pair of runs. The star infielder has struggled to begin his tenure with the Red Sox but he’s hitting a healthy .286 with runners in scoring position.
Boston piled up 11 hits in the game. Six of the hitters in their starting lineup collected at least one hit, led by a three-hit game by Xander Bogaerts to raise his season average to a league-leading .354.
Franchy Cordero wasn’t among those joining the hit parade but he did draw a career-high three walks. Boston had seven walks in the game, a promising sign for an overly-aggressive lineup that entered the day ranking last in the majors with a 6.1 BB%, per FanGraphs.
This lineup isn’t quite firing on all cylinders but this nine-run performance is encouraging progress. They can afford to have a weak spot or two near the bottom of the lineup if the rest of their hitters are meeting expectations. Their three best hitters in the middle of the order are having excellent seasons but it hasn’t mattered when more than half the lineup is in a slump. Getting at least a couple of those bats to break out would make a drastic difference and we’re starting to see signs that they are turning it around.
Perhaps this was a one-game outlier that will be followed by a series of infuriating low-scoring affairs. We’ll have to wait and see if this was truly a turning point for this offense. One thing we can count on, if this team does keep surging at the plate, we won’t see Cora growing any facial hair until after the season.